TagElection policy

Top-five ranked choice initiative voting initiative certified for Nevada ballot

On July 21, 2022, the Nevada Voters First campaign announced that the Secretary of State verified 170,941 of their 266,000 submitted signatures for a top-five ranked choice voting initiative, qualifying it for the ballot this November. The campaign needed at least 135,561 valid signatures.

If approved by voters, the measure would establish an open top-five primary and ranked-choice voting for general elections in Nevada. This would apply to U.S. congressional, gubernatorial, state executive offices, and legislative elections. It would not not apply to presidential elections.

Ranked-choice voting is a system of voting in which voters rank multiple candidates by preference on their ballots rather than voting for a single candidate.

Here is how top-five ranked choice voting would work under this initiative:

  • For primary elections, the initiative would establish a top-five open primary rather than a primary held for each partisan office. Instead of nominating a Republican nominee and a Democratic nominee for the general election, the primary would allow the five candidates, regardless of party affiliation, who receive the most votes to proceed to the general election. A candidate does not need to be affiliated with a party to run in the primary election.
  • For the general election, the top five candidates from the primary would be placed on the general election ballot. The voter would then rank each candidate in order of preference. When the ballots are being counted, the registrar or county clerk would initially tabulate each cast ballot as a vote for the highest-ranked candidate. If a candidate is highest-ranked on the majority of ballots cast, that candidate is the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally would be conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins a simple majority.

Two states currently use ranked-choice voting in some federal or statewide elections. Alaska allows ranked-choice voting in both federal and statewide elections, while Maine allows ranked-choice voting in federal elections and certain statewide primaries. Hawaii has also enacted that ranked-choice voting for federal special elections would take place starting in 2023.

Sandra Cosgrove, an initiative supporter and professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada, said, “We want to have more options. We don’t want just two people moving forward from the primary to the general election. We want five people, because oftentimes when you look at the people who move forward, it’s just the people with the most money.”

Emily Persaud-Zamora, an initiative opponent and executive director of Silver State Voices, said, “Ranked choice voting makes casting a ballot more time consuming, more complicated and more confusing for voters. It will inevitably lead to increased errors. Ranked choice vote ballots are significantly more likely to be thrown out and uncounted because of those voters’ mistakes, ultimately disenfranchising more voters because of an overly complex and burdensome process.”

For an initiated constitutional amendment to pass in Nevada, voters must approve of the measure by a simple majority at two consecutive elections. In this case, the measure must pass in the 2022 and 2024 general elections.

In Nevada, citizen initiatives were approved 73% of the time and defeated 27% of the time between 1985 and 2020. Out of the 30 total initiatives that have been on the ballot during this period, 22 were approved and 8 were defeated.

Additional reading:

Nevada 2022 ballot measures

Signatures submitted for voting policy amendment in Michigan

The Promote the Vote 2022 campaign submitted 669,972 signatures to the secretary of state to qualify for the Michigan ballot this November on July 11. The measure would make multiple changes to voting and elections in Michigan, including policies around absentee voting, early voting, voter identification, and election audits.

The signature requirement to qualify for the ballot is 425,059 valid signatures—which equals 10% of the votes cast for governor in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

“Together, we’re going to ensure that every vote will count, and that Michigan’s elections will continue to be safe, secure, and fair,” said Micheal Davis, the executive director of Promote the Vote 2022.

After being filed with the secretary of state, the measure will go through a process of signature validation, which is done by the board of state canvassers using a random sampling method.

If certified for the ballot and approved by voters this November, the measure would:

  • amend the Michigan Constitution to provide voters with a right to vote without harassment, interference, or intimidation.
  • require military or overseas ballots be counted if postmarked by election day.
  • require photo ID or signed affidavit to vote.
  • provide voters with a right to use a single application to vote absentee in all elections.
  • require state-funded postage for absentee applications and ballots.
  • require one state-funded absentee ballot drop box for every municipality, or one drop box per 15,000 registered voters in larger municipalities.
  • provide that only election officials may conduct post-election audits.
  • require nine days of early in-person voting.
  • allow publicly-disclosed charitable donations and in-kind contributions to fund elections.
  • require canvass boards to certify election results based only on the official records of votes cast.

