Four signature submission deadlines for statewide ballot initiatives targeting the 2019 ballot have passed, and three remain.
Ballot initiatives are proposals for new laws or constitutional amendments put on the ballot through citizen signature petition drives. Of the 26 states with a process for citizen-initiated measures, four allow for ballot initiatives or veto referendums for elections in any odd-numbered years: Colorado, Maine, Ohio, and Washington. Moreover, citizen-initiated measures could have gone on the Mississippi ballot because of the gubernatorial election in 2019, but no signatures were filed by the deadline.
Signature deadlines that have passed:
October 10, 2018: initiated constitutional amendments in Mississippi;
No signatures were submitted
December 28, 2018: initiated state statutes in Ohio;
No signatures were submitted
January 4, 2019: Washington’s indirect process for Initiatives to the Legislature;
Signatures for two Washington Initiatives to the Legislature were submitted
January 24, 2019: initiated state statutes in Maine.
No signatures were submitted
Signature deadlines that remain:
July 3, 2019: initiated constitutional amendments in Ohio
Proponents need to collect 442,958 signatures by the July 3 deadline to qualify the initiative for the November 2019 ballot. They must also meet Ohio’s signature distribution requirement by gathering signatures equal to at least 5 percent of votes cast for governor in at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
In 2018, voters approved a recreational marijuana legalization initiative in Michigan (the first to be approved in the Midwest) and defeated a recreational marijuana legalization initiative in North Dakota.
Voters in Ohio rejected a marijuana legalization initiative in 2015 (Issue 3) that was designed to give exclusive rights for commercial marijuana production to 10 facilities.
July 5, 2019: Washington’s direct process for Initiatives to the People
Unlike Initiatives to the Legislature, these initiatives go directly to the ballot without consideration by the state legislature if the required 129,811 signatures are submitted before the July 5 deadline.
Proponents of 11 distinct initiative efforts filed Initiatives to the People with the Washington secretary of state. Some proponents submitted multiple versions for the same initiative effort.
August 5, 2019: initiated constitutional amendments and initiated state statutes in Colorado
Two distinct initiatives have been filed with the secretary of state, although proponents of one effort filed multiple versions. One would change the tax structure for oil and gas severance taxes and the other would amend or repeal (depending on the version) Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).
Proponents must submit 124,632 signatures by the August 5 deadline and meet the state’s distribution requirement to qualify for the November 2019 ballot.
There are also signature deadlines for veto referendums, which are measures to overturn bills passed by the state legislature during the 2019 session. These depend on the date the bill was approved or the adjournment date of the legislature. None are currently pending for the 2019 cycle.
Denver voters will decide a citizen initiative to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms at the election on May 7, 2019. The initiative would make the enforcement of any criminal laws regarding the possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms by anyone 21 years old or older the lowest law enforcement priority of the city. It would also prohibit any city officers, agencies, or employees from using city funds or resources to enforce laws with criminal penalties for the possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms by adults.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), psilocybin is a “chemical obtained from certain types of fresh or dried mushrooms.” The mushrooms containing psilocybin are also known as magic mushrooms, hallucinogenic mushrooms, or shrooms. Psilocybin is considered a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act and the state Controlled Substances Act.
The group behind the initiative, Decriminalize Denver, submitted over 8,000 signatures to place the initiative on the ballot with the Denver Elections Division on January 7, 2019. A total of 4,726 valid signatures were required to qualify the initiative for the ballot. In Denver, signatures equal to 5 percent of the votes cast for mayoral candidates in the preceding mayoral election are required to put an initiative before voters. On February 1, 2019, the Denver elections office announced that enough signatures had been validated to qualify the initiative for the May 2019 ballot.
No state or city has legalized or decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms. An initiative effort is ongoing in Oregon targeting the 2020 ballot to reduce some criminal penalties for possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms and create a regulated program to provide psilocybin mushrooms to certain adults. An initiative effort to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms last year in California reported making it a quarter of the way to the state’s signature requirement but ultimately did not qualify for the 2018 ballot.
House Bill 1064 to amend Washington I-940 was introduced on December 17, 2018. It passed unanimously in the House on January 24 and unanimously in the Senate on January 30, 2019, sending it to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee (D) for his signature.
Initiative 940 was designed to create a legally-defined good faith test to determine when the use of deadly force by police is justifiable, require police to receive de-escalation and mental health training, and provide that police have a duty to render first aid. It removed the requirement that prosecutors show that a law enforcement officer acted with malice to be convicted. I-940 was approved in November 2018 by 59.6 percent of voters.
