CategoryBallot measures

Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners declines to certify ballot language for initiatives to legalize marijuana and repeal Pope County’s casino authorization

On August 3, the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners declined to certify the ballot titles and popular names for two initiatives that had submitted signatures. Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 said they were considering their options to challenge the board’s decision. Responsible Growth Arkansas said they planned to challenge the board’s decision with the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8, 2022. The Arkansas Secretary of State announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and would qualify for the ballot if the Board of Election Commissioners certified the ballot language.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 reported submitting 103,096 signatures for an initiative to repeal the casino authorization for Pope County. In 2018, voters approved Issue 4 authorizing the county to grant a casino license for one casino. Under Issue 4, the Pope County license required applicants to pay fees to apply, demonstrate experience in conducting casino gaming, or furnish a letter of support from the county judge. The Pope County license was awarded to the Cherokee Nation.

In Arkansas, a total of 44 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020. Thirty-two (72.73%) ballot measures were approved, and 12 (27.27%) ballot measures were defeated.

Kansans reject amendment to provide that the state constitution does not secure a right to abortion

Kansans rejected an amendment to provide that the state constitution does not secure a right to abortion on August 2. With 100% of precincts reporting, the vote was 58.78% ‘No’ to 41.22% ‘Yes’.

Based on unofficial results, 908,745 people voted on the constitutional amendment compared to 727,360 in the gubernatorial primaries and 718,545 in the U.S. Senate primaries. Turnout on the amendment exceeded overall turnout at the 2018 (457,598) and 2020 (636,032) state primaries.

Democratic voter turnout, relative to total turnout, for the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate primaries were also at their highest since at least 2014.

  • Of those who voted in the gubernatorial primaries, 38% voted in the Democratic primary compared to 33% in 2018 and 20% in 2014.
  • Of those who voted in the U.S. Senate primaries, 35% voted in the Democratic primary compared to 32% in 2018, 24% in 2016, and 20% in 2014.

Kansas is the seventh state to vote on an amendment addressing constitutional interpretation and abortion. These types of amendments are designed to address previous or future state court rulings on abortion that have prevented or could prevent legislatures from passing certain abortion laws. In Kansas, for example, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Bill of Rights provided a state constitutional right to abortion in 2019.

Since 2014, voters in four states – Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia – have approved such amendments. The last state to reject one was Florida in 2012. The next state to vote on this type of amendment is Kentucky on November 8, 2022. 

In Kansas, the Value Them Both PAC led the campaign in support of the amendment. Supporters included U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall (R) and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R). The campaign received $6.03 million through July 18, including $2.95 million from the Archdiocese of Kansas City.

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom led the campaign in opposition to the amendment. Opponents included Gov. Laura Kelly (D) and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (D-3). The campaign received $7.35 million through July 18, including $1.39 from the Sixteen Thirty Fund.

The constitutional amendment was the first abortion-related ballot measure to be decided following Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. Both campaigns issued statements placing the amendment within the context of that decision. Value Them Both said, “The U.S. Supreme Court restored the people’s ability to come to individual consensus on abortion limits — but not in Kansas. As it stands today, unelected judges in Kansas are the ones who will decide the fate of abortion limits.” Kansans for Constitutional Freedom said, “The Supreme Court has voted to strike down Roe v. Wade. On August 2, Kansas will be the first state in the nation to vote on reproductive freedom following this decision.”

In November, voters will decide on four more abortion-related ballot measures. Beside the constitutional amendment in Kentucky, measures will be on the ballot in California, Montana, and Vermont. Voters in California and Vermont will be the first to decide ballot measures to establish state constitutional rights to abortion. Michigan, where signatures are being verified for an initiated constitutional amendment, could join California and Vermont as well. In Montana, voters will decide a measure to provide that infants born alive at any stage of development are legal persons and must receive medical care after an attempted abortion, induced labor, cesarean section, or other method. A campaign in Colorado is collecting signatures for an initiative to prohibit abortion in the state.

Additional reading:

2022 abortion-related ballot measures

History of abortion ballot measures

Signature deadline for Colorado initiatives approaching on August 8

Eleven ballot initiatives cleared for signature gathering in Colorado face a signature deadline on August 8. To qualify for a spot on the November ballot, proponents need to submit 124,632 valid signatures.

The 11 initiatives concern topics including abortion, alcohol regulations, decriminalizing psychedelic plants and fungi, housing, utilities, healthcare, campaign finance, and education funding.

