Tagballot measures

Rhode Island voters approve $400 million in bonds in special election

Voters in Rhode Island approved all seven bond measures—totaling $400 million—in a special election on March 2. The Rhode Island Legislature referred the questions to the ballot.

Here are the details for all seven approved measures:

  • Question 1: Authorized $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: Authorized $74 million in bonds for state beaches, parks, recreational facilities, and water projects
  • Question 3: Authorized $65 million in bonds for building and renovating housing projects
  • Question 4: Authorized $71.7 million in bonds for transportation infrastructure
  • Question 5: Authorized $15 million in bonds for the Early Childhood Care and Education Capital Fund
  • Question 6: Authorized $7 million in bonds for the Cultural Arts and the Economy Grant Program and the State Preservation Grants Program
  • Question 7: Authorized $60 million in bonds to fund improvements to industrial facilities infrastructure

In Rhode Island, the legislature must ask voters to issue general obligation bonds over $50,000, except in the case of war, insurrection, or invasion. To put a legislatively referred bond question before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both chambers.

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% (Question 2 of 2010) to 83.89% (Question 3 of 2016). The last odd-year bond election in Rhode Island was in 1985 where voters approved nine bond measures.



Here’s a look at this year’s proposed changes to laws governing ballot measures

As of February 10, 2021, Ballotpedia had tracked 122 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recalls in 34 states in 2021 legislative sessions.

• Legislation to enact or increase existing supermajority requirements for certain ballot measures was introduced in 2021 sessions in six states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Proposed requirements range from 60% to two-thirds (66.67%). Some proposals apply only to citizen-initiated measures, some to constitutional amendments—both citizen-initiated and legislatively referred, and some to measures proposing tax increases or certain levels of funding allocation.

• Bills to increase initiative and referendum signature requirements or signature distribution requirements were introduced in Idaho and Missouri.

• Bills to enact single-subject rules for ballot initiatives were introduced in Arizona, Mississippi, and North Dakota.

• Bills to require certain disclosures and details regarding their single-subject rules were also introduced in 2021 in Nebraska and South Dakota.

• Proposals to establish statewide initiative, referendum, or recall processes were introduced in Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee, which are currently among the 24 states without the power of citizen-initiated statewide ballot measures.

• A proposal was also introduced in Illinois to remove the state’s very specific subject restriction on ballot initiatives and to establish a process for veto referendums. In Florida, a proposal was introduced to enact a process for initiated state statutes.

• Legislation to change rules for drafting and displaying ballot language, petition language, or voter guide language was introduced in California, Idaho, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington.

• Other topics include signature removal, signature verification, filing fees, ballot and voter guide argument fees and requirements, deadlines and process changes, procedures and requirements for legal challenges, and election date requirements.

Many changes—including most proposals to change signature requirements, add or change supermajority requirements, or establish a statewide process for initiative or referendum—are constitutional amendments, which means after legislative approval they would require voter approval to be enacted.

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Supporters, opponents of Louisiana constitutional amendment on abortion raised over $1 million in 2020

Louisiana Pro-Life Amendment Coalition, the campaign in support of Louisiana Amendment 1, and Louisiana for Personal Freedoms, the opposition campaign, reported receiving a combined total of $1.1 million in contributions for the 2020 election cycle. 

Louisiana voters approved Amendment 1 in November 2020 by a vote of 62.06% to 37.94%. It added language to the Louisiana Constitution stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

According to the latest campaign finance reports filed February 17, Louisiana Pro-Life Amendment Coalition reported $681,191 in contributions. The top donors to the coalition included:
• LA Right to Life Educational Committee – $280,000
• Edward L. Rispone – $50,000
• Donald T. Bollinger – $25,000
• Kenneth Wood Sr. – $25,000
• William Henry Shane Jr. – $20,000

Louisiana for Personal Freedoms reported $428,824 in cash and in-kind contributions. The top donors to the committee included:
• BYP 100 – $150,000
• Open Society – $100,00
• Lift Louisiana – $80,758.12
• Planned Parenthood Action Fund – $51,448
• Catholics for Choice – $5,000

As of 2021, at least 10 states, according to The Guttmacher Institute, provided a state constitutional right to abortion based on court rulings. Ballotpedia has identified six ballot measures to amend state constitutions to declare that nothing in the state constitution provides a right to abortion. In Tennessee (2014), Alabama (2018), West Virginia (2018), and Louisiana (2020), these constitutional amendments were passed. In Massachusetts (1986) and Florida (2012), these constitutional amendments were defeated.

Kansas voters will be deciding a similar measure in August 2022 to state that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion and that the state legislature has the authority to pass laws regarding abortion. The amendment was a response to the Kansas Supreme Court ruling in Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt (2019), in which the court decided that the Kansas Bill of Rights includes a right to abortion.

Louisiana Amendment 1 was referred to the ballot by the state legislature in June 2019. A two-thirds vote is needed in each chamber of the Louisiana State Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment.

Committees registered to support or oppose all 129 statewide measures on the ballot in 2020 reported a combined total of $1.23 billion in contributions.

