Tagballot measures

Maryland voters will decide on a marijuana legalization amendment in November

On April 1, the Maryland General Assembly voted to refer a constitutional amendment to voters in November that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older beginning in July 2023 and direct the state legislature to pass laws for the use, distribution, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60% vote is required in both chambers. The constitutional amendment was introduced as House Bill 1. On February 25, it passed the state House in a vote of 96-34. On April 1, the Senate passed the bill with amendments by a vote of 29-17. The House concurred with the amendments by a vote of 94-39. It does not need the governor’s signature to appear on the ballot.

On the same day, the legislature passed implementing legislation, House Bill 837, which would take effect if the amendment is passed by voters. HB 837 would legalize the personal use and possession of up to 1.5 ounces or 12 grams of concentrated cannabis for individuals 21 years of age or older. It would also legalize the possession of up to two cannabis plants. It would change the criminal penalties for persons found possessing cannabis under the age of 21. The bill would also automatically expunge convictions for conduct that would be made legal under the law, and individuals serving time for such offenses would be allowed to file for resentencing. The bill would require specific studies on the use of cannabis, the medical cannabis industry, and the adult-use cannabis industry. It would also establish the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund and the Cannabis Public Health Fund.

If approved by voters, Maryland would join 18 states and Washington, D.C., in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The amendment is the first related to marijuana to qualify for the 2022 ballot. In 2020, ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana were approved by voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. The New Jersey measure was the first legislatively referred measure to legalize recreational marijuana. The measure in South Dakota was ruled unconstitutional on February 8, 2021. The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court ruling.

Olivia Naugle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “Marylanders have long awaited a new approach to cannabis policy and the passage of these bills is a promising step forward. We applaud the legislature for taking decisive action this session to finally end the era of cannabis prohibition, a policy that is both long overdue and supported by a majority of constituents. We look forward to working with Maryland legislators on this issue moving forward.”

State Senator J. B. Jennings (R), who voted against the amendment, said, “I just don’t think it should be in the constitution.”

Maryland voters will also be deciding on three other constitutional amendments in November that would make the following changes:

  • Rename the Maryland Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland
  • Increase the amount in controversy in civil proceedings in which the right to a jury trial may be limited by legislation from $15,000 to $25,000
  • Require that state legislators reside and maintain a place of abode in the district in which they wish to represent for six months prior to the date of election

From 1996 through 2020, 33 of 36 statewide ballot measures were approved, and three were defeated.



Georgia legislature votes to refer two measures to the ballot during 2022 legislative session

Image of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Georgia State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment and a state statute to the 2022 ballot during the final days of the 2022 legislative session. The legislature adjourned from its 2022 session in the early morning hours of April 5.

The constitutional amendment, passed unanimously in both chambers, would authorize local governments “to grant temporary tax relief,” with additional details to be defined in statute, to properties that are damaged or destroyed due to a disaster and located within a nationally declared disaster area.

The constitutional amendment was introduced as House Resolution 594 (HR 594). On March 11, the Georgia House of Representatives approved the measure in a vote of 150-0, with 29 members not voting or absent. On April 1, the Georgia State Senate passed the bill by a vote of 55-0 with one member excused.

The legislature also voted to refer a state statute to the ballot that would exempt timber equipment, defined as a timber business’ equipment that is used in the production or harvest of timber, from ad valorem property taxes.

Legislation for property tax exemptions requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the Georgia State Legislature and voter approval.

The property tax exemption measure was introduced into the state Legislature as House Bill 997. On March 15, 2022, the Georgia House of Representatives voted 171-0, with eight members not voting or absent, to approve the bill. On March 30, 2022, the Georgia State Senate voted 50-1 with five members absent or not voting to approve the measure. To be certified for the ballot, the governor’s signature is required.

Two other measures were also referred to the ballot by the state legislature during its 2021 legislative session: (1) a constitutional amendment to allow the suspension of compensation of certain public officials while the individual is suspended from office for being indicted for a felony and (2) a measure to expand certain property tax exemptions provided for agricultural equipment and certain farm products.

A total of 84 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Georgia from 1996 to 2020, of which, about 85 percent (71 of 84) were approved and about 15 percent (13 of 84) were defeated.

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Missouri voters in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jefferson City to decide ballot measures on April 5

Voters will decide two ballot measures in St. Louis, three ballot measures in Kansas City, and one ballot measure in Jefferson City, Missouri on April 5.

St. Louis:

St. Louis voters will decide on a bond issue for capital improvement projects and a citizen-initiated measure concerning election law, redistricting, and conflicts of interest.