Initiative 56, sponsored by Colorado Life Initiative, would prohibit abortion in the state. Specifically, it would prohibit “intentionally causing the death of a living human being at any time prior to, during, or after birth while the child is under the age of 18 years by using or prescribing any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance, device, or means, and causing death.”

In 2022, there will be at least five ballot measures addressing abortion — the most on record for a single year. Measures have been certified for the ballot in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, and Vermont.

Initiatives 121 and 122 were sponsored by Wine in Grocery Stores, which raised $999,532 through June 27, 2022. Initiative 121 would create a new fermented malt beverage and wine retailer license to allow grocery stores, convenience stores, and other businesses that are licensed to sell beer to also sell wine and conduct wine tastings. Initiative 122 would allow retail establishments licensed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption to offer a delivery service or provide for a third-party alcohol delivery service.

Two other initiatives concerning alcohol were also cleared to circulate. Initiative 96 would incrementally increase the number of retail liquor store licenses an individual may own or hold a share in and Initiative 135 would require public hearings and mandate minimum distance requirements from schools and churches for new or expanded alcohol retail establishments.

Coloradans will vote on an initiative in November to decriminalize possession of certain psychedelic plants and fungi. The initiative would define dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline (excluding peyote), psilocybin, and psilocyn as natural medicines. It would also create the Regulated Natural Medicine Access Program for licensed centers to administer natural medicine services.

Sponsors have been collecting signatures for a competing measure, Initiative 61, which would decriminalize possession of certain psychedelic plants and fungi, but it would not provide for a regulated access program. Sponsors of the measure argue the regulated access program proposed under the other initiative would allow companies to profit off of psychedelics. Organizer Melanie Rose Rodgers said, “Decriminalization isn’t a popular thing for companies and corporations and venture capital. Decriminalization is for the people.”

An initiative to reduce the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40% sponsored by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute and Republican State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg is also on the ballot. In addition to the two citizen initiatives, five legislative referrals have been certified to appear on the November ballot.

From 1985 through 2020, an average of nine measures appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered years in Colorado. The approval rate for measures on the ballot in even-numbered years was 47.34%.

Signatures submitted for $15 minimum wage ballot initiative in Michigan

On July 26, 2022, the One Fair Wage campaign announced that it submitted more than 610,000 signatures to qualify a $15 minimum wage initiative for the Michigan ballot in 2024.

The proposal is an indirect initiative, meaning, if enough signatures are verified, it goes to the state legislature first for consideration before being placed on the ballot. If the legislature approves the measure, it is enacted into law, but if the legislature does not approve of the measure, it goes to the ballot for voters to decide.

If approved by the legislature or voters, the initiative would increase the state minimum wage incrementally by a dollar every year, over the course of five years, until it reaches $15. The state’s current minimum wage is $9.87 per hour. The initiative would also phase out the lower-than-minimum wage for tipped, disabled, and underage workers, and would increase regardless of the unemployment rate.

“This is going to help hundreds of thousands of Michiganders get a raise that’s much needed,” said One Fair Wage co-organizing director Maricela Gutierrez.

The signature submission follows a recent ruling by a Michigan judge regarding two 2018 citizen-initiated laws, including one that would raise the minimum wage to $12 incrementally by 2022. Rather than having the measures go to the ballot, the state legislature voted to approve them, but later amended the minimum wage measure to increase the wage to $12 by 2030, changing the timeline for the wage increase. The amended version was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder (R). Michigan One Fair Wage and Michigan Time to Care — the campaigns behind the two initiatives — sued the state of Michigan. The Michigan Court of Claims struck down these two amended initiatives, ruling that the adopt-and-amend tactic is unconstitutional.

“We’re going to get it back on the ballot,” said State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D), “We saw the court decision. That is a huge move in the right direction but as we saw in the recent Dobbs decision on the federal level, court rulings are also not settled. So that requires all of us getting into it.”

Brian Calley, chief executive officer of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said, “This type of government action is a big part of the reason we are now facing such devastating inflation, which hurts lower-income families the most. We should not make a bad problem worse with this proposal.”

There is currently one minimum wage ballot measure certified for the ballot in 2022. It would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2024 in Nevada.

In Michigan, between 1985 and 2020, 26 citizen-initiated measures have appeared on the ballot. Eight of them (31%) were approved, while 18 of them (69%) were defeated.

