Tagballot measures

Voters approved changes to campaign finance, election dates, election systems, redistricting, suffrage, and term limits in 2020

In 2020, 12 states approved 13 ballot measures related to election policy including changes to campaign finance, election dates, election systems, redistricting, suffrage, and term limits. The measures are listed below according to topic.

Campaign finance:

  • Oregon Measure 107: Measure 107 authorizes the state legislature and local governments to (1) enact laws or ordinances limiting campaign contributions and expenditures; (2) require disclosure of contributions and expenditures; and (3) require that political advertisements identify the people or entities that paid for them. Going into the election, Oregon was one of five states with no limits on campaign contributions.

Election dates:

  • New Mexico Constitutional Amendment 2: The amendment allows the state legislature to pass laws changing election dates of state or county officeholders and altering office terms according to those date changes. Under the measure, laws proposing changes to election dates of non-statewide officeholders must be supported by a legislative finding that such a change would promote consistency or that it would evenly distribute the number of offices appearing on the ballot. In 2019, the New Mexico State Legislature passed House Bill 407, which divided state, county, and judicial elections between presidential and gubernatorial election ballots. These provisions of HB 407 were ruled unconstitutional by the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2019. With the passage of the Amendment, these provisions of HB 407 are now enforceable. HB 407 extended the terms of district attorneys, county offices, and judicial offices.

Election systems:

  • Alaska Ballot Measure 2: Ballot Measure 2 replaced the state’s partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices and established ranked-choice voting for general elections, including the presidential election, in which voters would rank the candidates. Ballot Measure 2 also required persons and entities that contribute more than $2,000 that were themselves derived from donations, contributions, dues, or gifts to disclose the true sources, as defined in the law, of the political contributions.
  • Colorado Proposition 113: In 2019, the Colorado State Legislature passed a bill to add Colorado to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The NPVIC was designed to go into effect if states representing at least 270 electoral votes join the NPVIC. Proposition 113 was a referendum on the 2019 law. On November 3, voters upheld the law and voted in favor of adding Colorado to the NPVIC. As of January 2021, the 15 states and DC had joined representing 196 votes.
  • Mississippi Ballot Measure 2: As of 2020, Mississippi required that a candidate for governor or elected state office receive the most votes in a majority of the state’s 122 state House of Representatives districts (known as the electoral vote requirement). Ballot Measure 2 repealed this requirement. Instead, Ballot Measure 2 provided that a candidate for governor or state office must receive a majority vote to win and that a runoff election would be held between the two highest vote-getters in the event that no candidate received a majority vote.

Redistricting:

  • Missouri Amendment 3: Amendment 3 repealed the non-partisan state demographer and returned the state to the use of bipartisan redistricting commissions, with changes to the number and selection of commissioners. The 2020 amendment also maintained the criteria of competitiveness and partisan fairness that was enacted in 2018, but it loosened the partisan fairness requirement and required that population, voter rights abridgment, contiguous districts, simple shapes, and the rules for counties be considered with a higher priority.
  • New Jersey Public Question 3: Question 3 postponed state legislative redistricting until after the election on November 2, 2021, should the state receive federal census data after February 15, 2021. 
  • Virginia Question 1: Question 1 transferred the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a redistricting commission composed of state legislators and citizens.

Suffrage:

  • Alabama Amendment 1: Amendment 1 amended the Alabama Constitution to state that “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Alabama.
  • California Proposition 17: Proposition 17 amended the state constitution to allow people with felonies who are on parole to vote; therefore, the ballot measure kept imprisonment as a disqualification for voting but removed parole status. 
  • Colorado Amendment 76: Amendment 76 amended the Colorado Constitution to state that “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years of age or older can vote in Colorado. The Colorado Legislative Council wrote in the 2020 Blue Book that “under Amendment 76, 17-year-olds who are currently able to vote in primary elections will no longer be eligible to do so.”
  • Florida Amendment 1: Amendment 1 amended the Florida Constitution to state that “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florida instead of saying that “every citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florida.

