TagBallot Bulletin

Maryland Legislature refers constitutional amendment to 2020 ballot concerning the legislature’s power over the state budget

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.

Maryland Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment (2020) #Path to the ballot
Maryland 2020 ballot measures

Recall effort rejected in Bell Gardens, California

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.

Additional reading:
Laws governing recall in California
Political recall efforts, 2020

Signature deadline for citizen initiatives in Idaho is May 1; two campaigns have suspended signature drives due to coronavirus

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.

Additional reading:
Federal, state, and local government policy changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020
Ballot measure petition deadlines and requirements, 2020
Ballot initiatives filed for the 2020 ballot

California Proposition 13 is the first statewide school bond rejected by voters since 1994

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.

Additional Reading:
California 2020 ballot proposition
California Proposition 13, Tax Limitations Initiative (1978)
Bond issues on the ballot

Wayne County voters renew Art Institute Authority property tax

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.

Georgia legislature refers constitutional amendment to 2020 ballot concerning dedication of tax and fee revenue

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.

Additional Reading:
Georgia 2020 ballot measures

Signatures verified for top-four ranked-choice voting ballot initiative in Alaska

Alaskans could vote on a first-of-its-kind electoral system in November. On March 9, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer announced that the campaign Alaskans for Better Elections collected 36,006 valid signatures for its ballot initiative. The campaign filed 41,068 signatures, of which at least 28,501 needed to be valid.

Next, the Alaska State Legislature has the option to approve the proposal before the end of this year’s legislative session, which is expected to adjourn on May 20, 2020. Otherwise, the proposal will appear on the ballot for the general election on November 3, 2020.

The ballot initiative would replace partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices. It would establish ranked-choice voting for general elections, in which voters would rank the four candidates that moved on from the primaries. The ballot initiative would also require persons and entities that make contributions that were themselves derived from donations, contributions, dues, or gifts to disclose the sources of the contributions.

Alaskans for Better Elections has raised $761,381 through January 7, 2020. Two organizations that have backed ranked-choice voting efforts in other states—Unite America and Action Now Initiative—provided the largest donations, $600,000 and $100,000, respectively. No campaign has organized to oppose the ballot initiative as of March 10, 2020.

Currently, one state—Maine—uses ranked-choice voting for some state and federal elections. In 2020, voters in Maine could be asked to expand ranked-choice voting to presidential elections. A ranked-choice voting initiative could also appear on the ballot in Massachusetts.

The deadline to file signatures for Alaska ballot initiatives passed on January 21, 2020. Along with Alaskans for Better Elections’ ballot initiative, voters may decide one to increase taxes on three North Slope oil production fields—Alpine, Kuparuk, and Prudhoe Bay. The legislature can also refer constitutional amendments and statutes to the ballot.

Additional Reading:
Alaska 2020 ballot measures
Top four primary
Ranked-choice voting

Ballot Bulletin March 2020

Virginia General Assembly passes bill allowing localities to use ranked-choice voting in some municipal elections 

On Feb. 27, the Virginia State Senate voted 22-18 to approve HB1103, which would allow local governments to implement ranked-choice voting (RCV) for select municipal elections. All of the Senate’s 21 Democrats and one Republican voted in favor of the legislation. Eighteen Republicans voted against it. The same bill had passed the Virginia House of Delegates on Feb. 7 by a vote of 57-42. Fifty-four House Democrats and three Republicans voted in favor of HB1103. Forty-two Republicans voted against it (one Democratic member did not vote). HB1103 now goes to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for his action.  

If enacted, HB1103 would allow local governments to implement RCV in elections for county boards of supervisors and city councils. The state board of elections would be authorized to “promulgate regulations for the proper and efficient administration of elections determined by ranked-choice voting, including (i) procedures for tabulating votes in rounds, (ii) procedures for determining winners in elections for offices to which only one candidate is being elected and to which more than one candidate is being elected, and (iii) standards for ballots.” Localities would be liable for any implementation costs incurred by the state. The Department of Planning and Budget has estimated those costs at approximately $1.3 million.

What have been the reactions? 