Additional reading:

Michigan 2024 ballot measures

Top-five ranked choice initiative voting initiative certified for Nevada ballot

On July 21, 2022, the Nevada Voters First campaign announced that the Secretary of State verified 170,941 of their 266,000 submitted signatures for a top-five ranked choice voting initiative, qualifying it for the ballot this November. The campaign needed at least 135,561 valid signatures.

If approved by voters, the measure would establish an open top-five primary and ranked-choice voting for general elections in Nevada. This would apply to U.S. congressional, gubernatorial, state executive offices, and legislative elections. It would not not apply to presidential elections.

Ranked-choice voting is a system of voting in which voters rank multiple candidates by preference on their ballots rather than voting for a single candidate.

Here is how top-five ranked choice voting would work under this initiative:

  • For primary elections, the initiative would establish a top-five open primary rather than a primary held for each partisan office. Instead of nominating a Republican nominee and a Democratic nominee for the general election, the primary would allow the five candidates, regardless of party affiliation, who receive the most votes to proceed to the general election. A candidate does not need to be affiliated with a party to run in the primary election.
  • For the general election, the top five candidates from the primary would be placed on the general election ballot. The voter would then rank each candidate in order of preference. When the ballots are being counted, the registrar or county clerk would initially tabulate each cast ballot as a vote for the highest-ranked candidate. If a candidate is highest-ranked on the majority of ballots cast, that candidate is the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally would be conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins a simple majority.

Two states currently use ranked-choice voting in some federal or statewide elections. Alaska allows ranked-choice voting in both federal and statewide elections, while Maine allows ranked-choice voting in federal elections and certain statewide primaries. Hawaii has also enacted that ranked-choice voting for federal special elections would take place starting in 2023.

Sandra Cosgrove, an initiative supporter and professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada, said, “We want to have more options. We don’t want just two people moving forward from the primary to the general election. We want five people, because oftentimes when you look at the people who move forward, it’s just the people with the most money.”

Emily Persaud-Zamora, an initiative opponent and executive director of Silver State Voices, said, “Ranked choice voting makes casting a ballot more time consuming, more complicated and more confusing for voters. It will inevitably lead to increased errors. Ranked choice vote ballots are significantly more likely to be thrown out and uncounted because of those voters’ mistakes, ultimately disenfranchising more voters because of an overly complex and burdensome process.”

For an initiated constitutional amendment to pass in Nevada, voters must approve of the measure by a simple majority at two consecutive elections. In this case, the measure must pass in the 2022 and 2024 general elections.

In Nevada, citizen initiatives were approved 73% of the time and defeated 27% of the time between 1985 and 2020. Out of the 30 total initiatives that have been on the ballot during this period, 22 were approved and 8 were defeated.

Additional reading:

Nevada 2022 ballot measures

Idaho voters will decide on an initiative to increase the state’s income and corporate tax rates for education funding in November

On July 22, the Idaho secretary of state announced that an initiative that would increase income tax and corporate tax rates to provide additional education funding had submitted the required number of signatures for the November ballot. 

Reclaim Idaho, the campaign behind the initiative, filed 95,269 signatures on May 2. In Idaho, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated state statute for the ballot is 64,945, which is equal to 6% of the registered voters at the time of the state’s last general election. Idaho also has a distribution requirement that requires signatures from 6% of registered voters in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts. The secretary of state reported that Reclaim Idaho’s petition met the requirements in at least 19 legislative districts.

The initiative would amend state statute to increase the tax on income above $250,000 for individuals, trusts, and estates and above $500,000 for couples filing jointly to $16,097 plus 10.925%. The tax bracket would not be adjusted for inflation until 2025. The initiative would also increase the corporate income tax from 6% to 8%. The new tax brackets and tax rates would take effect on January 1, 2023.

The initiative would also establish the Quality Education Fund. Revenues from the increased taxes would be deposited into the fund. The initiative states that the funds should be appropriated by the state board of education. It would prohibit funds from being appropriated to pay the salaries of superintendents, principals, or other administrators. The initiative requires that the funds be distributed to public school districts and charter schools according to their share of the state’s average daily attendance during the previous school year.

Reclaim Idaho said, “Idaho voters will now have a chance to boost K-12 funding by $323 million a year in order to strengthen programs & secure better pay for teachers & support staff–all without a penny of new taxes for anyone making under $250,000 a year or any married couple making under $500,000 a year. Vote Yes on Prop 1!”

Reclaim Idaho previously sponsored an approved 2018 ballot initiative, Proposition 2, which expanded Medicaid eligibility.