Term limits:

  • Arkansas Issue 2: Issue 2 imposed term limits of 12 consecutive years for state legislators with the opportunity to return after a four-year break. State legislators elected in November 2020 or currently serving would be allowed to serve the former term limit of 16 years.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered local measures that appeared on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and a selection of notable election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities. Eleven local jurisdictions affecting voters in the top 100 largest cities approved 17 local ballot measures related to election policy. The approved measures in the top 100 largest cities are listed alphabetically by jurisdiction.

Local election policy ballot measures in the top 100 cities:

  • Anchorage, Alaska, Proposition 12: Proposition 12 increased the Anchorage Assembly from 11 to 12 members. The change will take effect the adoption of a final state redistricting plan by the Redistricting Board of the State of Alaska following the official reporting of the 2020 census.
  • Chandler, Arizona, Proposition 426: Proposition 426 amended the city’s charter to say that primary, regular, and special elections may be held on election dates authorized by state law. State law requires primary elections to be held on the 1st Tuesday of August before the general election. Before the election, the Chandler City Charter said that the city’s municipal primary election shall be held on the 10th Tuesday before the general election.
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida, Referendum 2: Referendum 2 amended the county charter to establish that if a mayor or county commission member resigns to run for another office the vacancy must be filled during the next primary and general election rather than through appointment or a special election.
  • Baltimore, Maryland, Question I: Question I allows the city council to remove council members, the council president, the mayor, or the comptroller by a three-fourths vote of council members upon charges brought by the mayor, the city council committee on legislative investigations, the inspector general, or a petition signed by 20% of qualified voters in the city.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota, Question 2: Question 2 amended the city charter to state that special municipal elections to fill vacancies must be held on one of the state-set uniform election dates that is at least 90 days after the vacancy occurs.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota, Question 1: Question 1 amended the city charter to establish city council elections in 2021 and 2023 for two-year terms instead of four-year terms with four-year term elections restarting in 2025 and to use this method whenever regular city council elections do not fall in a year ending in a 3 so as to comply with a state law designed to require city council elections in years ending in 2 or 3 after a census.
  • St. Louis, Missouri, Proposition D: Proposition D made elections open and non-partisan for the offices of mayor, comptroller, president of the Board of Aldermen, and the Board of Aldermen; changed from a plurality voting system to an approval voting system, whereby voters may vote for any number of candidates they prefer; and required a runoff general election for the top two candidates.
  • Oakland, California, Measure QQ: Measure QQ allowed the city council to pass an ordinance to allow 16-year-olds to vote for the office of the school board director.
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Proposition 1: Proposition 1 made the following changes:
    • changed the names of “primary” and “general” elections to “general” and “runoff” elections throughout; 
    • set the regular general election date for mayoral elections to be the second the Tuesday in February in 2022 and every four years going forward instead of the existing primary mayoral election date set as the second Tuesday in March; 
    • set the regular general election date for city council elections to be the second Tuesday in odd-numbered years instead of the existing primary city council election date set as the first Tuesday in March; 
    • set the regular runoff election date for both mayoral and city council elections as the first Tuesday in April immediately following the general election if required; 
    • added specific processes for if the city council creates more than eight city wards; and 
    • established that elected officers take office four weeks after the runoff election rather than one week.
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Proposition 2: Proposition 2 required that a candidate be a resident of the city for one year before filing for candidacy instead of three years before the election date; required that a candidate be a registered voter in the city (for mayor) or the relevant ward (for city council) for one year before filing for candidacy, while existing provisions require residency in the relevant ward for six months; and explicitly stated that qualification requirements, including citizenship and age requirements, apply at the time of filing a declaration of candidacy.
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Proposition 3: Proposition amended the city charter to change the deadline to fill the vice mayor position through a majority vote of the city council from 15 days to 30 days.
  • Riverside, California Measure Q: Measure Q made the following changes:
    • required the city council to make an appointment to fill a vacancy for an elected office with up to one year left in the term;
    • required a special election to fill a vacancy for an elected office with more than one year left in the term;
    • established a process for a runoff election if no candidate receives a majority of votes in the special election to fill a vacancy; and
    • prohibited appointed officials from making references indicating they are incumbents for future elections to the same seat.
  • Riverside, California, Measure R: Measure R consolidated city council and mayor elections with state primary and general elections and allowed for temporary adjustments to term lengths and election dates to carry out the consolidation.
  • Riverside, California, Measure S: Measure S required the city council to submit any charter amendments they propose—not those initiated through a signature petition—to the charter review commission in order to receive a recommendation before the city council refers them to voters.
  • Sacramento, California, Measure B: Measure B created a one-time exception for the redistricting deadline after the 2020 census to account for COVID-19 census delays by allowing the city’s redistricting commission until 130 days before the 2022 primary election to complete redistricting and create a map to be used at the 2022 primary election.
  • San Diego Unified School District, California, Measure C: Measure C established that school district board members are elected by sub-district in both primary and general elections rather than running by sub-district in primaries but being elected by the entire district in the general election.
  • San Diego Unified School District, California, Measure D: Measure D added San Diego Unified School District board members under the city’s rules for removing elected officials for cause and filling the vacancies.

