Tagballot measure

Arkansas increases the signature distribution requirement for citizen-initiated ballot measures

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signed House Bill 1419 (HB 1419), which increases the signature distribution requirement for citizen-initiated ballot measures, on March 7. Under HB 1419, campaigns will be required to collect signatures from 50 of 75 (67%) counties. Previously, the requirement was 15 of 75 (20%) counties. For citizen-initiated state statutes, the signature requirement is equal to 4% of the votes cast for governor in each of at least 50 of 75 counties. For citizen-initiated constitutional amendments, the requirement is equal to 5% of the votes cast for governor in these counties.

In the House, HB 1419 was approved 79 to 19. In the Senate, the legislation was approved 21 to eight. Senate Republicans and 79 House Republicans voted to pass HB 1419, while legislative Democrats, along with two House Republicans, voted against the change. 

State Sen. Jim Dotson (R-34), a co-sponsor of the bill, said,  “The purpose of this would be to ensure that we’re getting representation from all across the state, not just large urban areas but rural counties as well, and having a lot of input into the process.” State Sen. Greg Leding (D-30), an opponent, stated, “The voters have made it absolutely clear that they do not want the Legislature making it harder for them to get things on the ballot, and I think we should listen to them.”

State Sen. Bryan King (D-28) and the League of Women Voters of Arkansas sued Secretary of State John Thurston (R), asking the 6th Judicial Circuit Court to rule HB 1419 unconstitutional. Plaintiffs noted that Article V of the Arkansas Constitution provides for the 15-of-75 counties requirement, while HB 1419 is a statute. According to the plaintiffs, this means that HB 1419 is effectively modifying the state constitution, which a bill cannot do. Amending the constitution would require voter ratification.

Of the 26 states that allow for state initiatives or referendums, Arkansas is one of 16 with a signature distribution requirement. The other 10 states do not have distribution requirements.

As of March 15, two other bills related to ballot measures have been signed into law in Arkansas during the 2023 legislative session. HB 1027 required voter approval for a county government to enact a new or increase an existing local sales tax. Under HB 1027, a simple majority vote of the electorate is required for the tax to take effect. HB 1320 required initiative sponsors to submit drafts to the Arkansas Attorney General, rather than the Board of Election Commissioners. Under HB 1320, the attorney general is responsible for approving, rejecting, or substituting the ballot title and popular name for each initiative within 10 days of receiving a draft.

Voters in Burlington, Vermont, and Redondo Beach, California, approve ranked-choice voting measures

Voters in Burlington, Vermont, and Redondo Beach, California approved ranked-choice voting measures in local elections on March 7.

Burlington Question 6 was approved with 64.4% of the vote. The measure amended the city’s charter to adopt ranked-choice voting for elections for the mayor, school commissioners, and ward election officers. Before Question 6, the candidate receiving a plurality of votes wins the office, unless no candidate receives at least 40% of the votes, whereby the top two candidates would proceed to a runoff election. The measure was put on the ballot by the Burlington City Council. In March 2021, Burlington voters approved a measure to adopt ranked-choice voting for city council elections.

Redondo Beach Measure CA5 was approved with 77.5% of the vote. The measure amended the city charter to implement ranked-choice voting for all city elected offices, thereby eliminating runoff elections. The amendment requires the city council to adopt an implementing ordinance to establish the electoral system. Seven other cities in California have adopted ranked-choice voting, including Oakland, San Francisco, San Leandro, Berkeley, Albany, Eureka, and Palm Desert.

Currently, two states (Alaska and Maine) had implemented ranked-choice voting in federal and/or state-level elections. One state (Hawaii) had adopted but not yet implemented RCV in certain elections. Another ten states contained jurisdictions that had implemented RCV at the local level. Another five states contained jurisdictions that had adopted but not yet implemented RCV in local elections.

In 2022, nine local ballot measures were related to adopting ranked-choice voting. Measures were passed in seven jurisdictions and were rejected in two.

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Tempe voters to decide ballot measures for Coyotes arena and entertainment district

Voters in Tempe, Arizona, will decide on three ballot measures proposing an entertainment district on May 16, 2023. The entertainment district would house the Arizona Coyotes arena.

