Eight states—Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington—are holding statewide elections this year. Rules governing who can return completed absentee/mail-in ballots vary by state. Absentee/mail-in voting is voting that does not happen in person on Election Day but instead occurs another way, usually by mail. All states allow for some form of absentee/mail-in voting.
For example, in Mississippi and 12 other states, there are state laws specifically listing the individuals who are allowed to return a voter’s completed ballot. Typically, those individuals include the voter’s family members or caregivers, U.S. postal workers, and election officials. Completed absentee/mail-in ballots must be postmarked or mailed by Election Day in Mississippi for the primary, general, and runoff elections.
In Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and 20 other states, voters are allowed to choose the person they want to return their completed ballot. Typically, this person is required to sign a statement confirming that they have authorization to return the ballot on behalf of the voter. However, in Pennsylvania, the voter is the one who signs a statement authorizing someone else to return the ballot.
Louisiana is the only state holding statewide elections this year that requires completed absentee/mail-in ballots to be received before Election Day. In order to be counted, these ballots must be received by Louisiana election officials at least one day prior to the primary and general elections. Kentucky, New Jersey, and Virginia require completed absentee/mail-in ballots to be received by each Election Day. Pennsylvania requires these ballots to be postmarked by each Election Day instead.
The table below shows the absentee/mail-in return deadlines for statewide primary and general elections this year:
On Oct. 7, 2022, the Delaware Supreme Court issued a ruling in Albence v. Biggin and Mennella, finding that a state law permitting no-excuse mail-in voting and same-day voter registration was unconstitutional. Voters may now only receive mail ballots under certain conditions and the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election will be Oct. 15.
The majority-Democratic state legislature passed the legislation allowing both no-excuse mail-in voting and same-day registration passed this summer. Legislators passed the laws after votes to put them on the ballot as a constitutional amendment failed.
In a response to the ruling, a spokesman for Gov. John Carney (D) said, “The governor’s position has been simple and consistent,. We should make it easier – not harder – for all eligible Delawareans to vote and participate in our democratic process.”
Jane Brady, Delaware Republican Party chair, said, “I am very pleased that the court recognized the language of the constitution means something and it was important that the ruling they issued was supported by law.”
On July 11, the campaign Reproductive Freedom for All submitted 753,759 signatures for the ballot initiative, which would appear on the ballot in Michigan this November.
In Michigan, the campaign Reproductive Freedom for All submitted 753,759 signatures for a ballot initiative related to abortion rights on July 11. At least 425,059 of the signatures need to be valid.
If enough signatures are verified, Michigan voters will decide on the initiative to create a constitutional right to reproductive freedom in November. The term reproductive freedom would be defined to include “prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.”
The national ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan support the proposal, and are among the top donors to the Reproductive Freedom For All PAC. The ACLU gave $851,905 in both cash and in-kind contributions, while the ACLU Fund of MI and ACLU of Michigan gave $596,318.80 and $179,996.72 in total contributions, respectively.
“The vast majority of Michiganders know that abortion is healthcare: Michigan is on the right side of history as we lead the way with Reproductive Freedom for All and intend to ask Michigan voters on November 8 to protect abortion and reproductive rights in Michigan,” said Loren Khogali, executive director of ACLU of Michigan.
The group opposing the measure, Citizens to Support MI Women and Children, received $108,187.22 in total contributions, and said they will work to convince voters to oppose the measure.
“If they end up on the ballot, we look forward to convincing any of those signers to vote no,” said Christen Pollo of Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children, “And we believe we will because even those who support abortion aren’t likely to support the things hidden in the amendment text.”
This year, there are currently four other abortion-related measures on the ballot for 2022:
California: Proposition 1 would provide that the state cannot “deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions,” including decisions to have an abortion or to choose or refuse contraceptives.
Kansas: The measure would amend the Kansas Constitution to state that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortions. The amendment would also declare that the legislature has the power to pass laws regarding abortion.
Kentucky: The measure would amend the Kentucky Constitution to state that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortions.
Montana: LR-131 would require medical care be provided to infants born alive after an induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion, or another method. The ballot measure would establish a $50,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison as maximum penalties for violating the law.
Vermont: Proposal 5 would amend the Vermont Constitution to provide that “an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course.”