Proposition 1, the bond issue, was referred to the ballot by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The measure would authorize the issuance of $50 million in general obligation bonds for capital improvement projects, such as public safety facilities, correctional facilities, pedestrian and bicycle transportation facilities, streets, buildings, and bridges, neighborhood recreation centers, and fire houses. A two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote is required for the approval of Proposition 1.

Proposition R was placed on the ballot through a citizen initiative petition supported by the campaign Reform St. Louis. The initiative would create a redistricting commission for drawing ward boundaries; require a public vote before a proposed change to voting methods can be adopted; and require alderpersons to declare personal or financial conflicts of interest and abstain from voting when there are conflicts of interest. Currently, in St. Louis, the Board of Aldermen are responsible for approving the decennial redistricting maps. 

A campaign for a citizen-initiated measure must collect a number of signatures equal to at least 10% of registered voters at the last mayoral election. Reform St. Louis reported submitting about 39,000 signatures on Sept. 20, 2021. Board of Elections Director Benjamin Borgmeyer announced on Oct. 4, 2021 that the campaign had collected more valid signatures than the minimum requirement, which was 20,141.

Jami Cox, Policy Committee Chair of Reform St. Louis, said, “What’s at stake is making sure that the St Louis city government is operating in the most efficient and ethical way possible. If this proposition doesn’t pass, then we are looking at the redistricting process still being led by the people that are ultimately going to be running for the seats that they serve in and not having any hard outline processes in our city charter to reduce conflicts of interest.”

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said, “There is no need to have a special election costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars solely for a proposal that the Prop R group admits is untimely, would be challenged in court, would not put into effect what it states it will and would not take effect for 10 years.”

The Show Me Integrity Action Fund was registered as a political action committee (PAC) to support Proposition R. The PAC raised $134,484 according to campaign finance reports covering information through March 24, 2022. The top donor was the Center for Election Science, which provided $62,320. Vote NO Prop R was registered as a PAC to oppose Proposition R. The committee reported raising $2,635. The City of St. Louis Republican Party provided $2,453 to Vote NO Prop R.

Kansas City:

The Kansas City Council referred three measures to the April 5 ballot.

Question 1 would authorize the issuance of $750 million in revenue bonds for expanding, improving, and rehabilitating the city’s sanitary sewer system.

Question 2 would authorize the city to renew a property tax levy of $220 per $100,000 of assessed value to provide funds for emergency medical, ambulance, hospital, and public health services for 9 years.

Question 3 would remove 6.82 acres of vacant land, located on the west side of Searcy Creek Parkway between 210 Highway and Northeast 36th Street, from the park system.

Jefferson City:

The Jefferson City Council referred a bond measure to the ballot that would issue $44 million in revenue bonds for sewer system improvements, maintenance, and operations.

In 2022, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S., all state capitals, and throughout the state of California. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities.



Kansas voters to decide November ballot measure on the legislature’s power to revoke or suspend executive agency regulations

The Kansas Senate approved a constitutional amendment on March 23 that would allow the legislature to pass laws, which the governor could not veto, to revoke or suspend executive agencies’ rules and regulations. The state House passed the amendment on Feb. 21. With approval in the House and Senate, voters will decide the proposal at the general election on Nov. 8, 2022.

Currently, the legislature can pass laws to revoke or suspend executive agencies’ rules and regulations. However, the governor can veto these bills. Legislators can override vetos with two-thirds majorities in each legislative chamber.

Legislative Democrats and Republicans were divided on the constitutional amendment. Most Democrats (47 of 50) voted against sending the proposal to the ballot. Most Republicans (110 of 115) voted to put the question before voters. State Sen. Kellie Warren (R-11) said, “This constitutional amendment restores the checks and balances to the Legislature. That’s where the policy-making belongs.”

State Rep. John Carmichael (D-92) said, “We need to have balance in our government so that there is a give-and-take, no matter if there’s a Republican governor or a Democratic governor. This constitutional amendment turns that balance on its head.”

In Kansas, constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. In the House, 84 votes were required, and the amendment received 85. In the Senate, 27 votes were required, and that threshold was met with 27 votes.

Constitutional amendments concerning the legislature’s power over administrative regulations have been more common in 2021 and 2022 than during the prior five years. In November, West Virginians will vote on a constitutional amendment on the legislature’s power over the State Board of Education’s rules and policies. In 2021, Pennsylvania voters approved a pair of constitutional amendments regarding the legislature’s ability to extend or terminate emergency declarations.