Five local jurisdictions outside of the top 100 largest cities approved ranked-choice voting measures in 2020.

Ranked-choice voting measures outside of top 100 cities:

  • Albany, California, Measure BB: Measure BB authorized the use of ranked-choice voting for city elections for members of the city council and the board of education.
  • Bloomington, Minnesota, Question 3: Question 3 amended the city charter to elect the mayor and city council members through ranked-choice voting.
  • Boulder, Colorado, Measure 2E: Measure 2E amended the city charter to elect the mayor through ranked-choice voting.
  • Eureka, California, Measure C: Measure C amended the city charter to require ranked-choice voting for electing the mayor and councilmembers.
  • Minnetonka, Minnesota, Question 1: Question 1 amended the city charter to elect the mayor and city council members through ranked-choice voting.

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Right to repair supporters and opponents raise $51.5 million in contributions, making it the most expensive ballot measure in recent Massachusetts history

The Right to Repair Coalition and the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data received a combined $51.5 million in contributions this election cycle, making Massachusetts Question 1 the most expensive measure in the state for at least the last 15 years. Final campaign finance reports for Massachusetts 2020 ballot measure committees were filed on Jan. 20.

Question 1 amended a 2013 “right to repair law.” The amended question required manufacturers that sell vehicles with telematics systems in Massachusetts to equip them with a standardized system beginning with model year 2022. Vehicle owners and independent repair facilities may access the standardized system to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application. It was approved with a margin of 74.97% to 25.03%.

The Right to Repair Coalition, the sponsor of Question 1, reported $24.9 million in contributions. The top donors to the campaign included:

  • Auto Care Association ($4.6 million)
  • Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality ($4.2 million)
  • AutoZone ($3 million)
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts ($3 million)
  • Advance Auto Parts ($3 million)
  • Genuine Parts Company ($3 million)

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data registered in opposition to Question 1 and reported $26.6 million in contributions. The top donors to the campaign included:

  • General Motors ($5.5 million)
  • Toyota Motor North America, Inc ($4.5 million)
  • Ford Motor Company ($4.5 million)
  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc ($3.0 million)
  • Nissan North America Inc. ($2.4 million)

The Right to Repair Coalition sponsored a 2012 initiative. The measure led to a legislative compromise in 2013. A legislative alternative to the initiative was approved on July 31, 2012, after the July 3 initiative signature deadline, so the initiative still appeared on the ballot and received 87.7% of the vote. The 2013 legislative compromise was approved on Nov. 26, 2013. The committees registered in support of the 2012 initiative reported $2.3 million in contributions, and those registered in opposition reported over $307,000.

