CategoryBallot measures

Toledo special election features two citizen initiatives Tuesday

Voters in Toledo, Ohio, will decide two local ballot measures at a special election on Tuesday, February 26. Question 1 is a citizen initiative designed to restrict the location of jails, prisons, and other facilities housing individuals accused or convicted of crimes to Toledo’s downtown overlay district. The group Keep the Jail Downtown Toledo has led the campaign in favor of Question 1. Question 2, also a citizen initiative, would establish a bill of rights for the Lake Erie ecosystem. The group Toledoans for Safe Water has led the campaign in favor of Question 2. Voters have until 7:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday to cast their ballots in the special election.

U.S. Virgin Islands voters to decide ballot initiative to reapportion the territory’s legislature

On March 30, 2019, voters in the U.S. Virgin Islands will decide a ballot initiative to reapportion the territory’s 15-member unicameral legislature.
The USVI territorial legislature is unlike state legislatures, which divide districts between areas based on population. The USVI territorial legislature divides districts based on island area with no reference to population. As of 2019, the 15-member legislature consisted of two seven-member districts and one at-large member. Voters select their preferred candidate from a list, and the top seven vote-getters in the multi-member districts are elected. One of the seven-member districts represented the island of St. Croix, and the other seven-member district represented the islands of St. Thomas and St. John. An additional legislator was elected at-large, meaning voters from across USVI voted on candidates for the seat, but the legislator had to be a resident of St. John.
The ballot initiative would replace the territory’s two seven-member legislative districts and one at-large member with four two-member districts, one one-member district, and six at-large members. The legislature would continue to have 15 members. The four two-member districts would represent eastern St. Croix, western St. Croix, eastern St. Thomas, and western St. Thomas. The one single-member district would represent St. John. An additional six legislators would be elected at-large, but three would have to be residents of St. Croix, and three would have to be residents of St. Thomas.
In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to provide the USVI with a ballot initiative process. The number of signatures required to get an initiated state statute placed on the ballot is equal to 10 percent of the registered voters of each legislative district or 41 percent of all registered voters of the Virgin Islands. Proponents of the initiative filed 4,896 valid signatures from the two districts, which was 68 signatures above the requirement.
The U.S. Virgin Islands, abbreviated as USVI, is located in the Caribbean, east of Puerto Rico. USVI is one of the United States’ five inhabited unincorporated territories. The United States purchased the islands from Denmark in 1917, and Congress granted citizenship to U.S. Virgin Islanders in 1927. Like neighboring Puerto Rico, residents of USVI cannot vote for president and do not have a floor-voting representative in Congress. However, USVI does elect a congressional delegate, who can introduce legislation and vote in committees. Stacey Plaskett (D) is the territory’s delegate. USVI’s governor is Albert Bryan (D). Democrats control the legislature.

NC judge strikes down voter ID and income tax cap amendments based on gerrymandered legislature

On February 22, 2019, Judge Bryan Collins of the Wake County Superior Court in North Carolina ruled that two constitutional amendments—Voter ID Amendment and Income Tax Cap Amendment—passed on November 6, 2018, were invalid. The ruling resulted from a lawsuit launched by the NC NAACP and Clean Air Carolina, which argued that since some lawmakers were elected from districts that a federal court ruled were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, the existing legislature was a usurper legislature and could not refer constitutional amendments to the ballot.
Judge Collins, agreeing with plaintiffs, said, “… the unconstitutional racial gerrymander tainted the three-fifths majorities required by the state Constitution before an amendment proposal can be submitted to the people for a vote, breaking the requisite chain of popular sovereignty between North Carolina citizens and their representatives. … Accordingly, the constitutional amendments placed on the ballot on November 6, 2018 were approved by a General Assembly that did not represent the people of North Carolina.”
Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NC NAACP, responded to the ruling, stating, “We are delighted that the acts of the previous majority, which came to power through the use of racially discriminatory maps, have been checked. The prior General Assembly’s attempt to use its ill-gotten power to enshrine a racist photo voter ID requirement in the state constitution was particularly egregious, and we applaud the court for invalidating these attempts at unconstitutional overreach.” Senate President Berger (R-30) also responded, saying, “We are duty-bound to appeal this absurd decision. The prospect of invalidating 18 months of laws is the definition of chaos and confusion. Based on tonight’s opinion and others over the past several years, it appears the idea of judicial restraint has completely left the state of North Carolina.”
The Voter ID Amendment received 55 percent of the vote in November. The ballot measure was designed to require that voters present a photo ID to vote in person. In the General Assembly, the amendment was referred along party lines; Republicans voted for the amendment and Democrats voted against it.
The Income Tax Cap Amendment received 57 percent of the vote. The ballot measure was written to lower the maximum allowable state income tax rate from 10 percent to 7 percent. The amendment was referred mostly along party lines; three Senate Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the amendment and one House Republican and two Senate Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the amendment.
Voters approved two other constitutional amendments: (1) a right to hunt and fish amendment and (2) a Marsy’s Law crime victims rights amendment. These were referred to the ballot by the same general assembly but were not directly affected by the ruling since they were not targeted by the lawsuit.

Constitutional amendment regarding sewage systems certified to appear on the ballot in Wyoming on November 3, 2020

The measure, introduced as House Joint Resolution 2 by Republican Representative Lloyd Charles Larsen, would remove the constitutional limit on debt a municipality could incur for municipal sewer projects. The current limit on debt is 4 percent of the assessed value of the taxable property within the municipality. This measure would remove that limit and instead allow the legislature to provide for additional indebtedness.
HJR 2 was approved in the House on January 24, 2019, by a vote of 45-12 with three Republican Representatives not voting. It passed in the Senate on February 21, 2019, by a vote of 27-3.
Vote totals by party:
  • House Democrats: 9 yes, 0 no
  • House Republicans: 35 yes, 12 no, 3 absent or not voting
  • Senate Democrats: 3 yes, 0 no
  • Senate Republicans: 24 yes, 3 no
As of February 21, 2019, seven statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2020 ballot in five states.

Due to voter approval of Proposal 3 last year, any Michigan voter can request an absentee ballot beginning Thursday, Feb. 21

Due to voter approval of Proposal 3 in November 2018, Michigan voters can request no-excuse absentee ballots beginning on Thursday, February 21, 2019, for the election on May 7. No-excuse absentee voting, also known as no-reason absentee voting, allows any voter to cast an absentee ballot. Michigan is one of 28 states, along with Washington, D.C., that provides for no-excuse absentee voting.
Before voters approved Proposal 3, voters had to meet at least one of certain specific criteria to receive an absentee ballot, including (a) 60 years old or older; (b) unable to vote without assistance at the polls; (c) expected to be out-of-town on election day; (d) in jail awaiting arraignment or trial; (e) unable to attend the polls for religious reasons; or (f) appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of the inspector’s home precinct.
Proposal 3 was a ballot initiative that added straight-ticket voting, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and no-excuse absentee voting to the Michigan Constitution. It was approved by 66.9 percent of voters. On February 20, 2019, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) announced that she was creating a 25-member committee to provide suggestions on implementing Proposal 3 and other changes to election policy.
Promote the Vote, a political action committee, led the campaign in support of Proposal 3. The ACLU of Michigan, the Michigan State Conference of the NAACP, and the League of Women Voters of Michigan launched the campaign. Promote the Vote raised $5.40 million, with 49 percent of total funds from the national ACLU. Protect My Vote formed to oppose the ballot initiative and received $3.36 million in contributions. The Michigan Freedom Fund was the largest donor to the opposition, contributing $3.06 million.

Michigan could be the next state to vote on a ranked-choice voting ballot initiative

Could Michigan be the second state to vote on ranked-choice voting? Bill Gelineau, a Libertarian, is planning a ballot initiative for a future election to enact ranked-choice voting. Gelineau ran for governor in 2018, placing third with 1.3 percent of votes behind Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Bill Schuette (R). The Lansing, Michigan, chapter of Represent.Us is also interested in an RCV ballot initiative.
Ranked-choice voting (RCV) is a voting method in which voters rank candidates according to their preference and ballots are processed in rounds. The candidate in last place is eliminated during each round, and the voters’ second choices get their votes. The process is continued until a candidate wins a simple majority (50 percent plus one) of the vote.
The ballot initiative is expected to be a constitutional amendment, which requires 425,059 valid signatures to appear on the ballot in 2020 or 2022. Signatures also need to meet a distribution requirement due to legislation passed in December 2018. The requirement limits the number of signatures collected in a single congressional district to 15 percent of the total required. In Michigan, petitioners have 180 days to collect signatures for a ballot initiative.
Michigan would follow Maine in deciding whether to adopt ranked-choice voting (RCV). Voters in Maine approved a ranked-choice voting ballot initiative in 2016, but the legislature passed a bill delaying and repealing RCV. Backers of RCV mobilized a campaign to overturn the bill through a veto referendum in June 2018, and 53.9 percent of electors voted to preserve the system. RCV was used in Maine’s 2nd congressional district election in November 2018, with Jared Golden (D) defeating incumbent Bruce Poliquin (R) after first-round votes for two independent candidates were redistributed.
Gelineau said he believes voters could approve RCV in Michigan, stating, “Are there enough people out there who believe in democracy that would be willing to forgo what may be the end of the two-party system to say we can have a better way of running our government? I really think it’s possible.”

North Dakota Senate Republicans pass measure to add unique requirement for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments

On Monday, North Dakota Senate Republicans passed a constitutional amendment that would require citizen-initiated constitutional amendments—after they’ve made it on the ballot and been approved by voters at a statewide election—to then be sent to the legislature for approval. If not approved by the legislature, the measure would be required to go back on the ballot and be approved by voters a second time at the next statewide election.
This amendment was introduced as Senate Concurrent Resolution 4001 on January 3, 2019, by Republican Senators David Hogue, Dick Dever, and Gary Lee. On February 18, 2019, the state Senate passed SCR 4001 by a vote of 31 to 16. Of the 36 Senate Republicans, 31 voted yes while six joined all ten Senate Democrats in voting no. The introduced version of the proposal was designed to give the legislature the last vote on a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, but it was amended to add the provision for a second statewide election. If the House—comprised of 78 Republicans and 15 Democrats—passes the amendment, it will appear on the ballot before voters at the general election on November 3, 2020.
If this measure goes on the ballot and is approved by voters, North Dakota would become the first state to require legislative approval after voter approval for citizen initiatives. Currently, South Carolina is the only state that requires the legislature to approve a legislatively-referred amendment again after voter approval. In Nevada, citizen-initiated constitutional amendments must be passed by voters at two consecutive statewide elections, but the state legislature is not involved in between the elections.
Typically, in states with a process for indirect initiatives, an initiative with a successful signature petition drive is considered first by the state legislature where the initiative—or in some cases legislation deemed equivalent—may be approved by the legislature; otherwise, the measure is placed on the ballot. In some states, an additional round of signatures is required to qualify an initiative for the ballot if the legislature does not approve it.

Gwyneth Paltrow, school boards, and Los Angeles elections – what they all have common this Tuesday

The deadline to register to vote for elections on March 5, 2019, in California is Tuesday, February 19. In California, residents must register to vote 15 days prior to an election. On March 5, 2019, voters will decide the following races:
– The District 5 seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education – This is a special election to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Ref Rodriguez. The term filled by this election expires in December 2020.
– Seven local measures in five cities within Los Angeles County.
— Measure A will determine whether or not a development project by the Arts Club of London on 8920 Sunset Boulevard, which is owned by Gwyneth Paltrow and Arts Club chairman Gary Landesberg, moves forward. It was put on the ballot by through a veto referendum petition backed by Unite Here Local 11, a hospitality industry union.
— The other measures concerning hotel taxes in Manhattan Beach, sales taxes in Glendora, election consolidation in Signal Hill, marijuana taxes in West Hollywood.
– The District 2 seat of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors – Heading into this special election, the board is split 3-3 between members supported by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and those supported by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).
– Local measures concerning the lease of hospital facilities in Palm Drive (Sonoma County) and Coalinga (Fresno County)
Voter registration information is available here. If you miss the voter registration deadline on February 19, you can still register and vote conditionally. More information is available here.