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, Reproductive Freedom for All, also submitted signatures on July 11 to qualify a constitutional amendment to provide a state constitutional right to abortion in Michigan.

Additional reading:

Michigan 2022 ballot measures

Signatures submitted for three ballot initiatives in Arizona

On July 7, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs announced that three ballot initiative campaigns submitted signatures to appear on the ballot this November. If enough signatures are verified, the initiatives will join the eight legislatively referred measures currently certified for the Arizona ballot.

To qualify an initiated state statute in Arizona, campaigns must collect a number of signatures equal to 10 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. For the 2022 general election ballot, that means 237,645 valid signatures are required.

The Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections campaign submitted 475,290 signatures for a ballot initiative that would make changes to state election and voting policies. The proposal would provide for automatic and same-day voter registration, make changes to early voting policy, and allow voters to give ballots to another person to deliver by mail, to a polling place, or to a dropbox. It would require election officials to give notice to Native American tribes regarding elections, provide that any person with a disability has a right to vote with assistance, and require that electors of a presidential election are governed by the election law in effect on January 1 of the presidential election year. It would also reduce campaign contribution limits.

“500 boxes filled in 150 days, because people believe that we should have a say what happens in our communities, and that democracy belongs to the people,” said Maria Teresa Mabry with Arizonans for Fair Elections.

Ben Petersen, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, told The Washington Post that Arizona voters will oppose the measure. “If the initiative successfully makes the ballot, voters will reject the Democrats’ radical attempt to take over Arizona elections and change the rules in their favor,” he said.

The Voters Right to Know campaign submitted 393,490 signatures to qualify an initiative to require that anyone who makes independent expenditures of certain amounts must disclose the money’s original sources, which would be defined as the people or businesses that earned the money being spent.

“I believe that Arizonans should have the right to know who’s paying for the advertisements that they get bombarded with in every election,’’ said former Attorney General Terry Goddard (D), the co-chair of the Right to Know campaign, “Right now in Arizona there are more ‘dark money’ ads, more anonymous ads being run than in any other state on a percentage of our total advertising. And that’s just wrong.’’

This is Goddard’s third attempt at placing an initiative related to campaign contributions on the ballot. In both 2018 and 2020, he led the campaigns to place an initiative on the ballot. The 2018 initiative failed to make the ballot due to not having enough verified signatures (the campaign fell short of 2,071 signatures). In 2020, Goddard announced that the signature drive was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Healthcare Rising Arizona submitted 472,296 signatures for an initiative to limit interest rates on debt accrued from healthcare services. “Each one of us is only one major illness away from medical debt,’’ said the Rev. Dr. Bill Lyons of the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, “More than two thirds of all bankruptcies are tied to medical debt from health-care costs. And 18% of Arizonans have medical bills that are past due.’’ The measure, if enacted, would limit the interest rate on medical debt to 3%, or equal to the weekly average one-year constant maturity treasury yield, whichever is less.

If the random sampling indicates that valid signatures equal to between 95 percent and 105 percent of the required number were submitted, a full check of all signatures is required. If the random sampling shows fewer signatures, the petition fails. If the random sampling shows more, the initiative is certified for the ballot.

The Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom campaign announced that it was not filing signatures for its initiative to provide that “Every individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom.” As a constitutional amendment, the initiative required 356,467 valid signatures. The campaign reported collecting more than 175,000 signatures during its 61-day signature drive.

From 1985 to 2020, 62 initiatives were placed on the ballot – 33 (53%) of them were approved by voters, while 29 (46%) of them were defeated.