The top five most expensive measures by total contributions (support and opposition) in Massachusetts since 2006 are as follows:

  • $44.3 million for Question 2, Authorization of Additional Charter Schools and Charter School Expansion (2006)
  • $37.2 million for Question 1, Nurse-Patient Assignment Limits Initiative (2018)
  • $15.8 million for Question 3, Casino Repeal Initiative (2014)
  • $10.7 million for Question 2, Expansion of Bottle Deposits Initiative (2014)
  • $10.2 million for Question 2, Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative (2020)

In 2020, committees registered to support or oppose all of the 129 statewide measures reported a combined total of $1.2 billion in contributions and $1.02 billion in expenditures. Massachusetts ballot measure campaigns raised the third largest amount in contributions compared to other states with a total of $61.6 million. California campaigns raised the most with $739 million, and Illinois campaigns raised the second most with $121.2 million.

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What ballot measures will voters decide in 2021?

As of January 21, 2021, nine statewide ballot measures were certified for the 2021 ballot in three states. Seven bond questions are certified for the March 2 ballot in Rhode Island. One bond issue is certified for the Nov. 2 ballot in Colorado. A constitutional amendment concerning redistricting is certified for the Nov. 2 ballot in New York.

Four of the 26 states with a process for citizen-initiated measures allow for ballot initiatives or veto referendums on ballots for elections in odd-numbered years: Colorado, Maine, Ohio, and Washington. Legislatively referred measures can also go on the ballot in these states in 2021. Other states that frequently feature statewide measures referred to the ballot by the legislature in odd-numbered years include Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The signature deadline for Maine ballot measures was January 21, 2021. Signatures were filed for an initiative to require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve high-impact electric transmission lines. On January 21, 2021, the campaign No CMP Corridor reported filing more than 100,000 signatures. At least 63,067 of the signatures need to be deemed valid for certification.

The signature deadline for Ohio initiated constitutional amendments is June 30, 2021. The deadline for Washington Initiatives to the People is July 2, 2021. The deadline for Colorado ballot measures is August 2, 2021. Citizens in these states may circulate petitions for a veto referendum, for which signatures are due 90 days after the state legislature’s adjournment.

From 2011 through 2019, the average number of statewide measures certified for odd-year ballots was 31. On average, three measures had been certified for the odd-year ballots by the end of January from 2011 through 2019.

In 2019, 36 statewide ballot measures were certified for the ballot in eight states. In 2017, there were 27 total statewide measures certified for the ballot. In 2015, there were 28 total statewide measures certified for the ballot.

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Signatures filed for Maine initiative regarding electric transmission

In Maine, the campaign No CMP Corridor reported filing more than 100,000 signatures for a ballot initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region and require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve high-impact electric transmission lines. The ballot initiative would apply retroactively to September 16, 2020, and apply to any projects in which construction had not yet commenced as of that date. No CMP Corridor designed the ballot initiative to apply to the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission project, a joint proposal between Hydro-Québec and Central Maine Power (CMP).

Of the signatures submitted, at least 63,067 need to be deemed valid. The initiative process in Maine is indirect, meaning the legislature has the opportunity to approve the initiative itself before it is placed on the ballot. If the legislature does not approve it, the initiative will appear on the ballot for the election on November 2, 2021. 

The NECEC transmission project was designed to cross about 145 miles in Maine, from the state’s border with Quebec to Lewiston, and transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. About 90 miles of the transmission lines would utilize an existing corridor through central Maine. The most northern 54 miles, between the international border and The Forks, would require a new corridor through forested land. While the NECEC project was originally planned to deliver hydroelectric power to Massachusetts, Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced that Maine had also secured 500 megawatts from hydroelectric plants at a discounted rate via NECEC on July 10, 2020.

On January 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy provided a presidential permit for NECEC. The presidential permit was the last of the federal and state permits required to start construction activities. On the same day, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction to prevent the construction of Segment 1 of NECEC, the 54-mile stretch of new corridor in northern Maine, pending a future court decision. 