The Kansas constitutional amendment is one of two that voters will decide in the state this year. Kansans will vote on August 2 on a constitutional amendment to declare that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion.

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North Dakota term limits initiative fails to qualify for November ballot

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger (R) declared that an initiative sponsored by North Dakota for Term Limits failed to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative would have enacted term limits in North Dakota for the governor and state legislators.

The measure would have limited the governor to serving two terms and would have limited state legislators to serving eight years in the state House and eight years in the state Senate. A member of the House or Senate would not have been able to serve a term or remaining portion of a term if it would have caused the legislator to have served a cumulative time of more than eight years in the chamber. The measure would have only applied to individuals elected after the amendment was approved. The measure would have provided that the provisions of the amendment could only be amended by citizen initiative petitions and not by the state legislature.

In North Dakota, the governor and lawmakers each serve four-year terms, with no limit on the number of terms that may be served. According to the Associated Press, “more than 60 current lawmakers have served eight or more years. Two Republicans, Sen. Ray Holmberg, of Grand Forks, and Rep. Bob Martinson, of Bismarck, have each served more than 40 years.” As of 2022, 15 states had term limits on state legislators: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. As of 2022, North Dakota was one of 14 states that did not limit governors’ terms.

The initiative was filed by Jared Hendrix, Chairman of the North Dakota District 38 Republican Party, on July 1, 2021. It was approved for signature gathering on July 16, 2021. To qualify for the ballot, 31,164 valid signatures were required. Sponsors submitted 46,366 signatures on Feb. 15, 2022. On March 22, 2022, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said that proponents did not submit a sufficient number of valid signatures and that the measure would not appear on the ballot. Jaeger found that of the 46,366 signatures submitted, 17,625 (38%) were valid and 29,101 (63%) were invalid. Signatures were invalidated for notary errors; address, full name, and date omissions; duplicate signatures; and for petitions signed by those with out-of-state addresses. The Secretary of State’s Office stated they suspected signatures of being forged and that petition circulators were being paid per signature, which is against state law, and would forward their findings to the state attorney general for potential charges.

North Dakota allows citizen-initiated measures in the form of initiated state statutes, initiated constitutional amendments, and veto referendums. The completed petition must be submitted at least 120 days prior to the election. Each initiative has its own unique deadline of one year after it was approved to circulate. One other initiative has been cleared for signature gathering in North Dakota, which would require a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote to adopt citizen-initiated and legislatively referred constitutional amendments and would limit constitutional amendments to concern a single subject. To qualify for the ballot, 31,164 valid signatures must be submitted by April 22, 2022.

A total of 53 measures appeared on statewide ballots in North Dakota from 2000 to 2020. From 2000 to 2020, the number of measures on statewide ballots during even-numbered years ranged from two to nine. Between 2000 and 2020, an average of five measures appeared on the ballot in North Dakota during even-numbered election years. Between 2000 and 2020, 58.49% (31 of 53) of the total number of measures that appeared on the statewide ballot were approved and 41.51% (22 of 53) were defeated.

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Alabama legislature refers measure to the November ballot to authorize the code commissioner to incorporate voter-approved constitutional amendments appearing on the May 24 and Nov. 8 elections into the new state constitution if ratified by voters

In November, Alabama voters will be asked to approve an updated and recompiled state constitution, titled the Alabama Constitution of 2022. Voters will also decide a ballot measure that would authorize the Code Commissioner to incorporate constitutional amendments that are approved at the elections on May 24 and November 8 into the Alabama Constitution of 2022 if voters approve the new constitution.

On March 17, the Alabama State Legislature referred the constitutional amendment to the ballot. The ballot measure would also provide that court decisions relating to provisions of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 remain valid in the Alabama Constitution of 2022 as long as the relevant sections have not been substantively changed in the new constitution.

The proposed Constitution of Alabama 2022 was drafted following voter approval of Amendment 4 in 2020. Amendment 4 authorized the Alabama State Legislature—during the 2022 regular state legislative session—to recompile the Alabama Constitution and provide for its ratification. Voters approved Amendment 4 by a vote of 67% to 33%. Amendment 4 provided for the Alabama Constitution to be updated in the following ways, making no other substantive changes:

*arranging it in proper articles, parts, and sections;

*removing all racist language;

*deleting duplicative and repealed provisions;

*consolidating provisions regarding economic development; and

*arranging all local amendments by county of application.

An example of language that was set to be removed includes Section 256 of Article XIV, which states, “Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.”

