Voters in Wayne County, Michigan, approved two property tax renewal propositions on Tuesday. Proposition O, the Operating Budget Property Tax Renewal, was approved with 77% of the vote. Proposition O authorizes the county to renew for 10 years a property tax levy of $95.29 per $100,000 in assessed property tax value to generate an annual estimated $42 million for the county’s operations and services.
Proposition P, the Parks Property Tax Renewal, was approved with 78% of the vote. Proposition P authorizes the county to renew for four years a property tax levy of $24.59 per $100,000 in assessed property tax value to generate an annual estimated $10.9 million for parks. Both measures were referred to the ballot by a vote of the Wayne County Commissioners.
Voters in the Detroit Public Schools Community District renewed a non-homestead property tax levy with 85% of voters approving the measure. The measure authorizes the district to renew for 11 years a property tax levy of $1,800 per $100,000 in assessed property tax value on property except for primary residences to generate an annual estimated $65 million for the district. It was first authorized in 2016.
On August 5, the D.C. Board of Elections certified Initiative 81 for the November 3 ballot.
The ballot initiative would declare that police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of entheogenic plants and fungi as among the lowest law enforcement priorities. The ballot initiative would define entheogenic plants and fungi as species of plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn. Examples include psilocybin mushrooms—also known as magic mushrooms or shrooms—peyote, and iboga. The ballot initiative would also ask the D.C. Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for D.C. to cease the prosecution of residents who engage with entheogenic plants and fungi.
After verifying a random sampling, the board had concluded that 25,477 of the submitted signatures were valid and certified the measure for the ballot. A total of 24,836 signatures were required to qualify for the ballot.
The campaign Decriminalize Nature D.C. reported filing 36,249 signatures with the D.C. Board of Elections on the July 6 deadline. In Washington, D.C., the number of signatures required for a ballot initiative is equal to 5% of the district’s registered voters. Moreover, signatures from 5% of registered voters in five of eight city wards are required to meet the city’s distribution requirement.
The Washington, D.C. Council approved a bill on May 5, 2020, to allow petitions to be distributed, printed, signed, scanned (uploaded), and mailed to proponents rather than collected in person because of the coronavirus pandemic. Voters still needed to sign physical copies of the petitions. Decriminalize Nature D.C. mailed petitions to more than 220,000 households in Washington, D.C. Nikolas Schiller, the campaign’s field director, said that the campaign ended up receiving about 7,000 signatures by mail.
Oregon voters will decide an initiative to establish a psilocybin program in November 2020. If approved, the initiative would make Oregon the first state to legalize psilocybin. In 2019, voters in Denver, Colorado, approved Initiated Ordinance 301, which declared that the adult use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms were of the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities.
Minneapolis voters will not decide on a charter amendment in November to remove the city’s police department and replace it with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. On August 5, the Minneapolis Charter Commission voted 10-5 to take an additional 90 days to evaluate the proposal.
This effectively blocked the measure from the November 2020 ballot, although it could still appear on a later ballot. The city council’s deadline to add the measure to the November 2020 ballot is August 21. The city council is not able to vote on the measure until the charter commission returns it.
The charter amendment would have:
Removed all references to the city’s police department from the city charter.
Added a section establishing the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, and the director of the new department.
Allowed a Division of Law Enforcement Services within the new department that would have been made up of licensed peace officers and would have had a director appointed by the director of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.
Under the existing charter provisions, the mayor has authority over the police department and nominates the police chief, who must be confirmed by the city council. The existing charter also requires the city council to provide funding to the police department to provide for “a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident.”
This proposed amendment would have made the city council responsible for establishing and funding the proposed Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention and given the city council authority to establish the Division of Law Enforcement Services within the department. The director of the proposed Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention would have been nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.
Following the killing of George Floyd and the resulting demonstrations and protests, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on June 26, 2020, to send the proposed charter amendment to the Minneapolis Charter Commission for review. Under the process for charter amendments set by state law, the charter commission must review proposed amendments and make recommendations to the city council. The city council does not have to follow the commission’s recommendation, but cannot vote to send a charter amendment to the ballot until the recommendation is made. The charter commission has a maximum of 150 days to review proposals from the city council.
