Tagballot measure

Closest and widest vote margins for state ballot measure elections in California

There were 23 state ballot measures decided by less than a percentage point in California between 1910 and 2022. The ballot measure with the closest vote margin percentage during that period was Proposition 74, which was defeated with a vote margin of 50.01% ‘No’ to 49.99% ‘Yes’ in 1988. The margin in absolute votes was 545. Proposition 74 would have issued $1 billion in bonds for improvements to state highways, streets and roads, and rail transit.

The measure with the closest absolute vote margin was Proposition 4 in 1915. ‘No’ votes exceeded ‘Yes’ votes by 514. The vote margin percentage was 49.90% to 50.10%. Proposition 4 would have allowed judges appointed to fill vacancies on the supreme court, district court of appeal, or superior court to finish the rest of the position’s term.

The following table shows the vote margins for the closest 10 ballot measure elections in California between 1910 and 2022:

The 10 statewide ballot measures in California between 1910 and 2022 with the widest vote margins saw at least a 71% difference in vote share for the winning and losing sides. The ballot measure with the widest margin during that period was Proposition 12 in 1972, which was approved with a vote margin of 89.73% approving to 10.27% rejecting. Proposition 12 extended tax exemptions for disabled veterans to veterans who had lost the use of both arms, the use of one arm or one leg, or the use of one arm and one leg and extended this tax exemption to surviving spouses. The margin in absolute votes was 6,288,157.

Nine of the 10 statewide ballot measures with the widest margins were approved. In 1988, California voters defeated Proposition 101 by a margin of 13.27% approving to 86.73% rejecting. Proposition 101 would have required insurance companies to reduce the bodily injury liability and uninsured motorist portions of motor vehicle insurance rates and limit claims for non-economic losses and attorney contingency fees.

The following table shows the vote margins for the widest 10 ballot measure elections in California between 1910 and 2022:

In 2022, California voters defeated Proposition 27, which would legalize mobile sports betting, by a vote margin of 17.59% approving to 82.41% rejecting. About 2% of California ballot measures that were defeated had wider margins than Proposition 27.

Additional reading:

Voters addressed 132 statewide ballot measures on Nov. 8

On Nov. 8, voters in 37 states decided on 132 statewide ballot measures. As of Nov. 14, voters approved 87 (66%) and defeated 38 (29%). Seven (5%) remained uncalled; five were leaning ‘No’ and two were leaning ‘Yes.’

In 2020, 120 measures were on the ballot in November. Voters approved 88 (73%) and defeated 32 (27%). From 2010 to 2020, 67% of statewide ballot measures were approved. 

The following are the results for measures addressing a selection of topics.

Abortion: Voters in five states decided on measures related to abortion. Campaigns that described themselves as pro-choice or pro-reproductive rights were successful on each measure. In California, Michigan, and Vermont, voters approved amendments to provide state constitutional rights to abortion. In Kentucky, voters rejected an amendment designed to provide that the state constitution cannot be interpreted to establish a state constitutional right to abortion. In Montana, a measure called the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act was also defeated. 

Marijuana: Measures to legalize marijuana were on the ballot in five states. Two—Maryland and Missouri—approved legalization measures. Three— Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota—rejected citizen-initiated measures. North and South Dakota have voted on marijuana legalization before. In 2018, voters in North Dakota rejected a measure. In 2020, voters in South Dakota approved a measure with 54%; however, the state Supreme Court struck down the measure. Including Maryland and Missouri, 21 states have passed laws to legalize marijuana, including 14 that did so via ballot measure.

Income Taxes: Voters decided on state income tax ballot measures in four states. In California, voters rejected an initiative to enact a 1.75% tax on personal income above $2 million and allocate revenue toward zero-emissions vehicles and wildfire programs. In Massachusetts, voters approved an amendment to enact a 4% tax on income above $1 million and allocate revenue toward education and transportation purposes. Voters in Colorado decided on two income tax-related measures, both of which were approved. Colorado Proposition 121 reduced the state’s flat income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%. Colorado Proposition FF reduced income tax deductions and allocates increased revenue to a program for free school meals and local school food grants. In Idaho, voters approved a non-binding question asking about a bill to establish a flat income and corporate tax structure.