If the initiative is certified for the ballot, it will join at least one other measure currently on the ballot – a constitutional amendment to change term limits requirements for state legislators and financial disclosure requirements for state executive and legislative officials.
Another campaign, Promote the Vote 2022, also submitted signatures on July 11 to qualify an initiative, which would make changes to voting policy in Michigan.
In North Dakota, a campaign behind a marijuana legalization initiative reported submitting 25,672 signatures on July 11, 2022. New Approach North Dakota Chairman Dave Owen said, “This signature drive showed us that, from Williston to Grand Forks, people all across our state are ready for responsible cannabis policy reform… We’re looking forward to all of our hard work paying off when we receive the official word that we’re on the ballot.” Of the signatures submitted, 15,582 signatures must be valid for the initiative to appear on the ballot in November.
Along with North Dakota, campaigns submitted signatures for marijuana legalization initiatives targeting the November ballot in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
The measure would legalize the personal use of cannabis for adults 21 and older and allow individuals possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to three cannabis plants. The measure would require the Department of Health and Human Services, or another department or agency designated by the state legislature, to establish an adult-use cannabis program to regulate the production and distribution of adult-use marijuana by October 1, 2023. Under the measure, the department could license seven cultivation facilities and 18 cannabis retailers. Marijuana would be taxed at the state’s 5% sales tax rate.
David Owen was also the chairman of LegalizeND, the committee that sponsored a marijuana legalization initiative that voters rejected in 2018. Owen said that the biggest difference between Measure 3 of 2018 and this initiative is that “[this initiative] is restricted, regulated, controlled, legal marijuana. This is a marijuana program that is very, very similar to the one that passed the North Dakota State House.”
Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.
In North Dakota, a total of 115 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered election years between 1986 and 2020. Fifty-seven ballot measures (49.57%) were approved, and 58 ballot measures (50.43%) were defeated.
California initiative requiring state to adopt regulations on plastic waste certified for 2022 ballot
On July 19, a citizen-initiated measure to require California to adopt regulations designed to reduce the use of single-use plastic packaging was certified for the ballot on November 8, 2022. The ballot initiative would also enact a maximum one-cent per item fee on single-use plastic packaging and foodware, with revenue from the fee distributed to CalRecycle, the California Natural Resources Agency, and local governments.
The California Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery (CalRecycle) would be responsible for implementing the regulations, including:
requiring producers to ensure that single-use plastic packaging and foodware is recyclable, reusable, refillable, or compostable by 2030;
requiring producers to reduce or eliminate single-use plastic packaging or foodware that CalRecycle determines is unnecessary for product or food item delivery;
requiring producers to reduce the amount of single-use plastic packaging and foodware sold in California by at least 25 percent by 2030; and
prohibiting food vendors from distributing expanded polystyrene food service containers.
Clean Coasts, Clean Water, Clean Streets, also known as Plastics Free California, is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. Through March 31, 2021, the campaign has raised $4.19 million. Recology, Inc. was the largest contributor, providing $3.76 million. Recology, Inc. is a business that provides commercial and residential waste, recycling, and composting services. Linda Escalante, action fund advisor for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Plastics Free California is an opportunity to increase pressure on the plastics industry to rein in the harmful environmental impacts of their single-use products, and to rebuild and support California’s recycling system.” As of July 20, Ballotpedia has not identified a campaign opposing the ballot initiative.
The campaign filed the ballot initiative in November 2019 and originally intended to place the proposal on the 2020 ballot. Eric Potashner, vice president of Recology, said the campaign had collected more than 800,000 signatures for the ballot initiative before the suggested deadline of April 21, 2020, but wanted to collect between 900,000 to 950,000. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, Potashner said, “Even if I had a million signatures, I don’t know if we’d be submitting this thing till after June anyway. I don’t know if this is the right climate for this measure right now.” Potashner also noted that the ballot initiative’s provisions would not take effect until 2030, “so pushing this issue… to 2022 doesn’t have any practical implications in what we’re trying to do.”
On August 11, 2020, the campaign filed 871,940 signatures. Counties were not required to report the number of valid signatures according to the random sample until March 9, 2021, due to a coronavirus-related executive order. On March 9, the random sample of signatures did not project that 110% or more of the signatures were valid. Therefore, a full check of the signatures was required. The deadline for completing the full check was set as April 22, 2021, but was later extended to July 19, 2021. The full count of signatures showed that 666,664 signatures were valid, exceeding the requirement of 623,212.