Alabama has had six constitutions, the first of which was adopted in 1819. Other constitutions include those from the years 1861, 1865, 1868, and 1875. The current constitution of the state is the Alabama Constitution of 1901. As of the beginning of 2021, the current constitution had been amended 977 times, including constitutional amendments of local applicability – amendments that affect a single county but are located in the state constitution.

The average length of a state constitution is about 39,000 words (compared to 7,591 words for the U.S. Constitution including its amendments). The longest state governing document is the Alabama Constitution, which has approximately 389,000 words. That document is also the most amended state constitution in the United States. The average state constitution has been amended about 115 times. The oldest state constitution still in effect is the Massachusetts Constitution, which took effect in 1780. The newest is the Rhode Island Constitution, which was ratified by voters in 1986 after a constitutional convention was held. The Rhode Island question proposed deleting superseded language and reorganizing the state’s 1843 Constitution. The Georgia Constitution is the next youngest and was ratified in 1983.

In the 20-year period from 2000 to 2020, total of 88 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama, of which, 69 were approved (78.41%), and 22 were defeated (21.59%).

As of March 22, 2022, eight statewide ballot measures were certified for the 2022 ballot in Alabama. Six measures will be on the November 8 ballot. One measure will be on the May 24 ballot. The state legislature may refer additional measures to the 2022 ballot during the 2022 legislative session, which was set to run until April 7, 2022. Both houses of the Alabama State Legislature are required to pass a proposed constitutional amendment by a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote in order to refer it to the statewide ballot. If the amendment is approved by a simple majority of voters, it becomes part of the state constitution.

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Voters approve all 15 ballot measures at the town meeting election in Montpelier, Vermont

Ballotpedia covered 15 local ballot measure in Montpelier, Vermont, on March 1, 2022. Voters approved all 15 measures at the city’s town meeting election.

The voter-approved ballot measures were designed to do the following:

*authorize $30,000 to fund the 2022-2023 operating budget of the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority (CVPSA) and the CVPSA’s Telecommunications Improvement and Acquisition Plan;

*authorize spending $10,656,060 for the payment of debts, expenses, and taxes in the 2022-2023 fiscal year;

*authorize spending $4,080 to compensate the mayor in 2022-2023;

*authorize spending $12,240 for city council member compensation to pay each member $2,040 for the 2022-2023 fiscal year;

*authorize Montpelier to issue up to $7.2 million in bonds to fund the reconstruction of East State Street;

*authorize Montpelier to issue $1.815 million to fund the purchase of a pellet boiler at the Public Works Garage, street light replacements, and intersection improvements at Barre and Main Street, a retaining wall on Marvin Street, Confluence River Park, and other highway infrastructure projects, with repayment over a term of 20 years;

*authorize Montpelier to issue $2 million in bonds for the purchase of approximately 138 acres of land, formerly the Elks Club;

*authorize the city to issue $16.4 million in bonds for sewer treatment systems;

*authorize the city to levy an additional property tax of $51.5 per $100,000 in assessed property value on non-residential property in Montpelier’s Designated Downtown to fund downtown streetscaping and marketing;

*authorize spending $395,696 for the Kellogg-Hubbard Library for the 2022-2023 fiscal year;

*authorize spending $23,500 for the Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice;

*adopt an annual budget of $26,938,821 for the Montpelier Roxbury School District’s 2022-2023 fiscal year, amounting to an estimated $17,829.69 per equalized pupil;

*authorize spending $260,000 to supplement the Capital Reserve Fund in the 2022-2023 fiscal year;

*authorize spending $9,700 for the compensation of the school board of directors for the 2022-2023 fiscal year; and

*authorize the school board of directors to hold any audited fund balance as of June 30, 2022, to be spent on district operations under the control of the board.

In 2022, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also providing information on all local measures in California, as well as statewide ballot measures in the 50 states. Ballotpedia’s 2022 local ballot measure coverage includes Vermont’s state capital, Montpelier.



When party control of legislative chambers flips, constitutional amendments requiring votes in two sessions are more often defeated

Thirteen states have multi-year constitutional amendment processes that involve legislatures passing amendments in two successive sessions before they go on the ballot. Since 2010, 66% (60 of 91) of the amendments that passed during the first session in these states were also passed in the second. When partisan control of a legislative chamber changes between two successive legislative sessions, constitutional amendments often fail to receive a vote during the second session. From 2010 to 2022, 79% (11 of 14) of constitutional amendments in two-session requirement states were defeated or died in committee following a change in party control. Virginia, where Republicans took control of the House following the 2021 election, became the most recent example of this pattern with House committee votes on March 1.