The charter commission considered its own amendment that would have removed the minimum funding requirement for the police department from the charter. On July 29, the charter commission voted 8-6 against referring it to the ballot.
Charter Commissioner Gregory Abbott said, “[the charter] should not be cluttered up with the policy disputes of the moment. We don’t know what challenges the city will face in 10 years or 20 years or even in 50 years. It [the charter amendment] proposes permanently moving the city’s law enforcement function down to a sub-department two levels removed from supervision by elected officials. The council’s proposal even specifies the professional qualifications of the head of the new department, details more appropriate in my opinion for a zip recruiter ad than for a charter provision. Now these ideas may well be good under the circumstances but they should be enacted as part of an ordinance not included in the charter itself. There is another problem I have with the charter amendment. The proposal radically reduces the power of the mayor and transfer those powers in their entirety to the city council.”
Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison responded to the commission’s vote, “It is our legacy in the US to use voting to decide our future, whether that be by representative democracy or direct democracy. It is not our legacy to use bureaucratic processes to circumvent the people in an attempt to ‘protect’ voters from themselves. That is not democracy. In a democracy, the people decide. But I guess today the Charter Commission decided otherwise.”
Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposes the charter amendment, said, “I look forward to working with Chief Arradondo, my council colleagues, and community to transform the culture of policing in our city in the months ahead. Now it is on all of us to roll up our sleeves and dig into this work together.”
This is not the first time that the Minneapolis City Council has proposed a charter amendment concerning the police department, and the charter commission has declined to expedite its review to meet a general election deadline. On August 3, 2018, the Minneapolis City Council voted 7-5 to send a charter amendment proposal to the Minneapolis Charter Commission that would have repealed provisions in the charter giving the mayor complete control over the city’s police department. The measure would have, instead, allowed rules and regulations for the police department to come from both the city council and the mayor. The charter commission did not make a recommendation to the city council in time for the city council to put the measure on the November 2018 ballot. Instead, the commission ordered a task force to create a report on the proposal. The commission ultimately recommended against the charter amendment in January 2019.
In the weeks after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, nationwide demonstrations and protests were held calling for changes to policing. Officials responded by issuing executive orders and passing legislation to eliminate certain policing tactics, such as chokeholds, and implement new community policing strategies.
Voters in at least half a dozen cities and counties—including San Francisco, Los Angeles County, and Sonoma County, California; King County, Washington; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbus, Ohio; and Portland, Oregon―will decide ballot measures in November concerning law enforcement oversight, structure, funding, policies, and staffing levels. Stay tuned to Ballotpedia for an overview of this ballot measure trend as it develops.
Fair Maps Nevada, the campaign behind the Nevada Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative, did not submit signatures by the August 3 deadline. Originally the deadline was June 24, but it was extended by a court ruling. On July 24, 2020, Doug Goodman, founder and executive director of Nevadans for Election Reform; Sondra Cosgrove, chair of Fair Maps Nevada; and Vivian Leal, a member of Indivisible Northern Nevada Fair Democracy Team, wrote that “Fair Maps Nevada will not be able to collect the necessary signatures by the court-set, and county election official agreed to deadline of August 3.” The campaign said that it would attempt to put the initiated constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot.
The ballot measure would have transferred the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a seven-member independent redistricting commission.
The signature deadline was extended from June 24 to August 3 after Fair Maps Nevada filed a lawsuit against the state on May 7 seeking permission to use electronic signatures and asking for a six-week extension of the signature deadline. In their lawsuit, petitioners argued that the state’s actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus made it “extremely difficult to collect signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot in a traditional in-person manner.”
On May 29, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du ruled partially in favor of the petitioners granting them more time to gather signatures. In her decision, she argued that Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) stay-at-home order made it impossible for the campaign to gather signatures and that not changing the statutory deadline was “unreasonable and unfair.” Judge Du did not grant the petitioners’ request to use electronic signatures citing concerns of fraud and legal precedent on courts changing election rules. In her ruling, the new deadline was August 5, but the campaign and state officials later agreed to move it to August 3.