Firearms: In Oregon, voters approved an initiative, Measure 114, to require people to obtain a law enforcement-issued permit to purchase a firearm. Under Measure 114, obtaining a permit requires a photo ID, fingerprints, safety training, criminal background check, and fee payment. Measure 114 also prohibited ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. In Iowa, voters approved an amendment adding a right to own and bear firearms to the Iowa Constitution. The amendment also provided that “restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

RCV: Nevada Question 3, which would enact a top-five ranked-choice voting system, was approved. In Nevada, initiated constitutional amendments need to be approved at two successive general elections. As Question 3 was approved this year, the initiative must be approved for a second time on Nov. 5, 2024. At least nine local jurisdictions voted on RCV measures. Measures were approved in six jurisdictions – Ojai, CA; Fort Collins, CO; Evanston, IL; Portland, ME; Multnomah County, OR; and Portland, OR. Measures were defeated in two jurisdictions – Clark County and San Juan County, WA. In Seattle, voters decided on a competing measure between approval voting and RCV. The measure is too close to call as of Nov. 14, with 50.35% voting “Either” and 49.65% voting “Neither.” Should “Either” prevail, the system receiving the most votes would be enacted; RCV received 75% and approval voting received 25%. 

Other Voting Policies: Voters decided on changes to voting-related policies in six states, including Nevada. In Nebraska, voters approved an initiative to require photo identification to vote. In Connecticut, an amendment to allow for early voting was approved. Voters in Ohio approved a constitutional amendment to prohibit local governments from allowing non-citizens to vote. In Michigan, voters approved Proposal 2, which added several new and existing election policies to the state constitution. One measure, in Arizona, remained uncalled. As of Nov. 14, Arizona Proposition 309 received 49.5% of the vote. This measure would require dates of birth and voter identification numbers for mail-in ballots and eliminate the two-document alternative to photo ID for in-person voting. 

Nov. 8 wasn’t the last state ballot measure election of 2022. On Dec. 10, voters in Louisiana will decide on three constitutional amendments, including an amendment, similar to Ohio’s, to prohibit local governments from allowing non-citizens to vote. The other two amendments would require Senate confirmation for appointees to the State Civil Service Commission and State Police Commission.

Earlier in 2022, voters in four states decided on five ballot measures. Voters approved three and rejected two of these measures.

Ballot measure campaign contributions top $1 billion

In 2022, 140 state ballot measures were certified for the ballot, including 132 for November 8. As of November 1, Ballotpedia identified $1.03 billion in contributions to support or oppose this year’s statewide measures. In 2020, for comparison, $1.24 billion was raised through December 31, 2020, to support or oppose 129 state ballot measures.

California accounts for 69.5% of the cumulative contributions across the states. In California, $713.5 million has been raised for seven ballot propositions. The next four states with the most contributions are:

  • Michigan, where three measures are on the ballot, at $93.6 million or 9.1% of the cumulative total.
  • Massachusetts, where four measures are on the ballot, at $57.3 million or 5.6% of the cumulative total.
  • Colorado, where 11 measures are on the ballot, at $41.5 million or 4.0% of the cumulative total.
  • Nevada, where three measures are on the ballot, at $21.1 million or 2.1% of the cumulative total.

In 2020, the top three states were California (61.58%), Illinois (9.96%), and Massachusetts (4.97%). In 2018, the top three states were California (31.12%), Nevada (10.76%), and Florida (10.63%). 