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Who funded the campaigns for and against ranked-choice voting ballot measures in 2020?

Voters in Alaska and Massachusetts decided statewide ranked-choice voting ballot measures in 2020. Alaskans approved an initiated statute to replace partisan primaries with open top-four primaries and establish ranked-choice voting for general elections, including the presidential election. Voters in Massachusetts rejected an initiative to adopt ranked-choice voting statewide.  

The top-two donors to the campaigns behind the ballot initiatives were the non-profit organizations Action Now Initiative and Unite America. Action Now Initiative was a top donor to ranked-choice voting measures in previous years, such as Maine Question 5 (2016) and New York City Question 1 (2019). Unite America also contributed to campaigns in prior years but did not break into the lists of top-five largest donors. In 2020, Unite America was the largest donor to Alaskans for Better Elections and the third-largest donor to Voter Choice Massachusetts.

The Action Now Initiative provided $6.59 million to the statewide ranked-choice voting campaigns in 2020, including $2.93 million in Alaska and $3.66 million in Massachusetts. John and Laura Arnold founded the Action Now Initiative as a 501(c)(4) organization in Huston, Texas, in 2011. Besides ranked-choice voting ballot measures, the Action Now Initiative has supported ballot initiatives related to redistricting commissions and criminal justice changes.

Unite America contributed $3.84 million to the ranked-choice voting campaigns in 2020, $3.40 million of which was donated to Alaskans for Better Actions. While Unite America provided $445,000 to Voters Choice Massachusetts, the organization’s board co-chair, Kathryn Murdoch, donated $2.50 million and board member Katherine Gehl contributed $250,000. Unite America, founded in 2014 as the Centrist Project, is based in Denver, Colorado, and has the stated purpose of electing officials and enacting electoral laws that reduce partisanship and achieve better governing outcomes. Unite America has a federal hybrid political action committee (PAC) and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Opponents of the two ballot measures did not have overlapping donors. In Massachusetts, an opposition PAC raised $8,475. In Alaska, opponents received $579,426, including $150,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national organization that seeks to elect down-ballot, state-level Republicans, and $50,000 from the Alaska Republican Party. 

In 2020, voters in five cities—two in California, two in Minnesota, and one in Colorado—also decided ranked-choice voting ballot measures. All five measures were approved.

The next scheduled vote on a ranked-choice voting ballot measure is March 2 in Burlington, Vermont. Former Gov. Howard Dean (D) and City Councilmember Zoraya Hightower (Vermont Progressive Party) are co-chairing the support campaign Better Ballot Burlington.

Committees registered to support or oppose all 129 statewide measures on the ballot in 2020 reported a combined total of $1.23 billion in contributions.

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South Dakota state House advances constitutional amendment requiring three-fifths approval for measures increasing taxes, fees or appropriating more than $10 million

The South Dakota House of Representatives approved House Joint Resolution 5003 on February 16 in a vote of 56-12.

The measure would amend the state constitution to require a three-fifths (60%) vote for approval of any ballot measures (whether citizen-initiated or legislatively referred) that imposes or increases taxes or fees or appropriates $10 million or more in any of the first five fiscal years after enactment.

South Dakota residents may initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment. The South Dakota State Legislature may place measures on the ballot as legislatively referred constitutional amendments or legislatively referred state statutes with a simple majority vote of each chamber. As of 2021, all ballot measures in South Dakota required a simple majority vote (50%+1) to be adopted.

HJR 5003 was introduced into the South Dakota House of Representatives by Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Jon Hansen on February 2, 2021. All eight House Democrats voted against the bill. Of 62 House Republicans, 56 voted in favor, four voted against, and two were excused. To be placed on the 2022 ballot, the amendment must receive 18 affirmative votes in the South Dakota State Senate, in which Republicans hold a 32-3 supermajority. To become a part of the state constitution, a simple majority of voters must approve the change.

The South Dakota State Senate has passed three other bills this month concerning citizen initiative requirements:

  • Senate Bill 77, which was designed to require initiative petitions to print the full text in 14-point font;
  • Senate Bill 86, which was designed to require the South Dakota Secretary of State and Attorney General to issue an opinion to sponsors of initiative constitutional amendments concerning whether or not the amendment comprises a single subject and whether or not the proposed change is considered a constitutional amendment or a revision of the state constitution; and
  • Senate Bill 123, which was designed to create a 10-day comment period for ballot language of citizen initiatives, requiring the attorney general to review all comments and amend the ballot language as deemed necessary.

These bills would take effect if approved in the state House, where Republicans hold a 62-8 supermajority and do not require voter approval.

Republican sponsors of the bills pointed to the legal challenges to Amendment A, a constitutional initiative approved by voters in 2020 to legalize marijuana, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Hughes County Circuit Court and appealed to the state supreme court.

Senator Reynold Nesiba, one of three Democratic Senators in South Dakota, said, “This is a systematic attack by the Republican party to stifle direct democracy in South Dakota.”

Vote requirements for ballot measures vary from state to state and based on different ballot measure types and topics.