The ruling only applied to the petitioners in this case and did not extend to the Fountainhead Society, the campaign behind the Single Transferable Vote and Multimember Senate Districts Initiative. Benjamin Pennington, the founder of the Fountainhead Society, said that the campaign would submit an “improved initiative” for the 2022 cycle.
In Nevada, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated constitutional amendment for the ballot is equal to 10% of the total votes cast in the most recent general election. Moreover, signature gathering must be distributed equally among each of the state’s four congressional districts. Initiated constitutional amendments that qualify for the ballot must be approved at two consecutive general elections.
Nevada voters will be deciding on five statewide ballot measures in November—four legislatively referred constitutional amendments and one initiated constitutional amendment.
• Question 1, Remove Constitutional Status of Board of Regents Amendment: Removes the constitutional status of the Board of Regents
• Question 2, Marriage Regardless of Gender Amendment: Recognizes the marriage of couples regardless of gender
• Question 3, State Board of Pardons Commissioners Amendment: Revises duties of the State Board of Pardons Commissioners
• Question 4, State Constitutional Rights of Voters Amendment: Creates a constitutional right to certain voting procedures and policies
• The Renewable Energy Standards Initiative: Requires utilities to acquire 50% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030
Between 1995 and 2018, the Nevada State Legislature referred 31 constitutional amendments to the ballot, while voters decided 26 citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. The legislature’s proposed amendments were approved at a lower rate (48.39%) than citizen-initiated amendments (73.08%).
Voters in Gilbert, Arizona, passed Proposition 430 on Tuesday approving the 2020 General Plan for city land development with 81.84% of the vote. Proposition 430 was put on the ballot through a vote of the Gilbert Town Council on March 3, 2020. The last general plan was approved in 2010.
In 2020, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. Ballotpedia is also covering all local measures in California, and all statewide ballot measures. Ballotpedia’s 2020 local ballot measure coverage includes Gilbert, Arizona.
Voters in Platte County, Missouri, approved two sales tax renewal questions on Tuesday. The final unofficial election report by the county showed Question 1 receiving 75.82% of the vote, and Question 2 receiving 60.81% of the vote. Question 1 authorizes the county to renew for 10 years a 0.25% sales tax to fund parks and stormwater control. Question 2 authorizes the county to renew for 10 years a 0.25% sales tax to fund law enforcement.
Voters in the Hickman Mills C-1 School District within Jackson County approved a $30 million bond issue by 82% to 18% according to unofficial election results. The bond issue will not increase the district’s debt service property tax levy. It will be maintained at the existing rate of $1,100 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
Missouri voters also approved a statewide initiative, Amendment 2, that expands Medicaid to adults between the ages of 19 and 65 whose income is at or below 138% of the federal poverty level under the Affordable Care Act. Amendment 2 was approved with 53% of the vote.
Missouri voters approved Amendment 2 in a vote of 53% to 47% on Tuesday.
Amendment 2 was a citizen initiative to expand Medicaid eligibility in Missouri to adults that are between the ages of 19 and 65 whose income is 138% of the federal poverty level or below. In 2020, this amounted to an annual income of $17,608 for an individual and $36,156 for a household of four. The amendment prohibited any additional restrictions or requirements for the expanded population to qualify for Medicaid coverage than for other populations that qualify for Medicaid coverage.
Medicaid is a government program that provides medical insurance to groups of low-income people and individuals with disabilities. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, provided for the expansion of Medicaid to cover all individuals earning incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NFIB v. Sebelius that the federal government could not withhold funds from states that refused to expand Medicaid. The ruling had the practical effect of making Medicaid expansion optional for states. For 2020 and subsequent years, the federal government was set to cover 90% of the costs. As of 2020, a total of 37 states and Washington, D.C., had expanded or voted to expand Medicaid, while 13 states had not.
Yes on 2: Healthcare for Missouri led the campaign in support of Amendment 2. As of July 27, 2020, the committees registered in support of the amendment—Healthcare for Missouri and Missourians for Healthcare—had raised $10.1 million.
The support campaign argued that the coronavirus pandemic has shown the need for Medicaid expansion. Jack Cardetti, a spokesperson for the Yes on 2 campaign, said, “Now more than ever, Missourians need to be able to access care in their own communities and protect thousands of local frontline healthcare jobs. … Amendment 2 will help keep rural hospitals and urban clinics open by bringing $1 billion of our own tax dollars back from Washington, instead of going to the 37 other states that have expanded Medicaid.”
No on 2 in August led the campaign in opposition to Amendment 2. Opponents argued that expanding Medicaid would not be economically prudent. State Senator Bob Onder (R-2) said, “The money needed to expand Medicaid is going to come from somewhere. It either has to come from education, from roads or from massive tax increases. … I do think that Missourians, particularly in these challenging economic times, will realize that a massive expansion of the Medicaid program isn’t something that we can afford.”
Missouri was the sixth state to expand Medicaid through a ballot initiative.
In 2017, voters in Maine approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid. The measure was the first citizen initiative to implement an optional provision of Obamacare.
In November 2018, voters in Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, and Utah decided ballot initiatives concerning Medicaid expansion and the funding of expanded Medicaid coverage. They were approved in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah.
Oklahoma was the most recent state to approve Medicaid expansion in June 2020. Oklahoma State Question 802 passed with 50.49% of the vote.
On July 30, 2020, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office announced that People Not Politicians, the campaign behind the Independent State and Congressional Redistricting Commission Initiative, had submitted 59,493 valid signatures. People Not Politicians submitted its first batch of 64,172 unverified signatures on July 13. The campaign submitted an additional 1,819 signatures on July 17 and 1,063 signatures on July 24 for a total of 67,054 unverified signatures. The signature validity rate for the petition was 88.7%.
A federal judge ruled on July 10 that Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R) had to place the measure on the ballot or lower the threshold to 58,789 signatures and extend the signature deadline to August 17. The reduced number of signatures of 58,789 is equal to the required amount for 2018 veto referendum petitions. The original deadline was July 2, and the required number of signatures was 149,360 valid signatures.
People Not Politicians filed the lawsuit against the state seeking relief from the signature deadline and requirements on June 30. The state appealed the federal court’s decision allowing the campaign to submit signatures after the original deadline. On July 23, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Oregon’s request for an emergency stay on the lower court’s ruling.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) filed an emergency stay with the U.S. Supreme Court on July 29 that has not been decided yet. A panel of the 9th Circuit Court is expected to hear oral arguments for the lawsuit on August 13. It will also be hearing oral arguments for a similar initiative lawsuit in Idaho on the same day. Reclaim Idaho, the sponsors of the Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, filed the lawsuit back in June and a federal judge allowed the campaign to gather electronic signatures and have extra time to gather signatures. On July 30, the Supreme Court granted an emergency stay on the judge’s order.
The Oregon initiative would amend the Oregon Constitution to establish a 12-member redistricting commission. If the initiative qualifies for the ballot, it will be the third initiative appearing on the November ballot in Oregon. The Oregon Secretary of State certified the Psilocybin Program Initiative and the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative for the ballot after both met the original July 2 deadline and submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (112,020).
Oklahoma State Question 802 was on the June primary ballot in Oklahoma where it was approved by a vote of 50.49% to 49.51%. The measure expanded Medicaid eligibility to adults between 18 and 65 whose income is 138% of the federal poverty level or below. Campaign finance reports were not due from the campaigns until after the election on July 31, 2020.
Campaign finance reports for the Oklahoma State Question 802 campaigns show aggregate totals through the life of the campaigns. The report filed by Yes on 802-Oklahomans Decide Healthcare covered information as far back as March 6, 2019. The Vote No on 802 Association‘s report covered information from June 8, 2020. Both reports covered through June 30, 2020.
The Yes on 802 campaign raised $5.5 million in cash and $295,000 in in-kind contributions. Of all the funds, 95% came from eight donors, which contributed the following amounts:
Oklahoma Hospital Association: $2.5 million
St. Francis Hospital: $940,000
Tulsa Community Foundation: $923,000
Stacy Schusterman, chair of Samson Energy Company: $500,000
Ascension St John Foundation: $250,000
The Fairness Project: $247,616.61 (in-kind)
Chickasaw Nation: $100,000
Oklahoma Medical Association: $25,000
The support campaign reported $5.47 million in cash expenditures. Sponsors of the measure hired Fieldworks LLC to collect signatures for the petition to qualify this measure for the ballot. A total of $1,836,261.73 was spent to collect the 177,958 valid signatures required to put this measure before voters, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $10.32.
