CategoryBallot measures

Local California voters approve West Hollywood development project and other measures concerning taxes, election dates, and property use

Across California, there were 10 local measures on the ballot on March 5, 2019, in eight local jurisdictions within Los Angeles County, El Dorado County, Fresno County, and Sonoma County.
Voters in West Hollywood approved Measure B by 61 percent, authorizing a London Arts Club development project. Measure B was put on the ballot through a veto referendum petition backed by Unite Here Local 11—a hospitality worker union opposed to the project—after the city council voted to approve the development plan. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Arts Club chairman Gary Landesberg owned the site of the proposed development. West Hollywood voters also approved a 7.5 percent marijuana tax, Measure Y, by 76 percent.
Voters in Signal Hill were asked by their city council whether to consolidate city elections with the statewide primary in March of even-numbered years or the statewide general election in November of even-numbered years or to keep the city’s odd-numbered year elections. The city council asked voters through two competing measures: Measure M for the primary election in March and Measure N for the general election in November. Voters chose to consolidate with the state general election in November of even-numbered years. Both measures received majority approval, but Measure N received more “yes” votes, which means it supersedes the competing Measure M.
Other measures approved on Tuesday included a Huntington Park advisory question about a Costco location, a sales tax in Glendora, a hotel tax increase in Manhattan Beach, and two measures concerning health district property in Fresno and Sonoma counties, respectively.

Three potential 2020 ballot measures in North Dakota would change the state’s initiative process

Three measures concerning North Dakota’s initiative process have passed one chamber of the legislature. In North Dakota, a constitutional amendment needs to be passed by a simple majority vote in both chambers of the state legislature to be certified for the ballot. If passed by both chambers, these amendments would go before voters for their approval or rejection in November of 2020.
SCR 4001 would require initiated constitutional amendments passed by voters to be submitted to the legislature for approval. If the legislature does not approve the measure, the measure would be placed on the ballot again at the next statewide election and would become effective if approved by the voters a second time.
HCR 3007 would create an additional method of direct democracy in the form of indirect initiated constitutional amendments and indirect initiated state statutes, which means legislators would consider and could vote to enact successful initiative petitions before they are sent to the ballot.
HCR 3034 would require constitutional amendments (both citizen-initiated and legislatively-referred) to appear on the ballot at the next general election rather than special elections or primary elections.
A citizen initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage may also appear on the 2020 ballot if proponents of the measure submit 13,452 valid signatures by March 14, 2019. The initiative would incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021. Following 2021, the minimum wage would be adjusted according to the cost of living based on the consumer price index.
North Dakota has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. In the North Dakota Senate, 37 seats are held by Republicans and 10 seats are held by Democrats. In the House, 79 seats are held by Republicans and 15 seats are held by Democrats.
Historical facts of ballot measures in North Dakota:
  • A total of 71 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in North Dakota from 1996 to 2018. All appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years.
  • From 1996 to 2018, the number of measures on the ballot ranged from two to 15. An average of six measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years.
  • Between 1996 and 2018, about 56 percent (40 of 71) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 44 percent (31 of 71) were defeated.

So far in 2019, Ballotpedia is tracking 135 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 31 states. Two initiatives directly related to initiative and referendum laws were also filed in Missouri and South Dakota. Topics include election dates, signature requirements, distribution requirements, pay-per-signature restrictions, campaign finance, legislative alteration, supermajority requirements, and subject requirements. In North Dakota, at least seven other proposals were introduced in the 2019 session concerning direct democracy.

Tampa voters approve 18 charter amendments, the first since 1975

Tampa voters approved all 18 charter amendments on their ballots Tuesday.
The city’s charter had not been changed since 1975. The charter amendments were proposed by a Charter Review Commission and sent to the ballot by a vote of the city council. A number of the charter amendments proposed technical changes or changes that brought the charter in line with current practices and state laws. Others concerned the power of the mayor and city council, city investments, anti-discrimination provisions, and residency requirements for city department heads. Two measures would affect how often voters consider changes to the charter at the ballot.
Approval rates were at 59 percent or above for all but two proposed charter amendments. Amendment 10 and Amendment 12 were approved by 53.5 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Below are some highlighted amendments:
  • Amendment 3 allows city council members to hire aides without approval from the mayor and to hire additional staff with approval from five city council members rather than the mayor.
  • Amendment 8 allows the mayor to establish or abolish certain boards and departments with two-thirds approval from the city council and Amendment 9 states that the duties of city officials and city employees are under the authority of the mayor rather than the city council.
  • Amendment 10, one of the two charter amendments approved by a margin of less than 5 percentage points, authorizes the city council—by a vote of at least five members—to waive the residency requirements for city department heads for one year and renew that one-year waiver no more than twice.
  • Amendment 13 allows the city more flexibility in investing city funds, as long as nothing is invested in mortgage-backed securities and investments are in line with state statute.
  • Amendment 16 prohibits discrimination by the city and city officials and employees based on sexual orientation, pregnancy, age, marital status, familial status, disability, gender identification, genetic information, ethnicity, and any others prohibited by law, and to provide anti-discrimination training for all city employees. The charter already prohibited discrimination by the city and city officials and employees based on race, sex, religion, and national origin.
  • Amendment 17 establishes a charter review commission to consider and propose changes to the charter every 10 years beginning in 2027.
  • Amendment 18 establishes in the city charter a process for proposing charter amendments through initiative petition consistent with the state-mandated process but with the same details as the city’s current initiative process for ordinances.

