An effort to recall Lance FitzGerald from his position as Ouray County Sheriff in Colorado submitted 1,082 petition signatures in March 2020. Recall supporters had 60 days to collect 768 signatures from eligible Ouray County voters. If enough signatures are deemed valid, a recall election will be scheduled.
The recall effort began in January 2020. FitzGerald was targeted for recall after he was arrested on DUI allegations on November 27, 2019. The case was still pending at the time the petitions were turned in.
The recall effort was started by the Ouray County Republican Party, but the county Democratic Party joined in the creation of the recall committee. The recall petition reads: “In light of the recent arrest and continued negative events surrounding Lance Patrick FitzGerald, sheriff of Ouray County, we citizens of Ouray County do not have confidence that Sheriff Lance FitzGerald can uphold the duties and responsibilities of his elected position.”
FitzGerald was sworn into office in January 2019. He ran as an unaffiliated candidate and defeated Republican Joel “BB” Burk by 11 votes. He has not publicly responded to the recall effort.
California is under a shelter-in-place order due to the coronavirus pandemic, but several ballot initiative campaigns are in the final days or weeks of their signature drives. As of March 23, four citizen-initiated measures have qualified to appear on the ballot in November. An additional nine ballot initiative could receive enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
The deadline for signature verification is June 25, 2020. However, the process of verifying signatures can take multiple months. Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) recommends that campaigns file signatures no later than April 21. Campaigns that file signatures after the deadline can still have their proposals appear on the ballot for November 8, 2022.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has directed residents to remain at home, except as needed for food, medicine, and other services deemed essential, due to the pandemic. The California Department of Health has advised that non-essential gatherings be postponed or canceled, and the CDC is recommending that people maintain distance between each other. Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, stated, “We were getting 70,000 signatures a week until a couple of weeks ago, when it almost stopped.” According to Fred Kimball, owner of the signature-gathering firm Kimball Petition Management, “We’re all flying by the seat of our pants. No one has ever seen this.”
Campaigns behind the following nine citizen-initiated measures are seeking a place for their proposals on the general election ballot. Coronavirus, however, could have the effect of limiting the number of signatures that an individual petitioner can collect, especially for campaigns that didn’t launch until January 2020.
* Property Tax Transfers and Exemptions Initiative (#19-0003): The campaign Homeownership for Families and Tax Savings for Seniors filed 1.43 million signatures on March 4. At least 997,139 signatures need to be valid. The ballot measure would change how tax assessments are transferred between properties for eligible homebuyers and address resetting tax assessments to fair market value on inherited properties and when corporations and other entities acquire control of properties. Homeownership for Families and Tax Savings for Seniors, which is associated with the California Association of Realtors, has raised $12.08 million.
* Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative (#19-0008): An earlier version of the citizen-initiated measure has qualified for the ballot, but the campaign Schools and Communities First is seeking to replace the initiative with an amended version. The campaign needs to file at least 997,139 valid signatures. Schools and Communities First has raised $17.13 million. Both versions of the ballot initiative would amend the state constitution to require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value.
* Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative (#19-0021): The ballot initiative seeks to expand the provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which was passed in 2018. The campaign Californians for Consumer Privacy raised $3.42 million for this year’s effort. Robin Swanson, a consultant for the campaign, said, “We’re in pretty good shape with the numbers that we have, but are adhering to public health requirements and putting public safety first. Like most ballot measure campaigns out there, we’d always love more signatures, but we’re dealing with a stark new reality while the state is on lockdown.” At least 623,212 valid signatures need to be filed for the ballot measure.
* Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative (#19-0022): Californians for Stem Cell Research, Treatments, and Cures is backing a ballot initiative to issue $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds for the state’s stem cell research institute. Spokesperson Sarah Melbostad said the campaign’s signature drive has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. “In keeping with the governor’s statewide order for non-essential businesses to close and residents to remain at home, we’ve suspended all signature gathering for the time being. … We’re confident that we still have time to qualify and plan to proceed accordingly,” said Melbostad. Proponents have raised $5.28 million. The campaign needs to collect at least 623,212 valid signatures.
* Dialysis Clinic Requirements and Consent to Close Initiative (#19-0025): Californians for Kidney Dialysis Patient Protection, which backed a defeated dialysis-related initiative in 2018, has raised $5.38 million for the new effort. The campaign needs at least 623,212 valid signatures.