The ballot initiative is the fourth citizen-initiated measure certified for the ballot in California for 2022. Others include an initiative to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California; an initiative to increase the cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits; and a veto referendum to repeal the ban on flavored tobacco sales. The signature verification deadline for the 2022 ballot is 131 days before the general election, which is around June 30, 2022.
On November 2, N.J. voters will decide at least two constitutional amendments, including an amendment to expand college sports betting. The ballot measure would allow wagering on postseason college sports competitions held in N.J. and competitions in which an N.J.-based college team participates. Currently, the state constitution permits sports betting except on games held in N.J. and on games featuring N.J.-based college teams. Therefore, the ballot measure would expand sports betting to include all postseason college sports competitions, as long as a nonprofit collegiate athletic association sanctions the game.
The state Assembly approved the constitutional amendment on June 24, 2021. The state Senate approved the constitutional amendment 21 days earlier on June 3. Democrats and most (36 of 43) Republicans supported referring the constitutional amendment to the ballot.
In 2011, voters passed a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting in New Jersey, except on college sporting events involving an N.J. team or taking place in N.J. Betting is permitted in-person, through telephone, or through the internet at racetracks throughout the state and casinos in Atlantic City. The constitutional amendment, however, was blocked after the NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB sued then-Gov. Chris Christie (R) to stop the implementation of sports betting. The NCAA argued that the Sports Wagering Act violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which prohibited states from being involved in sports betting. On May 14, 2018, the case surrounding sports betting went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 7-2 that the federal government could not require states to prohibit sports betting. In June 2018, sports betting was authorized in New Jersey.
Since Christie v. NCAA, 30 states and D.C. have passed laws to legalize sports betting. In Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, and South Dakota, sports betting was legalized through ballot measures. Voters in California will decide a ballot initiative on November 8, 2022, on whether sports betting show be legalized at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks.
Between 1995 and 2020, N.J. ballots featured 35 constitutional amendments, and 91% of them were approved by voters. An average of one constitutional amendment appeared on odd-year general election ballots in New Jersey during this period. As of June 24, 2021, the legislature had referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot. The legislature can also refer general obligation bond issues. Legislation for ballot measures must be passed by August 2, 2021, for measures to appear on the ballot for November 2. Legislature passed after that date would place measures on the ballot for 2022.
On June 17, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 260, thereby removing a bond issue that was set to appear on the state’s 2021 general election ballot.
The Colorado State Legislature passed Senate Bill 260 on June 2, 2021. It included a provision to remove the bond issue that was set to appear on the 2021 ballot. The bill was passed largely along party lines with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
The bond measure was designed to issue $1.337 billion in bonds to fund statewide transportation projects with a maximum repayment cost of $1.865 billion over 20 years. The measure was originally passed in the state legislature as Senate Bill 1 in 2018. It was placed on the 2019 ballot after two 2018 citizen initiatives designed to authorize bonds for transportation projects—Proposition 109 (“Fix Our Damn Roads”) and Proposition 110 (“Let’s Go Colorado”)—were defeated.
In 2019, the measure was delayed to the 2020 ballot. Legislators had concerns that the bond issue appearing on the 2019 ballot alongside Proposition CC, which was designed to allow the state to retain revenue for transportation purposes, could cause both measures to fail. In 2020, the measure was delayed again to the 2021 ballot due to the economic concerns surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic.
The new transportation bill provides for $5.4 billion in transportation spending over 10 years. About $3.8 billion of the funds will come from new fees set to take effect in July 2022, including fees on gasoline and diesel purchases, retail deliveries, Uber and Lyft rides, electric vehicle registrations, and car rentals.
The bill was also designed to create four new state enterprises: the Nonattainment Area Air Pollution Mitigation Enterprise, the Clean Transit Enterprise, the Clean Fleet Enterprise, and the Community Access Enterprise.
Enterprises were established through the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment of 1992. Enterprises are government-owned businesses that provide goods or services for a fee or surcharge that is paid for by the individuals or entities that are purchasing the goods or services. This is in contrast to government agencies or programs that provide goods or services that are paid for by tax revenue. Enterprise revenue does not count toward the TABOR limit. TABOR limits the amount of money the state of Colorado can take in and spend. Any money collected above the TABOR limit is refunded to taxpayers unless the voters allow the state to spend it.