House Bill 1064 was designed to amend I-940 as passed by voters in 2018. Specifically, the bill amends provisions relating to I-940’s standard for the use of deadly force. Under I-940, officers would have been required to show that they believed they were acting in good faith when they used deadly force. The new language under HB 1064 uses a different test: whether another officer acting reasonably in the same circumstances would have believed deadly force was necessary.
The bill was also designed to require the state to reimburse law enforcement officers for defense costs if charges against an officer are dismissed or if they are found not guilty of charges surrounding unjustified use of deadly force. The bill also modified provisions of I-940 regarding independent investigations of deadly force incidents, training requirements, and more. HB 1064 was the result of a compromise between supporters and opponents of I-940.
Ken Thomas, president of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs board, said, “We believe this new deadly-force standard — clarified and agreed-upon by HB 1064 — provides a clear and objective standard that can be clearly understood.”
Before the election, a deal was made and state legislators approved bills designed to enact I-940 and immediately amend it without it going on the ballot. Ultimately, a court ruling required that the initiative go before voters at the November 2018 election.
In Washington, a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature is required to amend an initiative passed by voters within two years following a measure’s approval. Five states along with Washington have a supermajority requirement in the legislature to appeal or amend an initiative. Eleven states have no restrictions on legislative alteration of initiatives. California and Arizona are the only two states that require voter approval for changes to or the repeal of citizen-initiated state statutes.
In 2017 and 2018, Ballotpedia tracked nine other initiatives in five states and D.C. that were amended or repealed through legislative alteration. Moreover, proposals were introduced but ultimately failed for the legislative alteration of two additional initiatives in 2017.
Utah Proposition 2, the medical marijuana initiative of 2018, was altered by the legislature the month after it was approved by voters. The Utah Senate is expected to pass a bill altering Proposition 3, the Medicaid expansion initiative, in the coming days.
Click here to read more about legislative alteration of citizen initiatives.
As of February 1, 2019, three citizen-initiated statewide ballot measures have qualified for the election on November 3, 2020, in California. The signature drives for the ballot initiatives cost between $2.05 million and $3.49 million.
Campaigns behind ballot initiatives often hire companies that specialize in signature drives to circulate petitions. Since Ballotpedia began tracking signature drive costs in 2010, none of the 51 citizen-initiated measures that appeared on statewide California ballots relied exclusively on volunteers to collect signatures; each hired a private firm to collect some or all of the required signatures.
In 2018, the average signature drive cost in California was about $2.56 million, or $6.07 per required signature. The ballot initiatives that have qualified for the 2020 ballot thus far had the same signature requirements as those on the ballot in 2018. However, any future 2020 ballot initiatives will require 70.3 percent more signatures due to voter turnout in 2018, which will likely increase the spending on signature drives. From 2010 to 2018, the cost-per-required-signature has ranged from $1.18 to $11.31 in California.
Summaries of California’s three 2020 citizen-initiated measures are below:
*Criminal Sentencing, Parole, and DNA Collection Initiative: The ballot initiative would amend several criminal sentencing and supervision laws that were passed between 2011 and 2016. The Keep California Safe PAC, a project of the California Public Safety Partners, is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC spent $2.05 million to collect the 365,880 valid signatures required to put the initiative on the ballot, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $5.59. Arno Petition Consultants was hired to collect signatures, receiving 96.7 percent of the spending on the signature drive.
*Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Veto Referendum: The veto referendum was designed to overturn Senate Bill 10 (10). SB 10 was designed to replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects awaiting trials. The American Bail Coalition, a nonprofit trade association, organized the political action committee (PAC) Californians Against the Reckless Bail Scheme to sponsor the veto referendum petition and advocate for a “no” vote. The PAC spent $2.78 million to collect the 365,880 valid signatures required to put the referendum on the ballot, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $7.59. National Petition Management, Inc. was the largest recipient of the spending, receiving 99.1 percent.
*Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative: The ballot initiative would require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than their purchase price. As of 2019, commercial and industrial properties, like residential properties, are taxed based on purchase price. The additional revenue from the change would be allocated to local governments and school districts. The Schools and Communities First PAC is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC spent $3.40 million to collect the 585,407 valid signatures required to put the referendum on the ballot, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $5.96. Kimball Petition Management, Inc. received 99.0 percent of the spending on the signature drive.
In 2020, voters across Missouri could decide a ballot initiative to consolidate St. Louis city and St. Louis County into a single political entity named The Metropolitan City of St. Louis. The new city would be the 10th largest city in the U.S., with a population around 1.3 million as of 2017. Residents of The Metropolitan City of St. Louis would elect a 33?member legislative council, with members elected from districts to four-year terms, an executive mayor, a prosecutor, and an assessor.