The chart below compares total contributions between 2018, 2020, and 2022, along with the amount associated with campaigns in California:

California Proposition 27 has seen the most contributions at $418.5 million between supporters and opponents. Proposition 27 would legalize online and mobile sports betting in the state. Between Proposition 27 and Proposition 26, which would legalize sports betting at licensed racetracks at American Indian-owned casinos, campaigns surrounding the sports betting issue in California have received $462.2 million. Several PACs are spending funds supporting or opposing both initiatives. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is the largest donor to a ballot measure committee in 2022, providing $103.1 million to oppose Proposition 27.

Outside of California, the most expensive ballot measure is Michigan Proposal 3, a citizen-initiated measure to provide a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom – a term defined to include abortion, contraceptives, and other pregnancy-related matters. Supporters raised $45.75 million, including $5.51 million from the Sixteen Thirty Fund and $5.25 million from the ACLU. Opponents raised $17.35 million, including $9.43 million from Right to Life Michigan and $6.07 million from the Michigan Catholic Conference. 

Campaigns surrounding the following 10 ballot measures have received the most contributions:

Campaigns for two Maine initiatives submit signatures for 2023 ballot

In Maine, two campaigns submitted signatures for initiatives this week to make the ballot for November 7, 2023. The signatures were submitted to the secretary of state. If the minimum valid signature requirement is met, the initiatives with enough signatures will go to the Legislature, which has the option to approve them. If the Legislature does not act on them by the end of the session, they would appear on the ballot.

The initiatives were submitted ahead of the January 2023 deadline and before the November 8 general election.

On October 31, the Our Power campaign announced that it submitted more than 80,000 signatures to the Secretary of State for an initiative that would create a consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utility called the Pine Tree Power Company to replace Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant.

The other initiative concerns election spending by foreign governments. On November 1, the Protect Maine Elections campaign announced that it submitted over 80,000 signatures to the Maine secretary of state for an initiative that would prohibit election spending by foreign governments. This includes entities under partial (5% or more) foreign government or control.

Sen. Nicole Grohoski (D-7), who supports the proposal, said, “I think it’s clear that special interest groups and foreign governments are spending a lot of money to influence our elections and Maine people are sick and tired of having their voices drowned out by all this money, all these advertisements, especially right now, as we wind down on election season, it’s clear that it’s time to take control of our elections and make sure that Maine people’s voices are heard.”

The current signature requirement in Maine for a citizen initiative is 63,067 valid signatures. This number is calculated as 10% of the total votes cast for the previous gubernatorial election. Signatures go through a validation process, and if enough valid signatures have been submitted, the initiative is sent to the legislature. If the legislature approves the initiative, it becomes law. If the legislature does not act on the initiative or rejects it, the initiative goes on the ballot.

Because the two campaigns submitted initiatives prior to the November 8 gubernatorial election, the current signature requirement will be applied. However, for the campaigns that submit signatures after the November 8 election, the signature requirement will change to equal 10% of the total votes cast in the 2022 gubernatorial election. 

The 2023 filing deadline for other initiative petitions currently circulating is 50 days into the legislative session, or around January 26, 2023.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said three campaigns submitted signatures. The third campaign, the Maine Affordable Energy Coalition, reported collecting 92,000 signatures but had not yet submitted the signatures as of Nov. 5.

Colorado ballot measure committees have raised $41.45 million

As of October 28, Ballotpedia identified $1.01 billion in contributions to support or oppose statewide measures on ballots in 2022. Colorado was among the top five states with the most ballot measure campaign contributions.

According to campaign finance reports due on October 31, which covered information through October 26, 15 committees supporting and opposing eight of the 11 measures on the ballot raised a combined $41.46 million and spent a combined $40.96 million.

Of the 15 committees, three were registered as committees opposing five of the measures. These committees raised $1.1 million. Keeping Colorado Local is a committee opposing all three alcohol initiatives on the November ballot.