No CMP Corridor sought a ballot initiative in 2020, but the Maine Supreme Judicial Court found the proposal to violate the Maine Constitution. The 2020 ballot initiative would have required the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reverse an order made on May 3, 2019, that provided the NECEC transmission project with a certificate. According to the Supreme Judicial Court, the Maine Constitution “requires that a citizens’ initiative constitute legislative action,” and the ballot initiative’s “effect is to dictate the [Public Utility] Commission’s exercise of its quasi-judicial executive-agency function in a particular proceeding…” No CMP Corridor released a statement saying the new proposal constitutes a general law as it does not single out any specific project.  

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Year-end analysis of local ballot measures in the top 100 largest cities in the U.S.

There were 314 local measures on the ballot for voters in the nation’s 100 largest cities in 2020. These spanned 26 different states and Washington, D.C. Ballotpedia’s year-end analysis dives into approval rates, notable topics and measures, bond and tax measures, and the types of measures.

Here are some highlights:

  1. 252 measures (80.3%) were approved, and 62 (19.7%) were defeated. There were 109 (34.7%) in California.
  2. 174 measures (55.4%) proposed bond issues or taxes. Of those, 126 were approved, and 48 were defeated.
  3. There were 92 local bond measures. The measures proposed a total of $32.16 billion in bond money. Voters approved 67 measures amounting to $25.567 billion. Voters rejected 25 measures amounting to $6.593 billion.
  4. Twenty-two measures (7.0%) concerned elections, campaigns, voting, and term limits.
  5. Twenty measures (6.4%) concerned law enforcement or police policies.
  6. Washington, D.C., became the fifth city to decriminalize psilocybin and the first city to decriminalize all entheogenic plants and fungi.
  7. Fourteen measures were put on the ballot by initiative signature petitions, and 300 were referred to the ballot by city councils, county boards, school boards, special district boards, or, in two cases, state legislatures.



SEIU asks California Supreme Court to declare Proposition 22 unconstitutional

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and four app-based drivers sued the state government in the California Supreme Court on January 12, 2021. The SEIU is seeking to have Proposition 22 declared unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Proposition 22 was approved at the election on November 3, 2020, with 58.6% of the vote. The ballot initiative defined app-based transportation (rideshare) and delivery drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents. The ballot measure overrode Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), signed in September 2019, on the question of whether app-based drivers are employees or independent contractors.

In October 2020, the California First District Court of Appeal ruled that Lyft and Uber were misclassifying their drivers as contractors but gave the companies 30 days to implement changes unless Proposition 22 was approved.

DoorDash, InstaCart, Lyft, Postmates, and Uber funded the campaign Yes on Proposition 22, which received $203.0 million in contributions. Opponents of Proposition 22 received $19.7 million, and the top-five donors were labor unions, including the SEIU Local 721, SEIU Local 1021, and SEIU-UHW West. With $225.0 million between supporters and opponents, Proposition 22 was the most expensive ballot measure in California history, surpassing the next closest measure by $70.5 million. 

Following the announcement of litigation against Proposition 22, Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California, said, “Prop. 22 doesn’t just fail our state rideshare drivers, it fails the basic test of following our state constitution. The law as written by Uber and Lyft denies drivers rights under the law in California and makes it nearly impossible for lawmakers to fix these problems.” Kathy Fairbanks, a spokesperson for Yes on Proposition 22, provided a statement from an app-based driver, which said, “Meritless lawsuits that seek to undermine the clear democratic will of the people do not stand up to scrutiny in the courts.”