Arizona Senate approves constitutional amendment providing for a lieutenant governor; approval in House sends it to voters in 2020

The Arizona State Senate approved a constitutional amendment on March 4, 2019, that would create the position of lieutenant governor. Arizona is one of five states that do not have a lieutenant governor. Approval in the state House would refer the constitutional amendment to the ballot for the election on November 3, 2020, for voter consideration.
Senate Republicans supported the amendment, while Democrats were divided, with six supporting and seven opposing the amendment. In the House, 31 votes are needed to approve the amendment. Republicans hold 31 seats in the House, and Democrats hold 29.
The amendment would require gubernatorial candidates to select a person as their running mate at least 60 days before the general election (unless the legislature selects a different date), and the two would be elected on a joint ticket. The amendment would take effect for the election on November 3, 2026.
Currently, the secretary of state is first in the line of succession to succeed the governor should a vacancy occur. The amendment would make the lieutenant governor the first in the line of succession. Since 1912, when Arizona became a state, the secretary of state has succeeded the governor due to a vacancy on six occasions. Twice—in 1988 and 2008—the successions caused a change in partisan control of the governor’s office.
Voters in Arizona have rejected two ballot measures to create the position of lieutenant governor. In 1994, 65.3 percent of voters rejected Proposition 100, which would have created the position of lieutenant governor. In 2010, 59.2 percent of voters rejected Proposition 111, which would have replaced the secretary of state with the lieutenant governor.

An analysis of the history of veto referendums in the U.S.

Between 1906 and 2018, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in the 23 states that allow them. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws and upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of them.
A veto referendum is a type of citizen-initiated ballot measure that asks voters whether to uphold or repeal a law passed by the state legislature. The veto referendum ballot measure is also known as a popular referendum, people’s veto, or citizen’s veto. There are 23 states that have a process for veto referendums. In 21 of those states, citizen signature petitions can be used to propose new laws as well as challenge laws passed by the legislature. In two states, Maryland and New Mexico, veto referendums are the only kind of citizen-initiated measure allowed at the statewide level.
During this period, the states with the most veto referendums were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California (48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the fewest number of them were Wyoming (1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).
Utah is the only state where voters have repealed every law put before them through the veto referendum process. Utah has had a total of four veto referendums. The most recent was in 2007 when voters rejected a school voucher program.
The most common topic for veto referendums has been taxation, with 84 different measures concerning taxes in 18 states. Voters rejected the targeted legislation concerning taxes 62 times and upheld it 22 times.
For the 2020 ballot, there is one veto referendum certified to appear before voters so far: the California Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Veto Referendum. California voters have decided 48 total veto referendums since the state established the initiative and referendum process in 1911. Of the 48, voters upheld the targeted law in 20 and repealed it in 28. The first California veto referendum was in 1912, and the most recent was in 2016 when voters upheld legislation banning certain plastic bags.
Veto referendum petition efforts have been proposed for the 2019 ballot in Colorado and Washington. In Washington, a veto referendum petition was filed targeting the repeal of legislation increasing the salaries of state elected officials. In Colorado, a veto referendum petition was filed targeting legislation designed to enter into an agreement to elect the president through a National Popular Vote (NPV). Washington has had 37 veto referendums, with the most recent in 2012. Voters upheld seven of the targeted laws and repealed 30. In Colorado, there have been 13 veto referendums, with the most recent one in 1932. Voters upheld three of the targeted laws and repealed 10.

Redistricting Commission Amendment passed in the Virginia 2019 legislature; Approval by the 2020 legislature puts it on November 2020 ballot

The Virginia Independent Redistricting Commission Amendment may appear on the ballot in Virginia as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020. The amendment would create a 16-member Redistricting Commission responsible for establishing Virginia’s U.S. House of Representatives districts and House and Senate districts of the Virginia General Assembly. The bi-partisan commission would be composed of eight legislative members and eight citizen members.
The Virginia Redistricting Commission Amendment was originally two separate amendments—Senate Joint Resolution 306 sponsored by Democratic Senator George Barker of Senate District 39 and House Joint Resolution 615 sponsored by Republican Representative Mark Cole of House District 88. The final measure was approved by the legislature on February 23, 2019. If passed again by the 2020 legislature, the measure would appear on the ballot in Virginia for voter approval or rejection.
In 2018, voters decided six ballot measures in five states designed to change how congressional districts, state legislative districts, or both types are drawn following the decennial U.S. Census. As of 2018, six was the highest number of redistricting-related ballot measures in a single year since 1982, when nine measures were on the ballot.
Redistricting measures targeting the 2020 ballot have also been filed in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oregon.