The top donors to Colorado initiative campaigns this year included:

  • Colorado Fine Wine & Spirits LLC, which gave $11.59 million, and Robert and David Trone, who gave $1.8 million to Colorado Consumer Choice and Retail Fairness supporting Proposition 124 to expand retail liquor licenses;
  • Several grocery store companies gave $11.59 million to Wine in Grocery Stores, which supports Propositions 125 and 126 to allow wine sales in grocery stores and allow third-party delivery of alcohol. The companies included InstaCart ($4.36 million), DoorDash ($3.58 million), Target ($1.2 million), Albertsons Safeway ($1.36 million), and Kroger ($1.07 million).
  • New Approach PAC, which gave $3.89 million to Natural Medicine Colorado, which supports Proposition 122 to create a psychedelic plant and fungi access program; and
  • Gary Ventures Inc. and Gary Community Advocacy, which gave $2.55 million to Coloradans for Affordable Housing Now, which supports Proposition 123 to implement funding for housing projects through existing tax revenue.

In total, campaigns for six initiatives spent a combined $7.36 million on signature-gathering costs to put their initiatives on the ballot. The Wine in Grocery Stores PAC, which sponsored Proposition 125 and Proposition 126, paid Scotch Strategies $50,000 for the purpose of signature gathering. The PAC reported $3.19 million in expenditures to various entities for the purpose of consultant and professional services, which can include signature-gathering expenditures. Ballotpedia could not determine whether those additional expenditures were signature-gathering costs.

The next campaign finance report for Colorado ballot measure committees is due on December 13.

Additional reading:

Campaigns supporting and opposing Massachusetts ballot questions report over $57.2 million in contributions

The campaigns registered to support and oppose the four ballot questions in Massachusetts reported over $57.2 million in cash and in-kind contributions as of Oct. 20.

With $24.7 million raised by support committees and $13.7 million raised by the opposition, Massachusetts Question 1 is the most expensive legislative referral of the 2022 election cycle with a total of $38.4 million in contributions. 

There are three committees registered to support Question 1, which would enact an additional tax of 4% for income over $1 million and allocate the revenue towards education and transportation purposes. The top donors to the support committees were Massachusetts Teachers Association ($11.3 million), National Education Association ($7 million), and Sixteen Thirty Fund ($1.1 million).

There are two committees registered to oppose Question 1. The top donors included James Davis ($2 million), Paul and Sandra Edgerley ($2 million), Suffolk Construction Co. ($1 million), and Robert Kraft’s Rand-Whitney Containerboard ($1 million).

Question 2, a ballot initiative to set a medical loss ratio on dental insurance plans, has five committees registered to support and oppose the measure. The three registered in support of the measure received a total of $7.8 million in contributions with top donations from the American Dental Association($5.1 million), Mouhab Rizkallah ($2.4 million), and the Massachusetts Dental Society ($252,250). The two opposition committees reported nearly $7.7 million. The top donors included Dental Service of Massachusetts ($4.5 million), Principal Life Insurance ($962,524), and Metropolitan Life Insurance ($886,348).

Two committees registered to support and oppose Question 3, which would change the number of retail alcohol licenses allowed under state law. The support committee, 21st Century Alcohol Retail Reform Committee, reported nearly $1 million in contributions with the most contributions from Massachusetts Package Stores Association ($640,380). Food Stores For Consumer Choice was registered to oppose Question 3 and had reported $12.50 in in-kind contributions.

Two committees also registered to support and oppose Question 4, a veto referendum on a law that would change who is authorized to receive a driver’s license or vehicle registration. The support committee, Yes for Work and Family Mobility, reported $2.3 million in contributions. The top donors included various chapters of SEIU and Arbella Insurance Group. The opposition committee, Fair and Secure Massachusetts, which led the signature-gathering campaign to put the referendum on the ballot, reported $185,106 in contributions from various individuals.

Massachusetts also requires organizations that make independent expenditures in support of or opposition to ballot questions to report those amounts. Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance reported spending $7,158.07 on Question 1 and $6,411.77 on Questions 2, 3, and 4. Massachusetts Fine Wines & Spirits, LLC (Total Wine) reported $2.6 million in opposition to Question 3. These numbers are not reflected in the committee totals above.