The ballot initiative would amend the Missouri Constitution, as St. Louis city and St. Louis County are inscribed in the state constitution. Changes to the Missouri Constitution require a statewide vote.
Better Together, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, proposed the ballot initiative. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger (D) spoke at Better Together’s news conference in favor of the plan. Ben Keathley, a council member for the city of Chesterfield in St. Louis County, said he was opposed to not having a local vote on consolidation. He stated, “If this is the thing we want to do, then we should be the ones choosing it. People all over the state of Missouri shouldn’t be picking the government for someone else.”
Voters in Missouri had addressed several ballot measures related to the consolidation of St. Louis and St. Louis County, including in 1930 and 1962. Both of the ballot measures were defeated.
In Missouri, the signature requirement totals for initiatives are based on the number of votes cast for governor in the state’s most recent gubernatorial election in six of the state’s eight congressional districts. This means the smallest possible requirement to get an initiated constitutional amendment placed on the ballot for November 3, 2020, is 160,199. Signatures for initiated amendments are due six months before the general election, which is May 3, 2020.
The Florida Changes to Energy Market Initiative (Initiative #18-10) is headed to the state supreme court for a ballot language review after sponsors submitted over 79,000 valid preliminary signatures. Citizens for Energy Choices, the sponsors of the measure, call it the Florida Energy Choice Initiative. The measure would give customers “the right to choose their electricity provider” and allow them to generate and sell electricity.
The measure would amend the state constitution to declare that it is the policy of the state of Florida that “its wholesale and retail electricity markets be fully competitive so that electricity customers are afforded meaningful choices among a wide variety of competing electricity providers.”
As of January 31, 2019, the Florida Division of Elections reported that Citizens for Energy Choices had submitted 79,132 valid preliminary signatures, triggering a court review of the initiative’s ballot language and compliance with the state’s single-subject rule. To qualify for the 2020 ballot, at least 766,200 signatures need to be collected and verified with a recommended submission deadline of January 1, 2020.
The initiative itself would not directly change the structure of the state’s electric-power retail market. Rather, the amendment would declare that the state’s policy is to establish an open and competitive market for electric-power; provide consumers of investor-owned utility companies with the right to choose providers on a competitive wholesale and retail electric market and to produce electricity for themselves; and require the Florida State Legislature to pass laws to implement the amendment.
According to reports available as of January 31, 2019, Citizens for Energy Choice reported $1.14 million in contributions, all from Coalition for Energy Choice, Inc. The committee reported $574,080.39 in total expenditures. Of the total expenditures, $546,500 was expended to Ballot Access LLC and Linjen Corp for signature gathering. The average cost of a successful initiative in Florida was $4.15 million in 2016 and $4.59 million in 2018. The average total cost for qualifying a statewide initiative or veto referendum for the ballot in 2018 across the country was between $1.1 million and $1.2 million. In 2016, the average cost was $1.03 million.
On its website, Citizens for Energy Choice argued, “Florida has the second-highest electricity usage in the country, so it can be a major expense for homes and businesses alike. But of America’s seven largest states, Florida is the only one that doesn’t allow consumers to choose their own electricity providers. With choice, Florida can save more than $5 billion every year. This economic advantage would help keep Florida a leader among the country’s most populous states. Enacting energy choice in Florida will lower energy bills for all Floridians, expand clean energy options, and improve the reliability of infrastructure.”
Opponents of the measure include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, and Florida Power and Light. Associated Industries of Florida President and CEO Tom Feeney said, “We believe deregulation would have a detrimental impact on Florida’s businesses and citizens in the form of increased cost of electricity and market uncertainty. Deregulating Florida’s electric utility industry would create inefficient and uneven services throughout the state, causing major chaos when a natural disaster strikes.”
This Florida amendment contains very similar provisions to Nevada Question 3 of 2018, which supporters also referred to as the Energy Choice Initiative. The question needed to be approved at two successive general elections but was defeated at the second general election it faced in 2018. Nevada Question 3 was one of the top ten most expensive ballot initiatives in 2018 and was the measure with the highest cost-per vote– $100.85 was raised per vote for or against Nevada Question 3. In total, $33.4 million was raised in support of the measure and $63.9 million was raised in opposition to it.
Colorado Proposition 111, the Limits on Payday Loan Charges Initiative, was on the ballot in Colorado as a citizen-initiated state statute on November 6, 2018. It was approved by a vote of 77 percent to 23 percent. The measure limited the interest rate on short term loans—commonly known as payday loans—to a yearly rate of 36 percent and eliminated all other finance charges and fees associated with payday lending. It goes into effect on February 1, 2019.