Additional reading:

Arizona Campaign Finance Sources Disclosure Initiative (2022)

Arizona Interest Rate Limit on Debt from Healthcare Services and Collection Exempt Property and Earnings Increase Initiative (2022)

Arizona Election and Voting Policies Initiative (2022)

Missouri legislature acts on voter identification bill

The Missouri Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections conducted a public hearing on House Bill 1878 on April 6, 2022. The bill would modify Missouri’s voter identification requirements as follows: 

  • Voters casting absentee ballots in person would be required to present photo identification. 
  • A voter without the required photo identification would be permitted to vote by provisional ballot upon completing an affidavit. If the voter subsequently submits a valid form of identification, or an election official verifies the voter’s identity by matching the signature on the provisional ballot envelope against the signature on file, the ballot would be counted. 

The Missouri House of Representatives approved HB 1878 with a 96-35 vote on March 10, largely along party lines. One Democrat joined 95 Republicans in favor of the bill, and one Republican joined 34 Democrats in opposition. 

The Missouri General Assembly is a bicameral legislature composed of a 34-member Senate and a 163-member House of Representatives. The 2022 session convened on Jan. 5 and will adjourn on May 13. Thirteen bills and resolutions have been passed as of April 14. Ballotpedia is currently tracking 20 election-related bills in Missouri. 

Missouri is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas in the U.S. The Republican Party controls the office of governor and both chambers of the General Assembly. There is a 24-10 Republican majority in the Senate and a 108-49 majority in the House. 

New York City legislation allowing certain noncitizens to vote becomes law

On Jan. 9, 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) allowed Int. 1867-2020 to become law without his signature. Int. 1867-2020 will allow lawful permanent residents and other noncitizens authorized to work in the United States to vote in municipal elections conducted on or after Jan. 9, 2023. According to Politico, this will allow nearly a million noncitizens to vote.

The New York City Council passed the legislation by a 33-14 vote on Dec. 9, 2021. Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said he would not veto the legislation at the time of passage. Adams became mayor on Jan. 1, 2022.

This legislation made New York City the largest city in the nation to authorize voting by noncitizens. Fifteen municipalities across the country allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections as of January 2022. Eleven were located in Maryland, two were located in Vermont, one was New York City, and the other was San Francisco, California.

Additional reading:

Federal appeals court rejects claim that Georgia requirement that voters pay postage for absentee/mail-in ballots amounts to a poll tax

On Aug. 27, 2021, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit unanimously affirmed a lower court’s decision finding that a Georgia law requiring voters to pay the price of postage for returning absentee/mail-in ballots does not constitute an illegal poll tax. The plaintiffs had argued that requiring absentee/mail-in voters to pay the price of postage amounted to levying a poll tax, violating the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The defendants (state and local election officials) moved to dismiss. A U.S. District Court granted the motion to dismiss, citing “[t]he fact that any registered voter may vote in Georgia on election day without purchasing a stamp, and without undertaking any ‘extra steps’ besides showing up at the voting precinct and complying with generally applicable election regulations.” The plaintiffs then appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.

The Eleventh Circuit panel—comprising Judges Elizabeth Branch (a Donald Trump (R) appointee), Britt Grant (another Trump appointee), and Edward Carnes (a George H.W. Bush (R) appointee)—unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Branch, writing for the court, said, “While voting often involves incidental costs like transportation, parking, child care, taking time off work, and—for those who choose to vote absentee by mail—the cost of a postage stamp, those incidental costs do not mean that Georgia has imposed an unconstitutional poll tax or fee on its voters.”

In response to the ruling, Sean Young, legal director for the Georgia affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (which was involved in the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs), said, “We are disappointed in the outcome. The ACLU of Georgia will continue to protect the sacred fundamental right to vote.” Regarding the possibility of an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, Young said, “All legal options remain on the table.”

Additional reading:

0.8% of absentee/mail-in ballots rejected in 2020

In the 2020 general election, voters cast 70.6 million absentee/mail-in ballots, and election officials rejected 0.8% of them, according to data released by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The number of absentee/mail-in ballots cast in 2020 marked a 111% increase over 2016. And by comparison, absentee mail-in ballot rejection rates in 2018 and 2016 were 1.4% and 1.0%, respectively.