Nevada governor signs bill to allow state to enforce Question 1—a firearms background checks measure that voters approved in 2016

On February 11, 2019, Senate Bill 143 (SB 143) was introduced into the Nevada State Legislature to amend Question 1 (2016), which was designed to require firearm transfers between unlicensed persons to go through a licensed dealer. Under Question 1, the licensed dealer would contact the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICBCS) to run a background check. According to then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), Question 1 was never enforced because the FBI refused to participate in the background checks.

SB 143 was written to require the state, rather than the FBI, to run background checks on persons who receive a firearm from an unlicensed individual. Question 1, SB 143, and similar types of legislation are often referred to as universal background checks because under such laws transfers between unlicensed persons would join transfers between licensed persons in requiring background checks, with certain exceptions.

The Nevada State Senate voted on SB 143 on February 13, 2019. The vote was 13 to eight, with the chamber’s 13 Democrats voting to support SB 143 and eight Republicans voting to oppose the bill. The Nevada State Assembly voted on February 15, 2019, passing the bill in a vote of 28 to 13. The chamber’s Republicans, along with one Democrat, opposed SB 143, while the remaining 28 Democrats supported the bill.

In Nevada, three years must pass before a ballot initiative can be amended or repealed. Question 1 was added to state code on November 22, 2016; therefore, SB 143 included a provision stating that the bill would take effect on January 2, 2020, which is after the three-year period on November 22, 2019.

Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson (D-4), after the bill passed both legislative chambers, said, “Background checks are proven to be the best way to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands without compromising the rights of law-abiding citizens.” Sen. Ira Hansen (R-14), who voted against SB 143, stated, “All this is going to do is burden people who are good, ordinary citizens who are going to be doing transactions. No criminal in their right mind is going to go through a background check system before getting a firearm.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed SB 143 on February 15, 2019, saying, “In November 2016, the majority of Nevadans made it clear they wanted us to do more to address gun violence–but for the 829 days since, they’ve been ignored. That finally changes today.” Sisolak was elected on November 6, 2018, succeeding Brian Sandoval (R) as governor, and giving Democrats trifecta control of Nevada.

Where could we see marijuana on the ballot in 2019 and 2020?

Marijuana was a notable topic and trend for ballot measures in 2018.
In 2018, voters in two states—North Dakota and Michigan—decided citizen initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana. The measure was defeated in North Dakota and approved in Michigan.
In Oklahoma, State Question 788 legalizing medical marijuana was approved in June 2018. Utah and Missouri voters also decided initiatives concerning medical marijuana in November 2018. In Missouri, there were three different medical marijuana measures all competing with one another. All three states voting on medical marijuana legalization approved it.
So where can citizens put marijuana on the ballot in 2019 and 2020?
Ten of the states that allow citizen initiatives have legalized medical marijuana but have not legalized recreational marijuana. Recreational marijuana legalization measures have been proposed in Ohio for 2019 and Arizona for 2020. Both states have voted on recreational marijuana legalization initiatives in 2015 and 2016, respectively, but the initiatives were defeated.
24 states allow citizens to initiate legislation. As of November 2018, all such states had legalized medical marijuana or allowed cannabis oil except Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Nebraska. Medical marijuana legalization measures have been proposed for 2020 in South Dakota, Mississippi, and Nebraska.
In Florida, two 2020 initiatives were proposed to amend the state’s medical marijuana amendment that was passed in 2016. In Washington, a 2019 measure was proposed to ban Marijuana cultivation, processing, and sales in residential zones. Marijuana legalization could come through state legislatures in 2019 and 2020 as well. So far, Vermont is the only state that has legalized possession and use of recreational marijuana through a legislative bill rather than a citizen initiative.
At a glance
States with the initiative process that have legalized medical marijuana but not recreational marijuana:
  1. Arizona (Two different measures to legalize recreational proposed for 2020)
  2. Arkansas
  3. Florida
  4. Illinois
  5. Missouri
  6. Montana
  7. North Dakota
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Utah
  10. Ohio (Measure to legalize recreational proposed for 2019)
States with the initiative process that have not legalized either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana:
  1. Idaho
  2. Mississippi (One measure to legalize medical and one measure to legalize recreational and medical proposed for 2020)
  3. Nebraska (Measure to legalize recreational proposed for 2020)
  4. South Dakota (Measure to legalize recreational proposed for 2020)
  5. Wyoming