Ballot measures are an integral part of policymaking in many states. They 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 a citizen-led initiative process. Already this year, voters are poised to weigh-in on a wide range of topics, from abortion access to voting reform to adding new rights to their state constitutions. Here are the ballot measures that affect democracy and voting that have made it onto the ballot so far this year.
What’s on the primary ballot?
On June 7, voters in South Dakota will vote on Constitutional Amendment C, a measure placed on the ballot by the South Dakota Legislature, which would require at least 60% of the vote for future ballot measures that raise taxes or require the state to spend $10 million or more. Right now, ballot measures only need to win a simple majority to go into effect.
Amendment C could directly impact another ballot measure South Dakotans will vote on in November: an initiative to expand Medicaid under the aegis of the Affordable Care Act that would make South Dakota the latest in a series of conservative states to expand Medicaid through the ballot box. If Amendment C passes, the Medicaid initiative would need to get 60% of the vote to become law, a higher threshold than the current simple majority. Indeed, proponents of Medicaid expansion argue the Republican Legislature placed the amendment on the ballot solely to hinder Medicaid expansion and other ballot measures that would enact policies that Republicans oppose.
What’s on the general election ballot?
Several other states already have ballot measures confirmed for November.
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.
Arizona typically votes on several ballot measures each year, and there are already two confirmed for the November ballot that impact voting and democracy:
- The Arizona Legislature put an amendment on the ballot that would 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 enacted 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 ruled there was no requirement that initiatives deal with one subject. After the Legislature voted along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against, this amendment will appear on the ballot in November.
- The Legislature has also placed a new voter ID law on the ballot. If approved, voters will have to write their birthdate and voter identification number on their mail-in ballots. For voters who choose to vote in person, they will have to show a photo ID, like a driver’s license or passport, to vote. Previously, voters could 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, the Arkansas Legislature has also placed an amendment on the ballot that could make the initiative process harder. If approved, the amendment would require all constitutional amendments and citizen-initiated ballot measures to earn at least 60% of the vote to be approved. This 60% threshold, however, would not apply to state statutes the legislature places on the ballot as these statutes only need a simple majority. Right now, organizers in Arkansas are gathering signatures to place a measure on the ballot to create a redistricting commission — the Legislature’s amendment would make approving this measure much more difficult.
The Connecticut Legislature has asked voters to approve a new constitutional amendment 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 will be able to join the 44 states that offer 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.
This year’s ballot measures reflect GOP hostility to democracy and the impact of Trump’s “Big Lie.”
While there are still several months left for measures to make it on the ballot, what’s already on the ballot tells us a lot about the current state of American politics. Red state after red state is trying to make it harder to approve ballot measures, underscoring Republicans’ reluctance to embrace democracy when it leads to policy outcomes they do not support, like minimum wage increases or Medicaid expansion. Several of this year’s measures are also clearly rooted in Trump’s election lies, with Alabama trying to ban emergency election changes and Arizona tightening voter ID requirements. Many of the ballot measures proposed in other states reflect the same unfounded conspiracy theories, with one initiative in Michigan even proposing to decertify the 2020 election.
We’re keeping an eye on all the other ballot measures related to voting and democracy that could still make it to the ballot this year — from a ranked-choice voting measure in Nevada to an amendment bolstering the right to vote in Michigan. Stay tuned for future coverage of what might be on the ballot in your state.