In 2020, the support and opposition campaigns surrounding the two Massachusetts ballot initiatives that appeared on the ballot raised $61.6 million.

Missouri voters to decide on marijuana this November

Five measures will be on the Missouri ballot on November 8. One ballot measure, Amendment 3, would legalize the sale, possession, and use of marijuana in Missouri. 

Amendment 3 would also provide for individuals with certain marijuana-related offenses to petition for release from prison or parole and probation and have their records expunged. It also would enact a 6% tax on the sale of marijuana.

Amendment 3 is one of five marijuana measures on the ballot nationwide this November. Marijuana legalization will also be on the ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

As of 2022, 19 states, along with Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and Washington D.C. have used the ballot initiative process to legalize marijuana, while in seven states, bills to legalize marijuana were enacted into law. In one state, New Jersey, the legislature referred a measure to the ballot for voter approval.

Polling on Missouri’s Amendment 3, done by Emerson College Polling/The Hill from September 23 to September 27, showed that 48% of likely voters surveyed supported the measure, while 35% of likely voters surveyed opposed the measure (with 17% undecided). 

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board endorsed Amendment 3, writing, “It’s been four years since almost 66% of Missouri voters approved medical marijuana. If state lawmakers wanted legal recreational pot in Missouri, as some have argued, we would have it. So let the people decide. In our view, the benefits of recreational cannabis outweigh some of the technical issues raised by critics.”

Supporters of Amendment 3 include the ACLU of Missouri, the Missouri AFL-CIO, NORML KC, and the St. Louis City branch of the NAACP. Erik Altieri, the executive director of NORML, said that the majority of Missouri residents want to end the prohibition on marijuana. “Recent polling reveals that a majority of Missouri residents are ready and eager to end their state’s failed marijuana prohibition,” said Altieri, “That is because Missourians, like the overwhelming majority of all Americans, recognize that prohibition is a disastrous and draconian practice best cast into the waste bin of history.”

Opponents of Amendment 3 include Gov. Mike Parson (R), the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Missouri Catholic Conference, and the Missouri Constitutional Conservatives PAC. “Amendment 3 says a court cannot prohibit a person on bond, probation, or parole from continuing to use marijuana,” said the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in a statement, “Further, in less serious cases involving medical marijuana users, if sentenced to participate in one of Missouri’s treatment courts, Amendment 3 attempts to require courts to allow defendants to continue to get high on marijuana regardless of the circumstances or their addiction. This is a threat to the safety of our communities and kids.”

The Missouri NAACP, breaking with the St. Louis City and St. Louis County chapters, also opposes Amendment 3, saying that the measure “does not increase the number of available full market licenses,” and that “the expungement program is dependent on legislative authorization funding and so doesn’t actually exist.” 

Voters will decide on Amendment 3 on November 8, 2022. Amendment 3 needs a simple majority vote to be ratified.

Additional reading:

Oklahoma marijuana initiative will not be on 2022 ballot but will be decided at a later election

On September 21, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that State Question 820, an initiative to legalize marijuana, could not be placed on the 2022 general election ballot because legal challenges were still pending and the question could not be printed in time for the state to meet its deadline of mailing absentee ballots.

The court’s order said the measure will be decided on at a later election date, either November 5, 2024, or at a special election. The governor can call special elections for ballot questions.

In August, the Oklahoma secretary of state announced that Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, the campaign behind the measure, submitted a sufficient number of signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Following signature verification, there was a period for legal challenges to be filed contesting the ballot measure. The challenge period for State Question 820 began on September 1 and ended on September 15, 2022. Two challenges were filed related to the validity of signatures submitted for the initiative and two challenges were filed related to the initiative’s ballot language. The state Supreme Court rejected the signature validity challenges and denied motions requesting rehearings. The court also rejected the ballot language challenges; however, the plaintiffs can request rehearings.