Absentee/mail-in ballot rejection rates decreased in 34 states between the 2016 and 2020 elections, increased in 12 states and Washington, D.C., and remained unchanged in two states.

New Mexico had the largest increase in its absentee/mail-in ballot rejection rate, with the state rejecting 0.2% of absentee/mail-in ballots in 2016 compared to 5.0% in 2020, a 4.8 percentage point increase. No other state had an increase larger than one percentage point.

Georgia saw the largest decrease in its rejection rate. In 2016, the state rejected 6.4% of absentee/mail-in ballots, decreasing to 0.4% in 2020. However, the EAC commented in its report that figures for Georgia may not necessarily include all rejected ballots. Kentucky had the second-largest decrease, dropping from 5.6% in 2016 to 0.5% in 2020.

Election officials may reject absentee/mail-in ballots for a number of reasons, ranging from a missed deadline to the use of an incorrect return envelope. The exact criteria for rejecting a ballot varies from state to state.

The most common reason for a rejected ballot in 2020 was when the signature on the ballot did not match the signature on file. According to the EAC, 32.8% of all rejected ballots were discarded for this reason. A non-matching signature was also the most common reason for rejection in 2016, accounting for 27.5% of rejections that year.

The EAC publishes its biennial Election Administration and Voting Survey in the odd year after every federal election. The EAC compiles its report based on information submitted to it by state election officials.

Reviewing government responses to the coronavirus pandemic from one year ago this week

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates.

Here are the policy changes that happened June 22-26, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, June 22, 2020

  • Federal government responses:
    • President Donald Trump (R) signed a proclamation restricting the issuance of some visas that permit immigrants to work in the United States, citing economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Visas affected included L-1s, H-1Bs, H-4s, H-2Bs, and J-1s. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that travelers arriving in their states from states with a high infection rate must quarantine for 14 days. The infection rate was based on a seven-day rolling average of the number of infections per 100,000 residents. At the time, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah met that threshold.
    • Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) announced that beginning August 1, out-of-state travelers could avoid a 14-day quarantine requirement if they presented a recent negative COVID-19 test.
  • Election changes:
    • The Tennessee Supreme Court declined to stay a lower court order that had extended absentee voting eligibility to all voters during the pandemic.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Department of Health and Human Services ended support for 13 federally-managed testing sites and encouraged states to take them over. The sites were spread across five states.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

  • Election changes:
    • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed HF2486 into law, barring the secretary of state from mailing absentee ballot request forms to all voters without approval from the state legislature. The legislation also barred county officials from decreasing the number of polling places by more than 35 percent during an election.
    • A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit declined to stay a lower court order barring Alabama election officials from enforcing witness and photo ID requirements for select voters casting absentee ballots in the July 14 runoff elections.
  • Mask requirements:
    • A statewide mask mandate requiring individuals to wear face coverings in public took effect in Nevada. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued the order June 24.

Friday, June 26, 2020 

  • Election changes:
    • The United States Supreme Court declined to reinstate a district court order that had expanded absentee voting eligibility in Texas. An appeals court stayed the district court’s order, a decision that was allowed to stand as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene.
    • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed SB4 into law, authorizing county clerks to mail absentee ballot applications automatically to registered, mailable voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Mask requirements:
    • Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued a mandate requiring people to wear a face covering in indoor and outdoor public spaces. The order did not require masks outdoors if six feet of space could be maintained between people. Children under two were exempt from the mandate. 

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery

COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates.