The Vote No on 802 Association, chaired by John Tidwell, state director of Americans for Prosperity, reported $210,600 in cash contributions, $100,084 in in-kind contributions, and $114,950 in cash expenditures. Four donors contributed 100% of the funds:
Americans for Prosperity: $200,000 cash and $99,850 in-kind
Jim Antosh, owner of Round House Workwear LLC: $10,000
Nobel Systems, Inc: $500
John Tidwell: $100 in cash and $234.19 in-kind
Comparison to citizen initiatives of 2018:
Two citizen initiatives were on the 2018 ballot in Oklahoma. The CPRS for State Question 788, which was designed to legalize medical marijuana was $0.41. Sponsors spent $26,988 to collect the required 65,987 signatures. State Question 793, concerning optometrists and opticians operating in retail stores, used volunteers to collect the 123,725 valid signatures, resulting in a CPRS of $0. The number of signatures required to qualify initiatives for the ballot in Oklahoma is tied to the total votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election. The number of required signatures increased for initiated constitutional amendments and state statutes in 2020 after the gubernatorial election in 2018.
In 2018, supporters of State Question 788 raised $280,117, and opponents raised $1.26 million. It was approved. Supporters of State Question 793 raised $4.6 million, and opponents raised $3 million.
As of August 3, 2020, 110 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 33 states. Committees registered to support or oppose these statewide measures have reported a combined total of $335.7 million in contributions and $144.2 million in expenditures so far. Of the total contributions in support of or opposition to the 110 statewide measures certified, the 32 citizen-initiated measures featured about 73% of contributions. In 2018, the 68 citizen-initiated measures featured about 83% of the $1.19 billion in campaign contributions for the 167 statewide measures.
Sponsors of five additional initiatives submitted signatures to the Secretary of State’s office by the August 3 deadline. To join the four citizen-initiated measures and three legislative referrals already certified for the November 2020 ballot, 126,632 valid signatures are required.
Sponsors of Initiative #257 submitted more than 200,000 signatures on July 28 to qualify a measure that would allow voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to vote to allow additional casino game types and increase the maximum single bet to any amount.
Michael Fields and Lindsey Sangers of Colorado Rising State Action submitted more than 196,000 signatures on July 31 to qualify Initiative #295 for the ballot. The measure would require voter approval of new state enterprises that are exempt from TABOR if the enterprise’s projected or actual revenue from fees and surcharges is greater than $100 million within its first five years. Michael Fields said, “Coloradans are sick of the Legislature using massive fees to get around a vote of the people, and the excitement around the ‘Vote on Fees’ initiative is proof of that.”
Also on Friday, Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, submitted around 197,000 signatures for Initiative #306. The initiative would decrease the state income tax rate from 4.64% to 4.55%. The Independence Institute said the measure was designed to “[Get] Colorado’s economy back to its former strength, by putting money back into the pockets of those who earned it.”
Colorado Families First, sponsors of Initiative #283 to create a paid medical and family leave program, reported delivering 205,443 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on July 31.
Fair Tax Colorado, sponsors of Initiative #271, announced in an email Friday that the initiative would not qualify for the ballot. It would have repealed the flat tax and create a graduated income tax rate.
Sponsors of Initiative #200 also submitted signatures. An estimate of how many signatures were submitted was unavailable as of August 4. The initiative concerns expungement of criminal records for low-level, non-violent offenses and using expungement fees for programs that fund scholarships, education, housing, crime reduction, mental health, and others.
Three citizen initiatives, one veto referendum, and three legislative referrals are already certified to appear on the ballot in November. From 2000 through 2018, an average of about nine measures appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered years. A total of 108 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during the 20-year period from 1999 through 2019. Of the total, 42% (45 of 108) were approved, and 58% (63 of 108) were defeated.