The initiative is opposed by State Sen. Steven Thayn (R), who said the initiative is “based on a false assumption that money will improve education.”

Idaho voters will also be deciding on a constitutional amendment put on the ballot by the state legislature that would allow the president pro tempore of the state Senate and the speaker of the state House to convene a special session of the state legislature upon receiving a joint written request from 60% of the members of each chamber. Idaho is one of 14 states where only the governor can order a special session.

In Idaho, a total of 65 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2020. Forty-eight (73.84%) ballot measures were approved, and 17 (26.15%) ballot measures were defeated.

Additional reading:

Idaho 2022 ballot measures

California ballot initiative to repeal PAGA qualifies for 2024 ballot

On July 22, the secretary of state reported that a ballot initiative to repeal the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) had qualified for the 2024 ballot after missing the signature verification deadline for the 2022 ballot.

In California, the number of signatures required for an initiated state statute is equal to 5% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Signatures need to be verified at least 131 days before the election. The deadline for the November ballot was June 30.

The campaign announced on May 12 that it would target the 2024 ballot after missing the April 30 signature submission deadline. On June 9, the campaign filed signatures. The final random count of signatures concluded that 700,008 signatures of the 962,224 submitted were valid. 

The initiative proposes repealing PAGA, which allows employees to sue employers and collect a share of monetary penalties for state labor law violations, and replacing it with a new law that would:

  • require the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) to be a party to all labor complaints;
  • double statutory and civil penalties for willful violators;
  • require that 100% of monetary penalties be awarded to harmed employees; and
  • provide resources to employers to ensure labor compliance.

According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, approximately 5,000 PAGA notices are filed annually. Any penalties won under PAGA must be split between the employees (25%) and the state of California (75%). 

During the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2021-2022 term, the court partially struck down PAGA in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana by prohibiting workers to join together to sue their employer because it violated an employer’s right to arbitration under federal law.

The initiative has received endorsements from the California Chamber of Commerce, Western Growers Association, California New Car Dealers Association, and the California Restaurant Association.

The California Chamber of Commerce said, “The California Fair Pay and Employer Accountability Act is an opportunity to reform labor law enforcement to prevent frivolous litigation while ensuring that workers receive the wages they are owed in a timely manner, plus any penalties.”

Two other ballot initiatives have also qualified for the 2024 ballot. The first would create a state Pandemic Early Detection and Prevention Institute, and the second would increase the state’s minimum wage to $18 by 2026. All three ballot initiatives originally targeted the 2022 ballot before qualifying for 2024.

Additional reading:

California 2024 ballot propositions

Coloradans to decide on initiative decriminalizing psychedelic plants and fungi in November

Coloradans will vote on an initiative in November to decriminalize possession of certain psychedelic plants and fungi.

The initiative would define dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline (excluding peyote), psilocybin, and psilocyn as natural medicines. It would also create the Regulated Natural Medicine Access Program for licensed centers to administer natural medicine services.

Licensed centers would be limited to administering psilocybin and psilocyn until June 2026. Beginning June 1, 2026, the Natural Medicine Advisory Board could allow the use of DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline.

The Colorado secretary of state’s office announced that the initiative qualified for the ballot on July 21, 2022. Of the 225,140 signatures submitted, 138,760 were projected to be valid. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required.

Natural Medicine Colorado sponsored the initiative. The campaign reported $2.58 million in contributions, all from New Approach PAC, according to campaign finance reports through June 22. The campaign reported $2.52 million in expenditures.

Kevin Matthews, a representative for Natural Medicine Colorado, said, “This initiative would give Coloradans access to a new, promising, and research-based treatment option for PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges, in a safe, careful, and beneficial way. These medicines can be transformative for people who have suffered for years and struggled to find help.”

In 2019, Denver voters approved Initiated Ordinance 301, which made the adult possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority in Denver and prohibited the city from spending resources on enforcing related penalties.

In November of 2020, Oregon voters approved a ballot initiative, Measure 109, that authorized the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to create a statewide program allowing licensed service providers to administer psilocybin-producing mushroom and fungi products to individuals 21 years of age or older.

As of June 2022, 15 local jurisdictions had decriminalized psilocybin possession or de-prioritized policing, prosecution, and arrest for possession of psilocybin. Three jurisdictions did so through the citizen initiative process and 11 did so through local government resolutions.