After the challenges have been resolved, the secretary of state notifies the governor, who issues an election proclamation. The governor’s election proclamation must be issued and certified to the State Election Board at least 70 days before an election for a state question to appear on a ballot. Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said August 29 (70 days before the general election) was the deadline to formally certify measures for the ballot. Additionally, the deadline to print and mail absentee voters is 45 days before the general election, which is September 24.

Proponents filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court to expedite the ballot title verification process and include the measure on the November 2022 ballot, arguing that “The new [signature verification] process took about 48 days from the time we turned in our signatures until the time they were verified. In the past, that was usually about two weeks or a little longer. It’s been a new process for them, which has caused a lot of missteps along the way. They have dropped the ball, which is why we have asked the Supreme Court to intervene.”

On September 21, 2022, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that proponents “have no clear legal right and [elections officials] have no plain legal duty to put SQ 820 on the November 8, 2022, general election ballot” unless it has met all statutory requirements and that “SQ 820 cannot be printed on ballots in time to comply with the deadline for mailing ballots to absentee voters.”

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Votes on the Arkansas initiative may not be counted pending a state Supreme Court ruling.

Voters will decide on 14 statewide ballot measures related to elections, voting, campaign finance, and term limits in 2022

Voters in 10 states will decide on 14 ballot measures related to elections, voting, campaign finance, and term limits in 2022.

Elections and voting policy measures

Ten ballot measures address electoral systems and voting policies.

On Nov. 8, Nevadans will decide whether to join Maine and Alaska in using a form of ranked-choice voting for congressional and certain state offices. Nevada Question 3 would establish an open top-five primary system and ranked-choice voting for general elections. 

In Alabama, voters will decide on Amendment 4, which would prohibit changes to election conduct laws within six months of general elections. Some states, including Alabama, made modifications to election dates, procedures, and administration in 2020, largely in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arizona voters are deciding on two measures related to election and voting. Proposition 131 would create the office of lieutenant governor. Arizona is one of five states without a lieutenant governor. Proposition 309 would add requirements for Arizona citizens casting a mail-in ballot, as well as change voter ID requirements for in-person voters.

Connecticut will vote on a constitutional amendment to allow no-excuse early voting. Connecticut is one of five states that has not enacted the policy in some form.

Kansas voters will decide on an amendment to require the election of county sheriffs in counties that had not abolished the office as of January 2022 and provide that sheriffs may be recalled from office or removed by a writ of quo warranto initiated by the attorney general.

The Louisiana State Legislature sent a constitutional amendment to the Dec. 10 ballot that would add that “No person who is not a citizen of the United States shall be allowed to register and vote in this state.” Ohio voters will be deciding on a similar amendment on Nov. 8 that would specifically prohibit local governments from allowing noncitizens or those who lack the qualifications of an elector to vote in local elections.

In Michigan, voters will decide on Proposal 2, which would amend the state constitution to provide voters with the right to vote without harassment, interference, or intimidation; guarantee that military and overseas ballots postmarked by election day are counted; allow for a signed affidavit, as an alternative to the existing photo ID requirement; provide for nine days of early voting; and make other changes.

Nebraska voters will decide on Initiative 432, which would require a photo ID to vote in the state. Twenty-one states require a photo voter ID to vote in person. An additional 14 states require a non-photo ID to vote in person. Nebraska is one of 15 states without an ID requirement.

Campaigns and campaign finance

Arizona voters will also be deciding on Proposition 211, which would require that persons or entities that make an independent expenditure of $50,000 or more on a statewide campaign or $25,000 or more on a local campaign must disclose the names of the money’s original sources. The term original sources would be defined as the persons or businesses that earned the money being spent.

In November, Louisiana voters will decide on a measure to allow classified service/civil service employees to publicly support the election campaigns of individuals in their immediate family when off duty.

Term limits

Voters in Michigan and North Dakota will decide on two measures related to term limits. Michigan Proposal 1 would ​​change the term limits for state legislators from three 2-year terms (6 years) in the state House and two 4-year terms (8 years) in the state Senate to 12 combined years in the legislature. It would also require that elected state legislative and state executive officials must file annual financial disclosure reports.