The following is a sample of the commentary surrounding HB1103: 

  • Del. Sally Hudson (D), the bill’s chief sponsor, said, “It’s a benefit to communities like mine in Charlottesville that tend to have very low-turnout primaries in the summer and then local elections in the fall that often have multiple candidates running for a handful of open seats. You end up with really split elections and less certainty about which candidate has majority support from the community.”    
  • Del. Chris Runion opposed the bill, saying, “It confuses the voter, and it complicates the process. I would prefer that a voter goes in and makes his decision, casts their ballot and goes back and knows this is who they voted for and that’s who they support and they go home satisfied with that result.”
  • Elizabeth Melson, president of FairVote Virginia, which has advocated in favor of the bill, said, “With ranking, if a candidate meets a voter who favors an opponent, the conversation need not end; it can shift to second choices and areas of mutual concern. In places with ranked choice already implemented, candidates sometimes even campaign in groups of two or three and ask to be second or third choices. It could lead to more civilized and issue-based campaigns and less mud-slinging.”
  • Quentin Kidd, a professor at Christopher Newport University, said, “So if you had a city or a county that was 50-50 split, ranked-choice voting could really mix things up and make for some really healthy political competition. But in a county that’s really rural and really Republican, Democrats would almost be locked out. In a city that’s really Democratically-oriented, Republicans would almost be locked out.” 

What other jurisdictions have implemented RCV? 

Maine is the only state that has implemented RCV for federal and state-level elections. Nine states have jurisdictions with RCV at the local level. On the map below, these states are shaded in gold. Another four states have jurisdictions that have adopted, but have not yet implemented, RCV. These states are shaded in blue. A complete list of implementation sites is available here

In other RCV news …

On March 3, citizens in Portland, Maine, approved a charter amendment extending the use of ranked-choice voting to all city council and school board elections. Previously, ranked-choice voting only applied to mayoral elections. The charter amendment passed with 81 percent of the vote.  

Virginians to decide constitutional amendment transferring redistricting power from legislature to commission 

On March 5, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 54-46 to approve a resolution placing a redistricting-related constitutional amendment on the ballot for Nov. 3, 2020. The ballot measure would transfer the authority to draft the state’s congressional and legislative district plans from the Virginia General Assembly to a 16-member redistricting commission comprising eight state legislators and eight citizens. 

What does the constitutional amendment propose? 

Under the amendment, the commission would draft the maps and the Virginia General Assembly would vote either to approve or reject them. The Virginia General Assembly would be prohibited from amending the maps. If the Virginia General Assembly were to reject a map, the redistricting commission would draft a new one. If the second map is rejected, the state supreme court would enact a district map.

Maps would require approval by 12 of 16 (75 percent) commission members, including six of eight legislator-members and six of eight citizen-members. Leaders of the legislature’s two largest political parties would select members to serve on the commission. Based on the current composition of the General Assembly, the commission’s legislative members would include two Senate Democrats, two Senate Republicans, two House Democrats, and two House Republicans. The commission’s eight citizen members would be recommended by legislative leaders and selected by a committee of five retired circuit court judges.

How did the amendment make it to the ballot, and what comes next? 

In order to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, a majority vote in each chamber, in two successive legislative sessions, is required. In 2019, the House and Senate, with Republican majorities, approved the amendment. Democrats won control of both legislative chambers in November 2019. This year, the Senate approved the amendment 38-2. In the House, nine Democrats and all 45 Republicans voted to advance the amendment; 46 Democrats voted against the amendment. In November, a simple majority vote is required to enact the constitutional amendment. 

For more information on the support and opposition arguments on this amendment, click here

For more information about the legislative process that put the amendment on the ballot, click here.

Are other states considering similar measures this year? 

This is the first ballot measure certified for 2020 related to redistricting. Measures might also be on the ballot in Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Oregon. In 2018, five states — Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah — voted on initiatives to alter redistricting procedures or establish redistricting commissions. Voters approved all of them.

Ballot access requirements for U.S. Senate candidates in 2020 

Thirty-three seats in the United States Senate are up for election in 2020. How do prospective candidates get on the ballot in their respective states?

Generally speaking, a candidate must pay a filing fee, submit petition signatures, or both in order to appear on the ballot. Filing requirements vary from state to state. Filing requirements also vary according to a candidate’s partisan affiliation. Candidates of the major political parties are sometimes subject to different filing requirements than unaffiliated candidates. 