The three proposals will appear on the ballot as Proposition 301, Proposition 302, and Proposition 303.

  • Proposition 301 would approve the redevelopment by changing the classification of land from a city-owned commercially zoned property into a mixed-use project. The new classification would allow for the development of the proposed arena and entertainment district.
  • Proposition 302 would rezone the property as an official mixed-use district.
  • Proposition 303 would approve the construction of the arena and entertainment district from Bluebird Development LLC.

All three measures would need to pass for the construction and development of the arena and entertainment district to continue.

The plan for the entertainment district was first proposed in Sept. 2021. The $2.1 billion 46-acre project would include a 16,000-seat arena and practice facility, hotels, retail, apartments, and a theater. Officials representing the Arizona coyotes said that the district would create 6,900 permanent jobs and create about $200 million in new tax revenue for the city over the next 30 years.

According to the Tempe City Council, the developer would use largely private funding to build the 4 million-square-foot development and will pay Tempe $50.3 million for the land.

Xavier Gutierrez, CEO of the Arizona Coyotes, said: “Together, 301, 302 and 303 will authorize all the necessary components of the development agreement. We have full confidence that Tempe voters will embrace all three propositions and the economic, community and environmental benefits the project will bring to the City of Tempe.”

Former Tempe City Councilmember Lauren Kuby (D), who opposes the measures, said, “We’re just creating bottlenecks and traffic congestion and neighborhoods in the southeast neighborhoods are really going to suffer from that.”

Tempe 1st is a campaign opposed to the ballot initiatives. “While our schools, public safety, roads and other services suffer from a lack of funding, Props 301, 302 & 303 will rob Maricopa County and Tempe Residents of half a billion dollars in tax revenues,” the campaign said.

Tempe voters will decide on the measures on May 16, 2023.

Measure related to death benefit for first responders certified for the 2024 ballot in Arizona

Arizona voters will decide on a ballot measure on Nov. 5, 2024, to establish a $20 fine on every conviction for a criminal offense. These fines would go towards paying benefits of $250,000 to the family of a first responder who is killed in the line of duty starting on June 30, 2025.

The measure first passed the Arizona State Senate on Feb. 28, 2023, by a 16-13 vote. It passed the Arizona House of Representatives by a 47-13 vote on March 7, 2023. In the Senate, all Republicans voted for the measure and all Democrats voted against it. In the House, all Republicans voted for it, while 16 Democrats voted for it and 13 Democrats voted against it.

Sen. David Gowan (R), who sponsored the measure, said, “That $250,000 can go a long way to helping our families of those victims of crime, certainly when there are police officers and first responders who have sworn to defend and protect us.”

The $250,000 benefit to the spouse or children of a first responder would be in addition to the federal or state benefits and pensions already provided to families.

Sen. Lela Alston (D), who opposed the measure, said that the benefit for the families of first responders should come from the general fund. “I have always supported death benefits for our workers,” she said,  “I do have a problem with this bill, and that is that it creates another fine that is disproportionate to certain members of our population. And it would be a preferable option to me if we were to pay that death benefit directly out of the general fund to the family of the firefighter or police officer who was killed and not do any more fines in our legal system.”

This measure is the first one certified for the 2024 statewide ballot in Arizona. There are 13 potential legislatively referred measures that have passed one chamber in the state legislature, and may also appear on the 2024 ballot if they pass the other chamber. For the state legislature to refer a measure to the ballot, it must pass both the House and the Senate by a simple majority of votes. In addition, there are two citizen-led campaigns working to put initiatives on the 2024 ballot.

Last year, Arizona had 10 statewide measures on the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot—eight which were referred by the state legislature, and two which were placed on the ballot by successful citizen initiatives. Seven measures were approved by voters, and three were defeated.

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Voters in Oklahoma reject ballot initiative to legalize marijuana

Voters in Oklahoma rejected State Question 820, an initiative to legalize marijuana, on March 7. Results showed 62% voting ‘No’ on Question 820 and 38% voting ‘Yes’.

Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, the campaign behind the initiative, wanted the issue on the general election ballot in 2022. However, due to delays in signature verification and the ballot printing deadline, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) called the March 7 special election for the measure.