Petitioners argued that Proposition 22 violates Section 4 of Article XIV of the California Constitution, which “grants to the Legislature ‘plenary power, unlimited by any provision of this Constitution’ to establish and enforce a complete system of workers’ compensation.” Proposition 22, according to the petitioners, removed app-based drivers from the state’s system of workers’ compensation and therefore limited the legislature’s constitutional power to extend workers’ compensation benefits to app-based drivers. Petitioners also argued that Proposition 22 violated the single-subject rule for initiatives and included a definition of the word ‘amendment’ that is too expansive and “impermissibly usurped this Court’s authority to ‘say what the law is’ by determining what constitutes an ‘amendment'”, and “impermissibly invaded the Legislature’s broad authority to legislate in areas not substantively addressed by the initiative.”

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Ballotpedia’s analysis of California’s 2020 local ballot measures

California voters decided 719 local ballot measures across seven different election dates in 2020. 

Here are some highlights from Ballotpedia’s annual report on local ballot measures in California:

• Voters approved 62.4% percent of California’s local measures in 2020, which was 14 and 15 percentage points lower than their approval rates in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

• Bond and tax measures made up 70% of the local measures on the ballot in California.

• There were local ballot measures in every California county in 2020 but one. Los Angeles County had the most measures at 109. The median number of measures per county was nine.

• There were 191 local bond issues on ballots across California in 2020. Of that total, 182 (95.8%) were school bond issues.

• The approval rate for school bond measures in 2020 of 50.5% was the lowest in any even-numbered year since at least 2008. The average approval rate for school bond measures in even-numbered years from 2008 through 2018 was 83%.

• Local school bond measures proposed $30.7 billion in new debt. Voters approved $18.7 billion and rejected $12.0 billion.

• Voters in two cities in California approved measures to enact ranked-choice voting for city elections.

• There were eight local measures concerning law enforcement policies, police oversight, police practices, or law enforcement budgeting, not including tax measures designed to provide funding for law enforcement services. All eight measures were approved.

• Voters approved 46 (44.66%) and rejected 57 (55.34%) of the 103 parcel tax measures on the ballot. In 2018, voters approved 65% of parcel tax measures. In 2016, voters approved 64% of parcel tax measures.

• Voters approved 93 sales tax measures (71.5%) in 2020 and rejected 37 (28.5%). In 2018, voters approved 84% of sales tax measures. In 2016, voters approved 69% of sales tax measures.

California voters also decided 13 statewide ballot measures. Click here to read more about the 2020 statewide measures.

Ballotpedia covers all statewide ballot measures, all local ballot measures in the 100 largest cities in the U.S., all local ballot measures in California, and a selection of other notable measures. In 2021, Ballotpedia will also cover all state capitals outside of the nation’s 100 largest cities.

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Voter registration deadline for Rhode Island bond election is January 31

The voter registration deadline for the Rhode Island bond election to be held on March 2 is January 31. The deadline to apply for a mail ballot is February 9.

The Rhode Island legislature referred seven bond questions totaling $400 million to the ballot as part of the state budget approved in December. The ballot titles, amounts, and purposes are listed below:

Question 1: Issues $107.3 million in bonds for the University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center, the Rhode Island College Clarke Science Building, and the Community College of Rhode Island

Question 2: Issues $74 million in bonds for state beaches, parks, recreational facilities, and water projects

Question 3: Issues $65 million in bonds for building and renovating public housing projects

Question 4: Issues $71.7 million in bonds for transportation infrastructure

Question 5: Issues $15 million in bonds for the Early Childhood Care and Education Capital Fund

Question 6: Issues $7 million in bonds for the Cultural Arts and the Economy Grant Program and the State Preservation Grants Program

Question 7: Issues $60 million in bonds to fund improvements to industrial facilities infrastructure

To put a legislatively referred bond question before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both the Rhode Island State Senate and the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Between 2008 and 2020, voters in Rhode Island had decided 22 bond measures, totaling $1.3 billion in principal value. Voters approved 100 percent of the bond measures, with support ranging from 55.23 percent (Question 2 of 2010) to 83.89 percent (Question 3 of 2016). The last odd-year bond election in Rhode Island was in 1985 where nine bond measures were approved.

Voters can register online, by mailing in a voter registration form, or in person at the local board of canvassers, the board of elections, or other state agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Mental Health.



Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court rules that 2019 Marsy’s Law ballot measure violated state constitution

Judge gavel on desk

On January 7, 2021, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that a ballot measure for Marsy’s Law, a type of crime victims’ rights amendment, violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. Pennsylvanians voted 74% to 26% in favor of Marsy’s Law at the election on November 5, 2019. Results were never certified, however, according to a court order.

The 3-2 appellate court decision stated that the proposal violated the separate-vote requirement for constitutional amendments. According to the Pennsylvania Constitution, “When two or more amendments shall be submitted they shall be voted upon separately.” Judge Ellen Ceisler (D) wrote the majority’s opinion, which ruled that Marsy’s Law would impact separate rights and provisions of the state constitution.

Judge Patricia McCullough (R), who agreed with the majority’s decision but wrote a separate opinion, stated that the measure contained “laudable and salutary provisions” but “simply embraces too many disparate matters to effectively convey its import to voters within the 75 words mandated by statute.”

Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt (R) dissented, stating that Marsy’s Law created constitutional rights for crime victims without changing existing provisions of the state constitution. Judge Leavitt wrote, “The judgment the court enters today deprives the people of this power on the strength of no more than speculation.”

Jennifer Riley, director of the organization Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania, responded to the Commonwealth Court’s decision, saying, “We are prepared to continue advocating for victims and to bring an appeal to the Supreme Court to ensure that the votes of Pennsylvanians are counted and that the voices of the victims are protected.”

In Pennsylvania, constitutional amendments need to be passed by the state Legislature during two successive legislative sessions. In 2018, both chambers unanimously passed the amendment. In 2019, the state Senate unanimously passed the amendment, and 190 of 202 state representatives voted for it. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) supported the ballot measure, as did the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and U.S. Reps. Fred Keller (R) and Scott Perry (R).

Opponents included the ACLU of Pennsylvania, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania raised $6.65 million from the Marsy’s Law for All Foundation to campaign for the measure.

Marsy’s Law ballot measures faced similar lawsuits in state courts in Kentucky and Montana. The amendment was struck down in Montana for violating the state’s separate-vote requirement on constitutional amendments. In Kentucky, after it was struck down for reasons related to ballot language, the state Legislature placed it on the ballot again in 2020. The 2020 version, which was approved, included the full text of the measure on the ballot.

As of January 2021, 12 states had Marsy’s Law amendments. Voters in two additional states—Pennsylvania and Montana—voted in favor of Marsy’s Law amendments, but they were overturned or blocked. Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., started campaigning for Marsy’s Law to increase the rights and privileges of victims in state constitutions. Marsy’s Law is named after Nicholas’ sister, Marsy Nicholas, who was murdered in 1983.

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Ballot measure records and firsts in 2020

2020 was a unique year for statewide ballot measures. Here are 12 ballot measure-related stories from 2020 that either never happened before or hadn’t happened in a very long time.

  1. Ballot measure campaign finance records were set nationally and in four states: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Alaska.
  2. Gig economy policies appeared on a statewide ballot for the first time.
  3. Voters passed measures to enact a legal psilocybin mushroom program and drug decriminalization for all drugs for the first time.
  4. Legislators (rather than an initiative signature petition) put a marijuana legalization measure on the ballot for the first time.
  5. Voters decided the first-ever ballot measure on a state-run paid sick and parental leave program.
  6. A state adopted top-four primaries for the first time.
  7. Voters decided a statewide measure proposing a $15 per hour minimum wage for the first time.
  8. Voters, rather than legislators, decided to add their state to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
  9. Statewide initiatives qualified for the ballot through electronic signature petition drives for the first time.
  10. The first measure was referred to the ballot for Louisiana’s December election since at least 1974.
  11. The first constitutional amendments of local applicability were put on the statewide Alabama ballot according to a 2016 process change.
  12. Voters approved the first ballot initiative to reintroduce wolves.