Before the approval of Proposition 111, the maximum charges allowed for payday loans in Colorado were as follows:
a charge of up to 20 percent of the first $300 loaned,
a charge of 7.5 percent for any amount loaned above $300,
monthly maintenance fee up to $30 per month, and
an additional annual interest rate of 45 percent.
The Yes on Proposition 111 campaign, also known as Coloradans to Stop Predatory Payday Loans, led the campaign in support of the measure, raising $2.2 million in contributions. The group argued that “Payday lenders take advantage of Colorado communities and trap working families in a cycle of debt.” Opponents of the measure included The State Ballot Issue Committee (also known as 13 Issues) and Jon Caldara, head of the Independence Institute. Opponents argued, “This measure may eliminate the payday lending business in Colorado. Payday loans provide options for consumers who may not qualify for other types of credit.”
Legal status of payday lending by state:
Thirty-two states (shaded in light blue on this map) authorize payday lending without limits on APR. Two states, Maine, and Oregon, (shaded in dark blue on this map) authorize payday lending with limits on APR, but permit lenders to charge extra fees on top of interest.
Five cities in Los Angeles County—Glendora, Huntington Park, Manhattan Beach, Signal Hill, and West Hollywood—will hold elections on March 5, 2019. Vote-by-mail ballots are scheduled to be mailed to voters on Tuesday, February 5. Registered voters may apply for a vote-by-mail ballot between February 5 and February 26. All ballots must be received by the registrar-recorder/county clerk’s office or dropped off at a polling location by 8:00 p.m. on election day.
Voters will decide seven measures in different jurisdictions within Los Angeles County. One measure on the ballot in West Hollywood will decide whether a London Arts Club development project moves forward on property owned by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The measure was put on the ballot by a veto referendum petition backed by Unite Here Local 11, which opposes the project. Voters will also decide on a marijuana tax, a hotel tax, a sales tax, the location of a new Costco store, and the consolidation of local and statewide elections. One measure concerning the private lease of a medical center is also on the ballot for certain local voters within Fresno County.
March 5 also features a Los Angeles Unified School District board member election to fill a vacancy and a Fresno County Board of Supervisors election.
The group, All for Transportation, that sponsored a transportation sales tax measure in Hillsborough County, Florida, has filed a motion requesting dismissal of a lawsuit against the measure.
Referendum 2 was approved in November 2018 by 57 percent of voters, authorizing the county to raise the sales tax rate from 7 percent to 8 percent for 30 years. The group All for Transportation led the initiative petition campaign to place the sales tax on the ballot, collecting 50,709 valid signatures. The 1 percent sales tax was designed to fund transportation improvements in the county, including projects to improve roads and to expand public transit.
On December 4, 2018, Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit challenging the transportation sales tax. White argued that the sales tax was unlawfully designed to create a non-elected oversight committee and to allocate funds without a vote of the county commission. On January 24, 2019, All for Transportation filed a motion in Hillsborough County Court requesting that the lawsuit be dismissed, stating that White did not have legal standing due to his official capacity as a commissioner.
Voters in Hillsborough County voted on two sales tax measures in November 2018, approving both of them. One was the All for Transportation sales tax citizen initiative. The other was put on the ballot by the county commissioners and increased the sales tax rate by an additional 0.5 percentage points to fund public school improvements and construction.
Two property tax measures and a bond issue are on the ballot in the Albuquerque Public Schools district for the mail-in election that concludes Tuesday.
Ballots for the mail-in election must be received by elections officials by 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 5. They may be mailed to or dropped off at the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office, or they may be dropped off at the county clerk’s office warehouse.
District officials estimated that approval of all three measures would provide $900 million in funding over the next six years.
Question 1 asks voters if they wish to renew the capital improvements property tax for the district at the existing rate of $2 for every $1,000 in property value. Funds for this measure are earmarked for maintaining public school facilities and purchasing equipment and technology.
Question 2 asks voters if they wish to increase the public school buildings property tax from $3.83 to $4.83 per $1,000 in residential property value and to $5.34 per $1,000 in non-residential property value. Funds from the tax are earmarked for constructing, furnishing, and making payments on buildings and for technology and equipment purchases.
Question 3 asks voters if the district should be authorized to issue up to $200 million in bonds at a tax rate of $1 per $1,000 in residential property value. Funds would be earmarked for buildings, school grounds, technology, and matching funds for capital outlay projects.
If all three measures are approved, taxpayers will see a total increase of $2 per $1,000 in assessed property value. If all three measures are defeated, taxpayers will see a decrease in their property tax rate of $2 per $1,000 in assessed property value.