Proposition 117 of 2020, which was approved by voters, was designed to require statewide voter approval of new state enterprises if the enterprises’ projected or actual revenue from fees and surcharges is greater than $100 million within their first five years. Under Proposition 117, revenue collected for enterprises that were created at the same time or that serve substantially the same purpose is aggregated when calculating the application of this restriction. The four enterprises are expected to collect below the $100 million five-year limit.
The Alabama State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would require that any legislation changing the conduct of a general election must be implemented at least six months before the next affected general election.
The amendment was introduced as House Bill 388 by State Representative Jim Carns (R). On April 6, 2021, the House approved it in a vote of 75 to 24, with four not voting. The Senate passed the amendment on April 22, 2021, in a vote of 25-4 with five members absent or not voting. In the House, 74 Republicans and one Democrat voted in favor of the amendment, and 24 Democrats voted against it. In the Senate, 24 Republicans and one Democrat voted in favor of the amendment, and two Democrats and two Republicans voted against it.
Carns said, “This would keep the supermajority from passing a law that would benefit the supermajority within six months of an election.”
State Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D) said, “I don’t see the need for this bill. You all are going to have a supermajority for a while. I continue to say that we are one second away from Jim Crow.”
Republicans have held a majority in each legislative chamber since 2010.
The Alabama State Legislature has so far referred two other constitutional amendments to the 2022 ballot. One measure would amend the Alabama Constitution to allow the legislature to enumerate offenses for which bail may be denied. The measure is referred to as Aniah’s Law. The other measure would remove orphans’ business from the jurisdiction of county probate courts. County probate courts would continue to be responsible for adoptions, guardianships, and granting letters of testamentary.
On March 29, 2021, Judge Leigh Martin May, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, struck down a Georgia law requiring minor-party and unaffiliated candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives to submit petitions signed by at least 5 percent of the district’s registered voters in order to appear on the ballot. May ruled this requirement “overburdens [voters’ and candidates’] rights to vote and to associate with their preferred political party, and so it violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”
May contrasted the 5-percent signature requirement for U.S. House candidates with the 1-percent requirement for statewide candidates, “The [Georgia] General Assembly has deemed a 1% petition signature requirement adequate to guard against ballot crowding and frivolous candidacies on a statewide basis. It is not immediately clear why candidates for non-statewide office must clear a proportionally higher hurdle, the 5% petition signature requirement. [The state] has not offered any explanation for this disparity.”
May has not yet ordered a remedy. She directed the plaintiffs (the Libertarian Party of Georgia) to submit a brief within three weeks on proposed remedies. The state will then have an opportunity to respond to this proposal before May issues further guidance.
Under the 5-percent signature requirement, originally enacted in 1943, no minor-party candidate for the U.S. House has qualified for placement on the general election ballot. In 2020, minor-party or unaffiliated candidates would have needed between 19,777 and 26,539 signatures in order to qualify for the ballot (the number varies by congressional district).
It is not clear whether the state will appeal the decision.
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the two states conducting regular state-level elections in 2021—New Jersey and Virginia—have both made temporary modifications to their candidate ballot access procedures.
Ballot access procedures dictate whether a candidate or political party will appear on an election ballot. These laws are implemented and enforced at the state level. A candidate must prepare to meet ballot access requirements well in advance of primaries, caucuses, and the general election.
New Jersey: On January 25, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy (D) issued Executive Order No. 216, which provided that filing officers “allow for any candidate, delegate, recall, initiative, referendum, or other petition required to be filed prior to an election to be submitted by hand delivery and electronically.” The order also allows for petition signatures to be collected electronically.
Virginia: In January 2021, the Virginia Department of Elections settled a lawsuit over ballot access requirements for statewide candidates in 2021. As a result of the settlement, the signature requirement for statewide petitions was reduced from 10,000 to 2,000, with at least 50 signatures from each U.S. House District (as opposed to the statutory requirement of 400 signatures per district). The settlement also provided for petition signers to submit their signatures electronically.
Ballot access changes in 2020: In 2020, at least 20 states made temporary modifications to their ballot access procedures: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.