Petition signature requirements exist on a broad spectrum. For example, Kentucky requires partisan primary candidates to submit two petition signatures (candidates are also liable for a $500 filing fee). This petition requirement is the lowest in the nation for Senate candidates in 2020. By contrast, Texas requires unaffiliated candidates to submit 83,717 petition signatures, 1 percent of all votes cast for governor in the last election. This petition requirement is the highest in the nation. 

Filing fees are similarly variable. Kansas requires unaffiliated candidates to pay a $20 administrative fee. This fee is the smallest in the nation for Senate candidates in 2020. By contrast, Arkansas Republican candidates are liable for a $20,000 filing fee, a larger filing fee than that imposed in any other state this cycle.    

We have compiled complete filing requirements for major-party and unaffiliated Senate candidates in 2020. To peruse the data, click here

Legislation tracking 

Redistricting legislation

The map below shows which states have taken up redistricting policy legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of March 9, 2020

Electoral systems legislation

The map below shows which states have taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of March 9, 2020

Primary systems legislation

The map below shows which states have taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of March 9, 2020

Washington Legislature refers constitutional amendment to 2020 ballot concerning the investment of Family Medical Leave and Long-Term Care Accounts

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 would allow funds in the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Account and the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Account to be invested as provided by law. The amendment is the first measure certified to appear on the statewide ballot in Washington this November.

Currently, the Washington Constitution prohibits the state from investing funds into stocks or other methods of investment, limiting investment capabilities of the state to government and corporate bonds and certificates of deposit. Some other funds have been made exempt from that constitutional restriction, including the following:

  1. public pension and retirements funds;
  2. industrial insurance trust funds; and
  3. funds that benefit individuals with developmental disabilities.

In Washington, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds (66.67%) vote in each chamber of the Washington State Legislature during one legislative session.

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 was sponsored by Republican Senators John Braun and Mark Schoesler and Democratic Senators Steve Conway and Mark Mullet. The resolution was introduced on January 13, 2020. It passed in the Senate on February 19, 2020, by a vote of 45-3 with one Senator excused. The measure passed in the House on March 6, 2020, by a vote of 96-1 with one Representative excused. The four no votes the amendment received in the state legislature came from Representative Frank Chopp (D) and Senators Bob Hasegawa (D), Doug Ericksen (R), and Mike Padden (R).

The Washington State Legislature may refer constitutional amendments or state statutes to the ballot during the 2020 legislative session, which is set to run through March 12, 2020. Citizens may collect signatures to place proposed laws on the 2020 ballot as Initiatives to the People (ITPs), for which 259,622 valid signatures are required by July 2, 2020. Veto referendums targeting the repeal of bills passed in the 2020 legislature can also qualify for the ballot through signature petition drives.

A total of 60 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during even years between 2000 and 2018, of which, 58% (35) were approved and 42% (25) were defeated.

Utah initiative signature deadline passed on February 18

The deadline for submitting signatures for a direct initiative to qualify for the 2020 ballot in Utah passed on February 18, 2020. The deadline for indirect initiatives was November 15, 2019.

Proponents of a carbon tax measure and a term limits measure had been circulating petitions. Neither group reached the signature requirement to qualify for the 2020 ballot. To qualify for the ballot, 115,869 valid signatures were required. Before 2020, the deadline for direct citizen initiative signatures was April 15 instead of February 15. Since February 15 was a Saturday in 2020, signatures were due on the next business day (February 18).

Clean the Darn Air, sponsors of the carbon tax initiative, announced in November 2019 that they would target a future ballot instead of the 2020 ballot after they had “not been able to get a major donation or other game-changing development” to help them reach the 2020 ballot. They had collected 27,651 valid signatures. The measure would have established a carbon tax and eliminated the state sales tax on food and residential and commercial fuel.

Unite for Term Limits, sponsors of the term limits initiative, had collected 858 valid signatures. The measure would have established term limits of 12 consecutive years for state legislators and eight consecutive years for executive officers (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state auditor, and state treasurer).

A veto referendum filed against Utah Senate Bill 2001 qualified for the ballot but will not appear on the ballot since the state legislature repealed the targeted bill. The state legislature may refer constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot during its legislative session, which is set to run until March 12, 2020.

From 1995 to 2018, an average of four measures appeared on the ballot for even-year elections in Utah, of which 86.5% were approved by voters. In 2018, there were three citizen initiatives on the ballot. Before 2018, Utah voters last decided a veto referendum in 2007 and last decided a ballot initiative in 2004.

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