The Virginia State Legislature passed two constitutional amendments in 2021. One would have repealed the state constitution’s language defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The other constitutional amendment would have restored voting rights to persons convicted of a felony after they have completed their sentence. Both constitutional amendments received unanimous support from legislative Democrats. Six House Republicans voted for the marriage amendment and two for the voting rights restoration amendment in 2021.

At the election on November 2, 2021, Republicans went from a 45-member minority to a 52-member majority in the 100-seat House of Delegates. Democrats flipped the state Senate in 2019 and still have control during the 2022 legislative session. State Senate elections occur at four-year intervals.

On February 15, 2022, the Democratic-controlled Senate gave second-session approval to both constitutional amendments approved in 2021. Four Senate Republicans joined Democrats in backing the marriage amendment, and three supported the voting rights restoration amendment. On March 1, a Republican-controlled House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee voted down both of the amendments, preventing them from moving forward. The votes were 6-4 along party lines.

Of the states with two-session vote requirements for constitutional amendments, only the Nevada and Virginia legislatures have flipped twice since 2010. In Nevada, the legislature flipped from Democratic- to Republican-controlled in 2014 and then back to Democratic-controlled in 2016. Democrats passed two constitutional amendments in 2013 — including an amendment to repeal a definition-of-marriage provision like in Virginia last year — that did not receive votes after Republicans became the majority. When Democrats retook the legislature in 2016, four Republican-backed constitutional amendments were stopped in committee, including a constitutional right to hunt and fish and a two-thirds vote requirement for revenue increases.

During the 2017 legislative session, Nevada Democrats, along with eight Republicans, again passed the marriage amendment. This time, however, Democrats retained control of the legislature in 2018 and passed the amendment during the second session in 2019. Voters approved the amendment at the 2020 general election.

States have different requirements for legislatures to propose amendments to their constitutions. Some require votes at one session, others at two. States may require a simple majority of legislators, a 60% majority, a two-thirds majority, or a 75% majority to pass a constitutional amendment. Of the 13 states with a two-session process legislative referral, four states allow legislators to approve amendments in one session by a higher vote threshold. In South Carolina, the legislature can put an amendment on the ballot through a vote in one session but must vote on the amendment again in another session if voters approve it. With the exception of Delaware, all states require constitutional amendments to go before voters for approval or rejection. Eighteen states have processes for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments.

You can learn more about how your state’s constitution is amended at Ballotpedia.org.

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Arizona Legislature sends measure on voter identification requirements for mail-in ballots and in-person voting to Nov. 8 ballot

On Nov. 8, Arizona voters will decide a measure making multiple changes to Arizona’s voter identification and mail-in ballot policies.

The measure would require a voter to include their date of birth and voter identification number for mail-in ballots, in addition to the existing signature requirement. Election officials would check the dates of birth and identification numbers, which would be concealed within the vote-by-mail envelope, against voter registration records. Any of the following could be used as the voter identification number for mail-in ballots under the measure:

  • a driver’s license or non-operating identification license number,
  • the last four digits of a social security number, or
  • a unique identifying number provided by the secretary of state for voter registration purposes.

Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission estimated that 89% of voters cast 2020 ballots using early voting, mail-in ballots.

The measure would also eliminate the existing alternative to photo ID for in-person voting that allows a voter to present two documents with their name and address but no photograph.

The legislature must pass a legislatively referred statute such as SCR 1012 by a simple majority of all members in each chamber. On Feb. 24, the state Senate approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 1012 (SCR 1012) proposing this measure by a vote of 16-12, with two not voting. Sixteen votes were required in the Senate. On Feb. 28, the state House approved SCR 1012 by a vote of 31-26, with three not voting. Thirty-one votes were required in the House. Votes in both chambers were along party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats against.

The legislatively referred state statute is similar to a 2022 initiative filed by Arizonans for Voter ID, a group sponsored by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. The initiative was also backed by Sen. J.D. Mesnard, the sponsor of SCR 1012, and other Republicans in the legislature. Mesnard sponsored a similar bill in 2021, but it failed in the House by two votes, after which Arizonans for Voter ID filed the citizen initiative.

Rep. John Kavanagh (R) said, concerning the existing mail-in system that requires the voter’s signature, that examples of voters’ signatures are too readily available. Kavanagh stated, “This bill closes a weak link in the security chain of our election system.”