Here are the policy changes that happened June 15-19, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, June 15, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • New Hampshire’s statewide stay-at-home order expired on June 15. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued Emergency Order #17 on March 26. The order directed individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • Arkansas Secretary of Health Nathaniel Smith allowed the 14-day travel quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers coming from coronavirus hot spot areas—including New York and New Jersey—to expire. 
  • Election changes:
    • United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Judge Abdul Kallon issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing witness and photo ID requirements for select voters casting absentee ballots in the July 14 runoff elections.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • The Hawaii State Department of Health announced that inter-island travelers would no longer need to follow a 14-day quarantine. However, all passengers and crew would need to fill out a travel and health form before boarding.
  • Election changes:
    • As the result of a lawsuit settlement, the absentee ballot postmark deadline in Minnesota was extended to August 11 in the August 11 primary election, while the receipt deadline for absentee ballots was extended to August 13. The witness requirement for absentee ballots was suspended.
    • Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed SB 863 and HB2238 into law, requiring local election officials to deliver vote-by-mail applications for the Nov. 3 general election to all voters who cast ballots in the 2018 general election, the 2019 consolidated election, or the 2020 primary election.
  • Federal government responses:
    • Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf announced that the U.S. would keep restrictions limiting non-essential travel to or from Mexico and Canada in place through July 21.
    • In a joint press release, the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review announced that Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) hearings and in-person document services would likely resume on July 20. Under MPP, individuals seeking asylum were told to wait in Mexico until their immigration court appointment.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • The Kansas Department of Health and Environment updated its list of states with widespread community transmission to include Alabama, Arizona, and Arkansas. Kansas residents who had traveled to those states were required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • Election changes:
    • The Wisconsin Election Commission voted unanimously to send absentee/mail-in ballot applications automatically to most registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a report for nonessential businesses planning on reopening, titled “Guidance on Returning to Work.” The guidance includes recommendations for a three-phased reopening strategy.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

  • Election changes:
    • California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB860 into law, requiring county election officials to mail absentee/mail-in ballots to all registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election. On May 8, 2020, Newsom had issued an executive order to the same effect.
  • Mask requirements:
    • Newsom signed an executive order requiring individuals to wear face coverings when outside the home. California was the ninth state to enact a statewide mask requirement. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) approved Multnomah County’s application to reopen, effectively lifting the state’s stay-at-home order. Multnomah, which includes Portland, was the last county subject to Brown’s original stay-at-home order, Executive Order No. 20-12.  
  • Election changes:
    • Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D) signed H7901 into law, reducing petition signature requirements for both primary and general election congressional candidates in 2020 by half.
    • The Maryland State Board of Elections and the Green Party of Maryland reached a settlement in Maryland Green Party v. Hogan. Under the terms of the settlement, the petition signature requirement for obtaining party status for the Green and Libertarian parties was reduced from 10,000 to 5,000 signatures.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Internal Revenue Service released guidance for individuals participating in retirement plans that describes how they can take advantage of provisions in the CARES Act that related to retirement plans.
    • The Department of Defense (DoD) lifted travel restrictions on additional installations in 46 states and eight host nations, allowing military and civilian personnel to travel to those locations.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery

A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, June 8-12, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. 

Here are the policy changes that happened June 8-12, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, June 8, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced that out-of-state visitors from New Hampshire and Vermont no longer had to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
    • Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) eased the quarantine requirement on out-of-state travelers from counties across New England with similar COVID-19 caseloads to Vermont. The Agency of Commerce and Community began releasing a weekly map identifying quarantine and non-quarantine counties based on COVID-19 case rates. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) ended the state’s stay-at-home order. Murphy first issued the order on March 21. 
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Department of Defense announced that it was lifting travel restrictions on installations in 38 states, Washington D.C., and five countries (Bahrain, Belgium, Germany, the U.K., and Japan). Service members could travel between those areas without needing permission. Travel restrictions remained in place in 12 states.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

  • Travel restrictions
    • Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) announced he was extending the quarantine requirement for out-of-state and returning travelers through July 31. He first issued the two-week quarantine requirement on March 17.
  • Election changes:
    • Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed HB167 into law, extending the deadline by which a ballot-qualified party must notify the state of its presidential nominee from August 18 to August 25.

Friday, June 12, 2020

  • Election changes:
    • North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) signed HB1169 into law, reducing the witness signature requirement on completed absentee ballots from two to one.
    • California Judge Perry Parker, of the Sutter County Superior Court, issued a temporary restraining order suspending Executive Order N-67-20, which had authorized counties to consolidate polling places in the November 3 general election, provided they offer three days of early voting.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery