Ballot Measures Roundup
In 11 states this year, voters will have a say in how their state’s elections will work, with numerous democracy-related measures on the ballot in the midterm elections. Ballot measures are an integral part of policymaking in many states that give citizens an opportunity to vote directly on proposed constitutional amendments and state laws. Measures can either be placed on the ballot directly by a state legislature or (in some states) they can qualify directly for the ballot through the citizen-led initiative process. In May, we highlighted some of the ballot measures affecting democracy and voting that had qualified this year’s midterms, and several more have made it on since then. Here, we break down all the measures affecting democracy that will appear on the ballot. Notably, voters in several states will have the opportunity to defeat Republican-backed measures to make the ballot measure process more difficult.
One state has already defeated a Republican proposal that would have made enacting ballot measures more difficult. On June 7, voters in South Dakota defeated Constitutional Amendment C, a measure placed on the ballot by the Legislature, which would have placed a 60% threshold on future ballot measures that raise taxes or require the state to spend at least $10 million.
Voters in Alabama have been asked by the Legislature to approve a new amendment to the Alabama Constitution that would prohibit changes to election laws within six months of an election. The amendment would prevent the kind of changes Alabama and many states made to election laws during the pandemic, and could inhibit the state’s ability to adapt to a future crisis.
Placed on the ballot by the Arizona Legislature, Proposition 128 would give the Legislature the ability to amend or repeal ballot measures if any part of them is invalidated by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, the Legislature is blocked from changing voter-approved ballot measures in most cases. If passed, the Legislature would have a free hand to change any part of a measure, even if only one part is invalidated, making it easier for the Legislature to override the will of Arizona voters. The Legislature voted along party lines —with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against — to place the amendment on the ballot.
Proposition 129 would amend the Arizona Constitution to change the state’s ballot initiative process by requiring initiatives to embrace a single subject. The impetus for the amendment likely stems from Proposition 206, a 2016 measure that made changes to minimum wage and paid sick leave. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce challenged Proposition 206 for covering two subjects, but the Arizona Supreme Court subsequently ruled there was no requirement that initiatives deal with one subject. Like with Proposition 128, the Legislature voted along party lines to place it on the ballot.
Proposition 132 would make the ballot measure process in Arizona more difficult by amending the state Constitution to require 60% of the vote to approve a ballot measure that levies a tax or fee. Like the other two propositions affecting the ballot measure process, the Legislature voted along party lines to add Proposition 132 to the ballot. Opponents of the measure noted numerous policy changes enacted in recent years, like increased education funding, would have been defeated had the 60% requirement been in effect.
The Legislature also placed Proposition 309, a new voter ID requirement, on the ballot. If approved, voters would have to write their birthdate and voter identification number on their mail-in ballots. For voters who choose to vote in person, they would have to show a photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, to vote. Currently, voters can show two forms of non-photo ID, such as a utility bill or vehicle registration, and still vote in-person. Again, all Democrats in the Arizona Legislature opposed the measure while all Republicans supported it.
Similar to South Dakota and Arizona, the Arkansas Legislature has placed Issue 2 on the ballot to make the initiative process harder. If approved, Issue 2 would amend the state constitution to require all constitutional amendments and citizen-led ballot measures to earn at least 60% of the vote to be approved. This threshold, however, would not apply to state statutes placed on the ballot by the Legislature itself. This measure would make it harder for Arkansas voters to enact popular, liberal reforms like the legalization of medical marijuana over the opposition of the Republican-controlled Legislature.
The Connecticut Legislature placed a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would allow the state to enact in-person early voting. Currently, the Connecticut Constitution prevents voting in-person before Election Day. If the amendment is approved by voters, Connecticut would be able to join the 44 states that offer early in-person voting before Election Day.
Floridians will vote on Amendment 2, which, if approved, would abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. The Commission is a unique body that meets every 20 years to consider changes to Florida’s constitution. During its meetings, the Commission can place amendments directly on the ballot for Floridians to consider without the involvement of the Legislature or governor. The last time the Commission met in 2017, it placed eight amendments on the ballot. Opponents of the commission, largely Republicans, argue it has too much power, while supporters argue it can be reformed to work better.