The North Dakota measure would limit the governor to serving two four-year terms and limit state legislators to serving eight years in the state House and eight years in the state Senate. Currently, North Dakota does not have any term limits on the governor or state legislators.

132 statewide measures will be on Nov. 8 ballot

Voters in 37 states will decide on 132 ballot measures at the general election on November 8. As five ballot measures were decided at elections earlier this year, and three more will be decided in December, the annual total of statewide ballot measures for 2022 is 140.

Across the U.S., ballot measures will address issues like abortion, marijuana, and election law in November. Topics like sports betting, psychedelic fungi and plants, flavored tobacco, alcohol, firearms, and income taxes are featured on ballots in some states.

Number of citizen-initiated measures below average

This year’s annual total—140—is more than the number of statewide ballot measures in 2020, which was 129. However, the annual total is below the previous decade’s (2010-2020) average of 164. 

The number of citizen-initiated ballot measures and legislative referrals has decreased since 2010. The number of citizen-initiated measures in 2022 is 30, which is the lowest number during the prior decade. In 2020, there were 43 citizen-initiated measures. 

There could be several reasons for the lower number of initiatives in 2022. For 2022, 851 initiatives were proposed, and 3.5% made the ballot. In 2016, for instance, 1,069 initiatives were proposed, and 7.1% made the ballot. Overall, there is a correlation between the number of initiatives proposed and the number certified for the ballot, and there is also a decade-long trend toward fewer proposed initiatives making the ballot. There are also fewer initiatives, on average, during mid-term years compared to presidential years. From 2010 to 2022, presidential years featured an average of 60 citizen-initiated measures, whereas mid-term years featured an average of 47 citizen-initiated measures. Campaigns have also cited the effects of COVID-19 and labor shortages on signature drive costs in 2022.

An additional factor for ballot initiative campaigns is recent signature increases. Of the 26 states that allow for some form of initiative or referendum, 22 states base their signature requirements on turnout at specific elections, which either occurred in 2018 or 2020. According to the U.S. Elections Project, the midterm turnout in 2018 was 50%, the highest since 1912, and 13.3 percentage points above 2014. The presidential election turnout in 2020 was 66.8%, the highest since 1900, and 6.7 percentage points above 2016. In California, which saw the largest signature increase, the requirement increased by 70.3%. 

Trends include abortion, marijuana, and election policies

Abortion has been a topic for statewide ballot measures since the 1970s. Since 2000, there have been just two general election cycles, 2002 and 2016, without abortion-related state ballot measures. In November, there are five ballot measures addressing abortion—the most on record for a single year. Earlier, in August, one measure was defeated in Kansas. Before 2022, the highest number of abortion-related measures on statewide ballots was four in 1986. In California, Michigan, and Vermont, voters will decide on constitutional rights to abortion. In Kentucky, like Kansas, voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to declare that the state constitution cannot be interpreted as creating a right to abortion. Voters in Montana will decide on a measure requiring medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an attempted abortion or other procedure.

Heading into November, marijuana is legal in 19 states and D.C. Of those 19 states, 13 and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot measure process. In 2022, five more states will decide on marijuana legalization ballot measures. In the central U.S., voters in Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota will consider citizen-initiated measures to legalize marijuana. In Maryland, the state legislature voted to put the issue before voters.

Voters in 10 states will decide on ballot measures to change election policies or laws in November. South Dakota decided on a measure in June, and Louisiana will decide on one in December. Voters will decide on a top-five ranked-choice voting system in Nevada, where approval of an initiated constitutional amendment is required twice in 2022 and 2024. Voters in three states will decide on legislative proposals to change the processes for citizen-initiated ballot measures this year. Other issues on the ballot include early voting, voter identification, citizenship requirements, and campaign finance reporting.

You can learn more about this year’s statewide ballot measures at Ballotpedia.org.