Rep. Mitzi Epstein (D) responded to the resolution, saying, “This is not about voter ID, because we all agree voter ID works in Arizona. Voter ID is fine. We respect and appreciate voter ID laws. But this, this is barrier after hoop after lava pit after problem after more barriers. This is voter suppression.”

SCR 1012 would amend certain provisions of Proposition 200, a citizen initiative Arizona voters approved in 2004. In Arizona, the legislature cannot amend or repeal a citizen initiative without putting the measure on the ballot for voter approval. California is the only other state besides Arizona that prohibits the legislature from amending or repealing citizen initiatives without voter approval.

SCR 1012 was the fifth statewide measure certified for Arizona’s 2022 ballot. The other four measures concern income taxes, in-state tuition for non-citizens, and changes to the state’s initiative process. One was put on the ballot through a veto referendum signature petition, and the legislature put the other three on the ballot.

The measure was the 70th statewide measure certified for 2022 ballots across 31 states. It is currently the only certified ballot measure that addresses voter identification laws. Additionally, voter ID-related initiatives have been approved for signature gathering in California, Michigan, Nebraska, and Nevada.

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Alabamans to vote in November on ratifying a recompiled state constitution

Along with four constitutional amendments, Alabama voters will be asked to ratify an updated and recompiled state constitution on Nov. 8. The proposed 2022 Constitution of Alabama was drafted by the state legislature following voter approval of Amendment 4 in 2020. Amendment 4 authorized the Alabama State Legislature— during the 2022 regular state legislative session— to recompile the Alabama Constitution and provide for its ratification. Voters approved Amendment 4 by a vote of 67% to 33%.

Changes to the constitution were drafted to include:

  • arranging it in proper articles, parts, and sections;
  • removing all racist language;
  • deleting duplicative and repealed provisions;
  • consolidating provisions regarding economic development; and
  • arranging all local amendments by county of application.

An example of language that was set to be removed includes Section 256 of Article XIV, which states, “Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.”

House Joint Resolution 52 referring the ratification question to the ballot was approved via a voice vote in the House on February 16, 2022, and in the Senate on February 22, 2022. The full text of the new recompiled constitution is set to be published on the public websites of the Alabama Secretary of State and the Alabama State Legislature.

Alabama has had six constitutions, the first of which was adopted in 1819. Other constitutions include those from the years 1861, 1865, 1868, and 1875. The current constitution of the state is the Alabama Constitution of 1901. As of the beginning of 2021, the current constitution had been amended 977 times, including constitutional amendments of local applicability – amendments that affect a single county but are located in the state constitution.

Prior to the passage of Amendment 3 of 2016, local constitutional amendments were voted on by the entire state of Alabama, unless a three-fifths vote of the legislature and a unanimous vote of a constitutional amendment commission determined that the amendment strictly affected or applied to only one county or jurisdiction. Thus, statewide electors often voted on issues that primarily, but not entirely, affected other counties or jurisdictions. After the passage of Amendment 3, local constitutional amendments appear only before the voters in that particular jurisdiction. Amendments to the Alabama Constitution are tacked on at the end and arranged by numbers, not counties. The updated constitution was set to recompile the local amendments to be organized by county.

The average length of a state constitution is about 39,000 words (compared to 7,591 words for the U.S. Constitution including its amendments). The longest state governing document is the Alabama Constitution, which has approximately 389,000 words. That document is also the most amended state constitution in the United States. The average state constitution has been amended about 115 times. The oldest state constitution still in effect is the Massachusetts Constitution, which took effect in 1780. The newest is the Rhode Island Constitution, which was ratified by voters in 1986 after a constitutional convention was held. The Rhode Island question proposed deleting superseded language and reorganizing the state’s 1843 Constitution. The Georgia Constitution is the next youngest and was ratified in 1983.

The state legislature also referred a constitutional amendment to the May 24 ballot that would authorize $85 million in bonds to be issued for improving, renovating, and maintaining public historical sites and state parks, excluding the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury.

In the 20-year period from 2000 to 2020, total of 88 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama, of which, 69 were approved (78.41%), and 22 were defeated (21.59%).

The state legislature may refer additional measures to the 2022 ballot. As of Feb. 26, two potential constitutional amendments had been passed in one chamber of the state legislature and would appear on the ballot if passed in the second chamber. Both houses of the Alabama State Legislature are required to pass a proposed constitutional amendment by a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote in order to refer it to the statewide ballot. If the amendment is approved by a simple majority of voters, it becomes part of the state constitution.

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