* App-Based Drivers Regulations Initiative (#19-0026): With $110.58 million, Protect App-Based Drivers and Services has collected over 1 million signatures, of which 623,212 need to be valid. The campaign has the support of Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Instacart, and Postmates. The ballot measure would consider app-based drivers to be independent contractors and enact several wage and labor policies that would affect app-based drivers and companies. Spokesperson Stacy Wells said, “We were really lucky. We got our signatures in fast and were able to get off the streets in seven weeks.”
* Packaging Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative (#19-0028): The ballot measure would require CalRecycle, in consultation with other agencies, to adopt regulations that reduce the use of product packaging, single-use packaging, and single-use dishes and utensils. The campaign Clean Coasts, Clean Water, Clean Streets has raised $3.26 million. At least 623,212 valid signatures need to be collected.
*Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative (#19-0029): The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, with the support of several tribal governments, has raised $7.5 million for a ballot measure to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks. The effort to collect 997,139 valid signatures began on January 21, 2020. “We are at nearly 1 million signatures and were on a trajectory to reach our goal well ahead of the deadline before the unprecedented orders around COVID-19,” said Jacob Mejia, a spokesperson for the campaign. He added, “The health and well-being of Californians is foremost. Thus, paid signature-gathering efforts have paused for the time being.”
A bond package containing three separate bond issues was signed by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and certified for the ballot on March 11, 2020. The bond package was introduced on January 29, 2020, as Senate Bill 207. To put a bond question before voters, a simple majority is required in both the New Mexico State Senate and the New Mexico House of Representatives. A simple majority vote of the statewide electorate is required to approve it. On February 18, 2020, the New Mexico Senate approved the measures 41-0 with one member excused from voting. On February 20, 2020, the New Mexico House of Representatives approved SB 207 in a vote of 66-0 with four members excused.
The bond package will appear as three separate bond questions on November ballots. The New Mexico Senior Citizens Facilities Bond Issue authorizes the sale and issuance of $33 million in bonds for senior citizen facilities improvements. The New Mexico Public Libraries Bond Issue authorizes the sale and issuance of $9.5 million in bonds for public library improvements. The New Mexico Public Education Bond Issue authorizes the sale and issuance of $156.3 million in bonds for public higher education institutions, special public schools, and native tribal schools.
Including the bond questions, there are five legislatively referred measures appearing on New Mexico ballots in November. The other two measures are constitutional amendments. The New Mexico Elections and Terms of Non-Statewide Officeholders Amendment would allow the state legislature to pass laws adjusting the election dates of state or county officeholders and adjust office terms according to those date changes. The New Mexico Appointed Public Regulation Commission Amendment would change the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) from an elected five-member commission to an appointed three-member commission.
New Mexico voters have cast ballots on 25 bond issues, totaling $1.2 billion in value, between January 1, 2006, and January 1, 2020. All but one bond issue question—a $155.57 million bond for higher education—was approved. Between 1995 and 2018, voters approved 85.5 percent of the constitutional amendments on the ballot in the state.
The election on June 9, 2020, will feature two statewide bond measures in Maine. Legislators passed the bond measures on March 17, and Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed the legislation on March 18. A two-thirds vote was needed in each legislative chamber.
The first bond measure would authorize $105 million in bonds for transportation infrastructure projects, including $90 million for highways, bridges, and MaineDOT’s Municipal Partnership Initiative (MPI) and $15 million for multimodal facilities and equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports, harbors, marine transportation, and active transportation projects. The bond revenue could act as matching funds for an estimated $275 million in federal and other funding.
The second bond measure would authorize $15 million in bonds for the ConnectME Authority to provide funding for high-speed internet infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. As of March 2020, the ConnectME Authority defined unserved areas as places where broadband service is not offered and underserved areas as places where less than 20 percent of households have access to broadband service. The ConnectME Authority is a state organization that was developed to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure in Maine.
Voters of Maine cast ballots on 39 bond issues, totaling $1.43 billion ($1,427,925,000) in value, from January 1, 2007, through January 1, 2020. Voters approved 38 of 39 bond issues (97.4 percent) during this time. Ten of 39 bonds were related to transportation infrastructure. None were related to internet infrastructure. The last bond measure to be rejected was Question 2 (2012), which would have authorized $11 million in bonds to expand the state’s community college system.
With the Maine State Legislature adjourning on March 17, which was about a month earlier than scheduled, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the two bond measures are likely the only ballot measures that will appear on the June ballot. The latest that a bill could be signed to refer a measure to the June ballot is April 10. If the legislature reconvenes for a special session during the summer months, it could refer additional measures to the November ballot.