As of 2021, South Dakota was one of 37 states that required a simple majority vote (50%+1) for a proposed constitutional amendment to be adopted. Below are some of the other requirements that ballot measures face across the country.

In Nevada, a simple majority vote is required for all constitutional amendments, however, initiated constitutional amendments must be approved by voters at two successive general elections.

Constitutional amendments in Colorado require a 55% supermajority vote for approval, except for amendments that repeal language and do not amend or add language, which require a simple majority. This supermajority requirement was adopted in 2016 through a citizen initiative.

Constitutional amendments in Florida (citizen-initiated and legislatively referred) must receive a supermajority vote of 60% of those voting on the question, according to Section 5 of Article XI. This change was made via a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in 2006.

In Illinois, legislatively referred constitutional amendments must receive a supermajority vote of 60% of those voting on the question or a majority of those who cast a ballot for any office in that election.

In New Hampshire, a proposed amendment must be approved by two-thirds (66.67%) of those voting in order to become part of the state’s constitution.

In seven other states, there are requirements based on turnout at the election or for a particular office, such as governor.

In Washington, a 60 percent supermajority vote for any measure concerning gambling. Utah requires a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for the approval of any initiatives concerning the taking of wildlife.

A total of 67 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in South Dakota during the 20-year from 2000 through 2020 in South Dakota, of which, 43% (29 of 67) were approved by voters and 57% (38 of 67) were defeated.

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State court judge rules last year’s SD marijuana measure unconstitutional

On February 8, 2021, Hughes County Circuit Judge Christina Klinger overturned South Dakota’s 2020 marijuana legalization initiative. Klinger ruled that the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule. Klinger also ruled that the measure constituted a revision of the constitution rather than an amendment.

South Dakota voters approved Amendment A by 54% to 46% on November 3. The measure was designed to

  • legalize the recreational use of marijuana for individuals 21 years old and older, allowing individuals to possess or distribute up to one ounce of marijuana;
  • require the legislature to create a medical marijuana program pass laws allowing the sale of hemp;
  • tax marijuana sales at 15%;
  • allocate tax revenue to public schools and the state’s general fund; and
  • enact other regulations, including over home grow, marijuana business licenses, local control, and civil penalties for violations.

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller filed a lawsuit in Hughes County Circuit Court seeking to block Amendment A from taking effect. Plaintiffs alleged that the measure comprises more than one subject and that the measure does not simply amend the constitution but, rather, revises the constitution and could only be put before voters by a constitutional convention.

Plaintiffs alleged that the measure concerns five subjects: legalizing marijuana; regulating, licensing, and taxing marijuana; licensing and regulating marijuana by political subdivisions; regulating medical marijuana; and regulation of hemp.

Miller said, “Our constitutional amendment procedure is very straightforward. In this case, the group bringing Amendment A unconstitutionally abused the initiative process.”

Defendants argued that all the provisions were essentially related. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, which backed Amendment A, said, “We are prepared to defend Amendment A against this lawsuit. Our opponents should accept defeat instead of trying to overturn the will of the people. Amendment A was carefully drafted, fully vetted, and approved by a strong majority of South Dakota voters this year.” The group said they would file an appeal with the South Dakota Supreme Court.

Governor Kristi Noem (R) said, “Today’s decision protects and safeguards our constitution. I’m confident that South Dakota Supreme Court, if asked to weigh in as well, will come to the same conclusion.” Noem said in January, “I directed [petitioners] to commence the Amendment A litigation on my behalf.” This is the first time a state’s governor led an effort to overturn a voter-approved marijuana legalization measure.

In South Dakota, all citizen initiatives—both initiated constitutional amendments and initiated state statutes—must concern only one subject. South Dakota did not have a single-subject rule for ballot measures until 2018. Voters approved Constitutional Amendment Z on November 6, 2018. It enacted a single-subject rule for initiated constitutional amendments and legislatively referred constitutional amendments and required that constitutional amendments be presented so that multiple proposed amendments to the constitution be voted on separately. The state legislature also passed a bill in 2018—House Bill 1007—that enacted a single-subject rule for initiated state statutes.

Sixteen of the 26 states with a statewide initiative or veto referendum process have a single-subject rule.

Article XXIII of the South Dakota Constitution provides that a constitutional amendment “may amend one or more articles and related subject matter in other articles as necessary to accomplish the objectives of the amendment; however, no proposed amendment may embrace more than one subject.”

Article XXIII of the state constitution also establishes a process for constitutional conventions to propose revisions. It allows the state legislature through a three-fourths vote in both chambers or a citizen initiative approved by voters to call a convention. Convention members are then elected and can refer amendments or revisions to the voters through a majority vote.

South Dakota voters also approved a medical marijuana initiative on the November 2020 ballot. South Dakota was the first state to vote on both a recreational marijuana initiative and a medical marijuana initiative at the same election.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes: 12 states and D.C. through ballot initiatives, one state through a legislatively referred ballot measure, and two through bills approved by state legislatures and signed by governors.

The federal government has classified marijuana as an illegal controlled substance since 1970. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As of 2020, the possession, purchase, and sale of marijuana were illegal under federal law.

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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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