State Question 820 would have legalized marijuana for adults 21 years old and older. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority would have been responsible for marijuana business licensing and regulations. Individuals would have been allowed to possess, transport, and distribute up to one ounce (28.35 grams) of marijuana, eight grams of marijuana in a concentrated form, or eight grams or less of concentrated marijuana in marijuana-infused products. Marijuana sales would have been taxed at 15%. Under the initiative, individuals could have possessed up to six mature marijuana plants and up to six seedlings. The initiative would have also provided a process for individuals to seek the expungement or modification of certain previous marijuana-related convictions or sentences.

As of Feb. 2023, 21 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

  • In 12 states and D.C., the ballot initiative process was used to legalize marijuana.
  • In two states, the legislature referred a measure to the ballot for voter approval.
  • In seven states, bills to legalize marijuana were enacted into law.

In 2022, five states decided on marijuana legalization ballot measures. In the central U.S., voters in Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota considered citizen-initiated measures to legalize marijuana. In Missouri, the initiative was approved. In Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota, the measures were defeated. In Maryland, the state Legislature voted to put the issue before voters, who approved the measure.

Marijuana legalization initiatives targeting the 2024 ballot have been filed in Wyoming, Florida, and Nebraska.

Wyoming to vote in 2024 on amendment concerning residential property taxes

In 2024, voters in Wyoming will decide on a constitutional amendment to add residential real property as a fourth, separate, class of property for property tax purposes. Under the amendment, the legislature would be authorized to create a subclass of residential property for owner-occupied primary residences, which could be assessed at a different rate from other property in the residential property class.

Currently, the Wyoming Constitution requires property to be assessed at full value, uniformly, in each of three existing property classes:

  • gross production of minerals and mine products in lieu of taxes on the land where produced;
  • property used for industrial purposes; and
  • all other real and personal property.

To put the legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote was required in both the Wyoming State Senate and the Wyoming House of Representatives.

On Jan. 26, 2023, the state Senate approved the amendment in a vote of 21-10. The state House approved an amended version of the bill in a vote of 53-9 on Feb. 28, 2023, and the Senate concurred with the House’s amendments on March 2 in a vote of 22-8.

Between 2000 and 2022, 22 constitutional amendments appeared on the ballot in Wyoming. Thirteen (59%) were approved and nine (41%) were defeated.

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Utah voters to decide on two constitutional amendments related to education funding in 2024

The Utah State Legislature referred three constitutional amendments to the ballot for Nov. 5, 2024, as of March 3.

Two of the amendments concern education funding. One of the measures would increase the annual distribution for public education from the State School Fund from 4% to 5%. The amendment was passed unanimously in both chambers of the legislature.

The other amendment would require taxes on intangible property and income to be used to maintain a public education funding framework, provided through state law, that (1) uses a portion of revenue growth for Uniform School Fund expenditures for changes in student enrollment and long-term inflation and (2) provides a budgetary stabilization account. The amendment would also allow tax revenue from intangible property and income to be used for other purposes once the requirements for public education funding are met. All 14 House Democrats and six Senate Democrats voted against the amendment. All but three Republican legislators voted in favor of the amendment.

An amendment concerning sheriff elections was also passed unanimously. It would amend the constitution to provide that every county must elect a sheriff to serve four-year terms. Utah state law currently mandates the election of county sheriffs, which means that this constitutional amendment would not alter the current procedures for selecting sheriffs. Utah has 29 counties and 29 elected county sheriffs.

From 2000 to 2022, the Utah State Legislature referred 40 constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved 35 (87.5%) and rejected five (12.5%) of the referred amendments. All of the amendments were referred to the ballot for general elections during even-numbered election years. The average number of amendments appearing on the general election ballot was between three and four.

Gender-neutral language amendment certified for the ballot in South Dakota

In 2024, voters in South Dakota will decide on an amendment to make references to officeholders in the state constitution gender-neutral. The amendment would do so by changing male pronouns to specific titles.

The South Dakota House of Representatives voted 58-12 to approve the amendment on Feb. 28, 2023. The South Dakota State Senate voted unanimously 35-0 to approve the measure on Feb. 6.

If approved by voters, all references to offices within the constitution, such as the governor or lieutenant governor, would be amended to use either gender-neutral language or a specific title. For example, the phrase “his official duties” in the constitution would be amended to say “the justice’s official duties”.