Veto referendum on salary increases for Washington elected officials filed by Tim Eyman targeting 2019 ballot

On February 22, 2019, Tim Eyman, a frequent initiative sponsor in Washington, announced the start of the 90-day signature petition drive for Referendum Measure 80. Eyman’s slogan for the measure is, “Give Them Nothing.”
Referendum Measure 80 would ask voters to approve or reject salary increases for state elected officials set by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials (WCCSEO). The salary raises were approved for the nine statewide executive branch officers, members of the state legislature, and state judges. The first raise would become effective on September 1, 2019, and another raise would become effective on September 1, 2020.
The raises were voted on and approved by the WCCSEO on February 4, 2019. Signatures for the veto referendum are due on May 7, 2019.
On his website, Eyman wrote, “Politicians are asking for a 20% bonus from a commission of ‘regular citizens’ (one of them is actually the husband of a state supreme court justice!). It’s totally rigged… Help us veto this massive pay-off scam.”
Eyman is also the sponsor of Initiative 976, an initiative to limit annual vehicle registration renewal fees to $30, often referred to as the $30 Car Tabs initiative.
From 1914 through 2018, 37 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in Washington. The last veto referendum was on the ballot in 2012. In 81 percent of cases (30 of 37), the veto referendum resulted in the targeted bill being repealed. Conversely, 19 percent (seven of 37) of veto referendum measures resulted in the targeted law being upheld.

Lawsuit against “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” filed day after Toledo election

Following the passage of Question 2, the “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” Initiative, at a special election on February 26 in Toledo, Ohio, Drewes Farms Partnership filed a lawsuit against the city regarding the measure.
In Drewes Farms Partnership v. City of Toledo, Ohio, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on February 27, the plaintiff argued that the “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” violates the plaintiff’s free speech, equal protection, and due process constitutional rights and that it is beyond the city’s authority to enforce. Drewes Farms also stated that enforcing the newly approved bill of rights could prevent the farm from properly fertilizing crops, as they cannot guarantee that runoff from fertilization would not enter the Lake Erie watershed.
Question 2, approved Tuesday with 61 percent of the vote, was designed to add the “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” to the Toledo City Charter, establishing that the Lake Erie and the Lake Erie Watershed “possess the right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.” The charter amendment also states that the people of Toledo have certain rights, including the “right to a clean and healthy environment” and the “right to self-government” and grants that both the city and residents may enforce the amendment’s provisions through court action. Toledoans for Safe Water petitioned to place the measure on the ballot, stating that the “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” would protect residents’ access to clean and safe drinking water. The group formed after a harmful algal bloom (HAB) led the city to issue a drinking water advisory in 2014.

Toledo passes two citizen initiatives in special election

Two citizen initiatives were approved in Toledo, Ohio, on February 26, 2019. Question 1, backed by Keep the Jail Downtown Toledo, received 80 percent approval on election night. The initiative was designed to amend the Toledo City Charter to restrict the location of newly constructed jails and other facilities used to house those accused or convicted of crimes to the city’s downtown overlay district. Proponents led the effort to place Question 1 on the ballot in response to a proposal by the Lucas County Board of Commissioners that would authorize construction of a new jail facility outside of the downtown overlay district in North Toledo.
Question 2, known as the “Lake Erie Bill of Rights,” received 61 percent approval on election night. The initiative, backed by Toledoans for Safe Water, was designed to amend the city charter by adding a bill of rights stating that the Lake Erie ecosystem has the “right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.” The initiative also added provisions to the city charter stating that the people of Toledo have certain rights, including the “right to a clean and healthy environment” and the “right to self-government.” Under the initiative, both the city and residents would be permitted to enforce the provisions through court action. The group Toledoans for Safe Water formed after the city issued a drinking water advisory for three days in August 2014. During that time, city residents were advised not to drink water from Lake Erie, where toxin levels had risen above the World Health Organization’s safety recommendation due to a harmful algal bloom (HAB). The group stated that Question 2 was designed to maintain residents’ access to safe and clean drinking water.
The Lucas County Board of Elections originally rejected both questions from the November 2018 ballot, stating that the city would be unable to enforce the proposed provisions. After proponents filed lawsuits, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in both cases that the county’s rejection of the measures had been lawful. Proponents then brought the initiatives before the Toledo City Council. The council voted unanimously on October 4, 2018, to place Question 1 on the special election ballot, and unanimously on December 4, 2018, to place Question 2 on the ballot. Following these city council votes, the Lucas County Board of Elections added the measures to the ballot.
Lucas County reported that turnout in the special election was at 9 percent of registered voters.

A parcel tax measure is on the ballot for voters in California’s San Marino Unified School District

A parcel tax measure is on the ballot for voters in California’s San Marino Unified School District on Tuesday, February 26. Approval of Measure R would renew the district’s expiring parcel tax at the rate of $366 per parcel to fund education programs, instruction, and staffing. A parcel tax is a kind of property tax based on units of property rather than assessed value.