Maryland Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment would authorize the Maryland General Assembly to increase, decrease, or add items to the state budget as long as such changes do not make the budget exceed the total proposed budget submitted by the governor. The amendment is the first measure certified to appear on the statewide ballot in Maryland this November.
Currently, the Maryland General Assembly receives a budget proposal from the governor. The legislature is not allowed to add expenditures to it or reapportion expenditures. It can only reduce the state’s operating budget.
In Maryland, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment requires a 60 percent vote by each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly during one legislative session. The amendment was introduced as Senate Bill 1028 on February 14, 2020, and was sponsored by Democratic Senators Jim Rosapepe, Sarah K. Elfreth, Melony Griffith, Guy Guzzone, Nancy J. King, Douglas J. J. Peters, and Craig J. Zucker. On March 17, 2020, the state Senate passed SB 1028 in a vote of 30-15. On March 18, 2020, the state Legislature passed the amendment in a vote of 95-39. The vote occurred on the last day of the legislative session, which was adjourned early due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 session was originally set to adjourn on April 6, 2020.
The legislature also approved a referendum to authorize sports and event wagering at certain licensed facilities before adjourning. As a legislatively referred state statute, the measure requires the governor’s signature to be certified for the ballot. The measure would also change the uses of the Problem Gambling Fund to target treatments and prevention programs towards individuals with gambling problems that relate to sports wagering.
Since 1996, 34 measures appeared on Maryland ballots. Of that total, 31 were approved, and three were defeated.
An effort to recall Mayor Alejandra Cortez and city council members Pedro Aceituno and Marco Barcena in Bell Gardens, California, was rejected by the city clerk. Recall organizers submitted notices of intent to recall in late February. The notices were rejected on the grounds that they did not include Section 11023 of the Elections Code, which covers the handling of statements of defense.
Recalls of local officials in California start with notices of intent to targeted officials. Each notice requires signatures from 10 city residents, the name of the targeted official, and reasoning for the recall that cannot exceed 200 words. A copy of the notice is delivered to the city clerk, who publishes the notice in at least three public places. Targeted officials have seven days following receipt of their notices to issue statements of defense. A recall petition can be circulated against each targeted official once the notice of intent is published. Recall efforts can be started from the beginning of the process after notices of intent are rejected.
The recall effort against Cortez, Aceituno, and Barcena was initiated in response to issues surrounding real estate development and cannabis businesses.
Aceituno was elected to the city council in a 1999 recall election that saw the removal of Mayor Joaquin Penilla, Mayor Pro Tem David Torres, and Councilman Salvador Rios. Aceituno received the most votes to replace Torres.
In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.
Signatures for citizen initiative petitions in Idaho are due on May 1, 2020. To qualify for the November ballot, 55,057 valid signatures are required.
As of March 19, 2020, three citizen initiatives were cleared to gather signatures targeting the 2020 ballot in Idaho.
The Idaho Minimum Wage Increase Initiative was designed to increase the minimum wage in Idaho to $12 per hour by June 2024. Sponsors of the measure, Idahoans for a Fair Wage, announced on March 17 that they were suspending their signature drive. The group reported having collected more than 32,000 signatures.
The Idaho Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative was designed to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000 and increase the corporate income tax rate to fund education. Reclaim Idaho, sponsors of the measure, announced on March 18, 2020, that they were suspending their signature drive due to the coronavirus pandemic. As of March 2020, Reclaim Idaho reported having collected more than half of the required signatures.
The Idaho Medical Marijuana Initiative was designed to create a medical marijuana program in Idaho. Sponsors of the measure, Idaho Cannabis Coalition/Legalize Idaho, had planned a tour—called the “Educate and Legalize Idaho” tour—to collect signatures for the measure, but announced that the tour would be postponed until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic. The group has not announced a signature drive suspension.
On March 18, Governor of Idaho Brad Little (R) announced that Idaho was adopting the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House, urging Idahoans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.
Ballotpedia is tracking changes to ballot measure campaign activities, elections, procedures, and policies made in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Ballotpedia is also tracking changes to election dates and procedures; federal, state and local responses; diagnosed or quarantined officials; school closures; and court closures.
One measure is certified to appear on the 2020 ballot in Idaho. The constitutional amendment, referred to the ballot by the state legislature, would remove language in the state constitution that allows the legislature to have between 30 and 35 legislative districts and, instead, require the legislature to consist of 35 districts. Currently, the Idaho Constitution provides that the state may have between 30 and 35 state legislative districts, as provided by statute.