There have been at least 10 measures to amend state constitutions to be gender-neutral. Of the ten proposed amendments, six were approved. The most recent state to approve an amendment to use gender-neutral language in the state constitution was Utah, where voters passed Amendment A by 58%-42% of the vote on November 3, 2020. The United States Constitution currently contains gender-specific language by referring to certain offices by using the pronouns he or his, for example.

Currently, this amendment is the only measure on the South Dakota ballot for Nov. 5, 2024.

Between 1985 and 2022, 53 constitutional amendments referred to the ballot by the state legislature were on the ballot for South Dakota voters. Twenty-six (26) were approved and 27 were defeated.

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Amendment to repeal constitutional language regarding slavery as punishment for a crime certified for the 2024 Nevada ballot

An amendment that would repeal language from the Nevada Constitution regarding slavery as punishment for a crime was certified for the 2024 ballot. Voters in Nevada will decide on the amendment on Nov. 5, 2024.

On Feb. 23, 2023, the Nevada State Senate voted unanimously to pass the amendment, with all 21 senators voting for it. Previously, the amendment passed the State Assembly on Feb. 16, also by a unanimous vote of 42-0. For a constitutional amendment to be certified for the ballot in Nevada, it must pass both chambers of the state legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions. It was previously approved during the 2021 legislative session.

Assemblyman Howard Watts (D-15), who co-sponsored the amendment, said, “I believe that it’s time for us to move forward and make it clear and unequivocal that nobody will ever live through the horror of state-sanctioned slavery, or servitude ever again.”

Currently, Article 1, Section 17 of the Nevada Constitution says: “Neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude unless for the punishment of crimes shall ever be tolerated in this State. If approved by voters, the amendment would remove the phrase unless for the punishment of crimes from the Constitution.”

As of 2023, eight state constitutions include provisions prohibiting enslavement and involuntary servitude but with an exception for criminal punishments. Another eight states have constitutions that include provisions permitting involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as a criminal punishment.

The states with constitutions that include provisions regarding slavery and involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment are Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.

The states with constitutions that include provisions regarding involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as criminal punishment, are California, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio.

On November 8, 2022, voters approved four constitutional amendments in Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont to amend language in state constitutions regarding slavery as punishment for a crime. Voters in Louisiana rejected an amendment.

Currently, there are two constitutional amendments on the Nevada 2024 ballot in November. The other measure is a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment that would provide for open top-five primaries and ranked-choice voting for general elections.

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Voters in Redondo Beach, California will decide on six local ballot measures, including ranked-choice voting, on March 7

Voters in Redondo Beach, California, will decide on five charter amendments and one ordinance at an election on March 7. Charter Amendment 1 would make the following changes to the bid process for public works projects:

  1. increase the threshold for public works projects required to go through the formal bidding process from $50,000 to $200,000;
  2. allow public works projects under $200,000 to be awarded according to an informal bidding process;
  3. allow public works projects under $60,000 to be completed by city employees; and
  4. allow the city council to change the bid minimums by at most 25% and no more frequently than five years by a four-fifths council vote.

Charter Amendment 2 would allow the city to pay a deposit before supplies, materials, property, or services have been actually delivered or rendered.

Charter Amendment 3 would change language in the charter to gender-neutral.

Charter Amendment 4 would remove the mayoral signature requirement on all contracts, ordinances, resolutions, and warrants, and allow the city council to authorize the city manager or another officer to sign such documents. 

Charter Amendment 5 would adopt ranked-choice voting for city elections. ​​City Councilmember Laura Emdee, who supports the change, said, “Runoff elections are expensive and have historically been hostile. Runoff elections also tend to have lower voter turnout than the city’s March general election. Using instant runoff, Redondo Beach will experience more amicable campaigns at a lower cost.” Seven cities in California have adopted ranked-choice voting, including Oakland, San Francisco, San Leandro, Berkeley, Albany, Eureka, and Palm Desert.

Measure CT would authorize the city to enact a cannabis and hemp business tax ranging from 3% to 9% of gross receipts for retail sales and a tax on cannabis testing labs at a rate between 1% to 3% of gross receipts.

All polls in California are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on election day.