Since Louisiana has an all-party jungle primary on Nov. 8, voters will have to wait until the Dec. 10 runoff to vote on Amendment 1. Like Issue 2 in Ohio, Amendment 1 would amend the Louisiana Constitution to clarify that anyone who is not a citizen of the United States will be prohibited from voting or registering to vote in the state. The Republican sponsor of the amendment, state Rep. Debbie Villio (R), argued that the measure was necessary in light of a recent New York City law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections. Like Ohio, noncitizens aren’t currently allowed to vote anywhere in Louisiana. Opponents of the measure contend that it’s unnecessary and will only fuel false narratives about noncitizens voting in American elections.
Voters in Michigan will have the opportunity to approve a package of pro-voting reforms proposed by Michiganders through the ballot initiative process — but only because the state Supreme Court stepped in to add it to the ballot after the state canvassing board deadlocked. Proposal 2 would:
- Establish in-person early voting;
- Add a “fundamental right to vote” to the state constitution;
- Enshrine the state’s current photo ID and signature matching rules — preventing Republicans from enacting stricter ones;
- Allow voters to opt to receive absentee ballots for all future elections;
- Clarify audit procedures;
- Implement rules for drop boxes and ballot tracking;
- Limit the ability of canvassing boards to block certification of election results;
- Permit election officials to accept private funding and
- Require counties to accept ballots received from UOCAVA voters within six days of the election.
Initiative 432, an initiative proposed by voters, would amend the Nebraska Constitution to require all voters to present a photo ID to vote. The kinds of identification that qualify for voting would be determined at a later time by the Nebraska Legislature — meaning the state could choose to designate a highly restrictive list of IDs and prevent otherwise eligible voters from voting. Voter ID laws often reduce the turnout among disadvantaged voters, and if Nebraskans choose to pass this amendment, it would likely make it harder to vote and turnout could subsequently suffer.
Nevada voters have the opportunity to adopt an entirely new way to elect politicians by approving the ballot initiative Question 3. The proposal would institute an open top-five primary and a ranked-choice general election. Instead of partisan primaries, the state would hold a single primary open to all voters in which the top five candidates would advance to the general election. Then, during the general election, voters would rank the five candidates in order of preference. If adopted, Nevada would join a growing number of jurisdictions using ranked-choice voting in some form, like Alaska, Maine and New York City.
Issue 2 would amend the Ohio Constitution to prohibit certain individuals from voting in state or local elections. Currently, the Ohio Constitution says that “Every citizen of the United States, of the age of eighteen, who has been a resident of the state, county, township, or ward…has the qualifications of an elector and is entitled to vote at all elections.” If approved, Issue 2 would change the clause to read “Only a citizen…,” a change that would prohibit local governments from extending the right to vote to immigrants. While no town in Ohio currently allows noncitizens to vote, a handful of localities in other states do. Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) argues that granting noncitizens the right to vote “undermin[es] the value of what it means to be an American.” Democrats note that the measure would not change anything about who is currently allowed to vote in Ohio and argue that “it’s an effort to promote a narrative that our elections are faulty.”
Oregon’s Measure 113, if passed by voters, would prevent legislators with more than 10 unexcused absences from running for reelection. The measure is designed to thwart the walkouts that state Republicans have used to block the Democratic majority from advancing its policies. In Oregon, two-thirds of state legislators must be present for a vote to take place, giving the Republican minority an effective tool to block legislation — not unlike the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Rather than let a minority hijack the legislative process through procedural hijinks, Oregon voters have an opportunity to ensure the policies supported by the majority are passed into law.
Thanks to these ballot measures, democracy and voting will literally be on the ballot in several states. But Americans will be voting on much more — several states will vote on abortion access, while others have measures relating to marijuana legalization, health care, taxation and even adding rights to the state constitution. The breadth of measures being voted on this year underscores the importance of the ballot measure process to American democracy. Wondering what else is on the ballot in your state? A full list can be found here.