From 1996 to 2018, 36 measures were on the ballot in Idaho, of which, 72% (26 of 36) were approved and 28% (10 of 36) were defeated.
On March 3, Californians voted on one statewide ballot measure, Proposition 13, which would have issued $15 billion in general obligation bonds for preschool, K-12, and higher education facilities. The ballot measure would have also made changes to the formula used to distribute state bond funds to schools, the rules governing local bond measures, and school districts’ abilities to assess developer fees.
Proposition 13 was behind on election night but millions of uncounted ballots remained. On March 11, Californians for Safe Schools and Healthy Learning, which led the campaign in support of Proposition 13, conceded that the ballot measure appeared to be defeated.
Asm. Patrick O’Donnell (D-70), who co-authored Proposition 13 (2020), said, “Despite this number having no relation to the content of the school facilities bond, many voters mistakenly believed the ballot measure made changes to the ‘Proposition 13’ originally passed in 1978 which dealt with property taxes.” He introduced legislation to retire the use of Proposition 13 as an official ballot measure title. In California, statewide ballot measures are assigned official titles in the order that they’re placed on the ballot and reset each decade. In 2018, the official titles were Proposition 1 through Proposition 12. Therefore, the first statewide measure of 2020 was Proposition 13.
Susan Shelley, vice president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, responded to the proposition’s defeated, saying, “Confusion over Proposition 13 is not the whole story here.” She added, “People are cynical about how the money is being spent. Maybe the message is ‘enough is enough.’” Beyond Proposition 13, there were 121 school bonds on local ballots throughout California. Since 2008, the average approval rate for local school bond measures was 75 percent. On March 3, less than 50 percent were approved.
Californians for Safe Schools and Healthy Learning, along with allied political action committees, raised $9.67 million to support Proposition 13 through February 15, 2020. The top donors included the California Teachers Association Issues PAC ($500,000), California Charter Schools Association ($400,000), and United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America ($334,000.00). Opponents of Proposition 13 did not organize a committee to fund an opposition campaign.
The next statewide election in California to feature ballot measures is November 3, 2020. There are several bond measures that could appear on the general election ballot, including a $5.5 billion citizen-initiated stem cell research bond, a $600 million legislative veterans’ housing and homelessness bond, and a $4.75 or $5.5 billion legislative bond for projects related to changing climate conditions, fire prevention, and water infrastructure.
Wayne County voters renew Art Institute Authority property tax
According to election night results, 76.7% of Wayne County, Michigan, voters were in favor of renewing a 0.2 mill property tax ($20 per $100,000 in assessed value) until 2031 to provide funding for the Wayne County Art Institute Authority. The tax will generate an estimated $8.5 million in revenue in 2022.
The tax was initially approved in 2012 and was set to expire in December 2021.
The Georgia Legislature voted on Monday to send House Joint Resolution 164 to the November 2020 ballot for voter consideration. The measure would authorize the Georgia Legislature to dedicate certain tax or fee revenue to the public purpose for which the taxes or fees were imposed.
For example, the measure would allow revenues resulting from taxes or fees regarding hazardous wastes to be dedicated to the “investigation, detoxification, removal, and disposal of any hazardous wastes, hazardous constituents, or hazardous substances at sites where corrective action is necessary to mitigate a present or future danger to human health or the environment.”
The Augusta Chronicle reported that dedicating state funds such as Georgia’s Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste trust funds to their intended use was a priority of the amendment’s sponsor, Jay Powell (R), who passed away in November 2019.
Rep. Andrew Welch (R) said, “It would bring a level of accountability to these fees and truth in taxation back to the dedication of these fees.”
This amendment was introduced as House Resolution 164 on February 7, 2019, by Rep. Jay Powell (R-171). On February 20, 2019, the state House passed HR 164 by a vote of 169-1 with ten Representatives excused or not voting. The single no vote came from Republican Representative Matt Gurtler. The amendment was passed in the Senate as a substitute on March 25, 2019, by a vote of 52-0 with four excused.
On March 3, 2020, the House amended and passed the measure by a vote of 164-4 with 12 not voting. The Senate agreed to the House’s amendments and passed the bill on March 9, 2020, certifying it for the November 2020 ballot.
From 1996 to 2018, 81 measures have been on the ballot in Georgia, of which, 84% (68 of 81) were approved and 16% (13 of 81) were defeated.