Six other measures have been certified to appear on the November ballot in Colorado. From 2000 through 2020, an average of 9 of 10 measures appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered years. The approval rate for measures on the ballot in even-numbered years was 45.71%.

Additional reading:

Colorado 2022 ballot measures

Previewing Tennessee’s August 4 local ballot measures

Voters in Nashville and Memphis are heading to the polls on August 4 to decide on five amendments to their cities’ charters.

Memphis voters will decide on one charter amendment. If passed, the Memphis measure would increase the term limits of the city council and mayor to three 4-year terms rather than the current two 4-year term limit, allowing them a maximum length in office of 12 years. In 2018, Memphis voters rejected a similar proposal, Ordinance No. 5676, which would have increased the term limits as well. It was defeated by a margin of 60.14% against to 39.86% in favor.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Councilman Martavius Jones support the measure, arguing that another term would allow them to continue their progress and learn more about the mechanics of the offices they hold. Mayor Strickland said, “If the referendum passes, I will run for a third term. Our team has improved city services, and although we have implemented changes that have improved Memphis, there is more to be done and more to fight to achieve.” Michael Nelson, a political analyst for the Memphis-based Action News 5, called the measure a power grab by Memphis officeholders desiring to keep their positions.

Nashville voters will decide on four charter amendments. Charter Amendment 1 would change the number of signatures required for an initiated charter amendment from 10% of votes at the last general election to 10% of registered voters. This would increase the number of required signatures for proposed charter amendments to qualify for the ballot. Additionally, it defines the duties of the Charter Revision Commission, which must review all proposed charter amendments. Metro Councilmember Bob Mendes supports the measure. He said it’s a solution to reduce “litigation costs and uncertainty related to referendums in Nashville.” 

Nashville Charter Amendment 2 would change the physical qualifications for police officers on the Metro Nashville Police. The qualifications are currently based on Army and Navy requirements. MNPD Member Michael Vaughn characterizes them as outdated because the police force is “getting away from being so militaristic.” The Metro Civil Service Commission would designate new standards if the amendment passes.

Nashville Charter Amendment 3 would establish a metropolitan board of health to oversee the metro public health department. It would set new guidelines for who must sit on the board of health, namely, “one doctor, one mental health expert, one nurse, two other medical professionals, and two non-medical professionals.” The chief medical director position would be renamed the director of health. It also would remove the existing requirement for the director of health to be a medical doctor.

Nashville Charter Amendment 4 establishes a city Department of Transportation and a director of transportation in the charter. The department was created a year ago with the adoption of the Metro Nashville Transportation Plan. It replaced the city’s Department of Public Works.

Early voting has begun and ends on July 30. On election day, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Signatures submitted for voting policy amendment in Michigan

The Promote the Vote 2022 campaign submitted 669,972 signatures to the secretary of state to qualify for the Michigan ballot this November on July 11. The measure would make multiple changes to voting and elections in Michigan, including policies around absentee voting, early voting, voter identification, and election audits.

The signature requirement to qualify for the ballot is 425,059 valid signatures—which equals 10% of the votes cast for governor in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

“Together, we’re going to ensure that every vote will count, and that Michigan’s elections will continue to be safe, secure, and fair,” said Micheal Davis, the executive director of Promote the Vote 2022.

After being filed with the secretary of state, the measure will go through a process of signature validation, which is done by the board of state canvassers using a random sampling method.

If certified for the ballot and approved by voters this November, the measure would:

  • amend the Michigan Constitution to provide voters with a right to vote without harassment, interference, or intimidation.
  • require military or overseas ballots be counted if postmarked by election day.
  • require photo ID or signed affidavit to vote.
  • provide voters with a right to use a single application to vote absentee in all elections.
  • require state-funded postage for absentee applications and ballots.
  • require one state-funded absentee ballot drop box for every municipality, or one drop box per 15,000 registered voters in larger municipalities.
  • provide that only election officials may conduct post-election audits.
  • require nine days of early in-person voting.
  • allow publicly-disclosed charitable donations and in-kind contributions to fund elections.
  • require canvass boards to certify election results based only on the official records of votes cast.

If the initiative is certified for the ballot, it will join at least one other measure currently on the ballot—a constitutional amendment to change term limits requirements for state legislators and financial disclosure requirements for state executive and legislative officials.

Another campaign, Reproductive Freedom for All, also submitted signatures on July 11 to qualify a constitutional amendment to provide a state constitutional right to abortion in Michigan.

Additional reading:

Michigan 2022 ballot measures