DemDaily: Moving Measures in the States. Issues on the Ballot!

October 6, 2020

Voters in 32 states will decide 120 statewide ballot measures on November 3, 2020.

Ballot initiatives are an integral part of our electoral process - as a form of direct democracy and as an avenue for checking legislative powers.

This year, when voter turnout will be critical to the outcome of the race for the White House, and control of the US Senate and key legislatures throughout the country, major support or opposition to a ballot measure can be a critical factor in helping drive voters to the polls.

Ballot Initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can bring about a public vote on a proposed statute or constitutional amendment. 


Initiatives In Your State (Ballotpedia/CLICK)

Types of Ballot Initiatives
*  Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendment (LRCA) or State Statute (LRSS): Allows a state legislature to put a constitutional amendment or state statute up for popular vote.

* Citizen Initiated Constitutional Amendment (CICA) or State Statute (CISS): Also called a direct initiative, it is when a measure is put directly to a popular vote after being submitted by citizen petition.

* Indirect Initiated Constitutional Amendment (IndICA) or State Statute (IndISS): A measure is first referred to the legislature, and then only put to a popular vote if not enacted by the legislature.

Veto Referendum (VR), also called citizen referendum, allows voters to approve or repeal an act of their state's legislature through citizen petition.  There are also Bond Issues (BI), Advisory Questions (AQ) and Automatic Ballot Referrals (ABR).

Prop 21 on rent control is one of 12 California initiatives. Learn more

The concept of ballot initiatives was developed by the Populist Party in the 1890s, which was strongest throughout the South and the West, and where initiatives are still most prevalent today.

The first formal initiative originated in Oregon in 1902 as an attempt to expand individual voting rights and the ability to hold legislators accountable. The "Oregon System" spread to other states, and became one of the signature reforms of the Progressive Era, used to recall elected officials and stage referenda on controversial new legislation.

Ballot Power
Today, twenty-six states and DC grant their citizens amendment, statute and/or veto referendum power through the initiative process. All US states, with the exception of Delaware, allow legislatively-referred statute or constitutional amendments.

According to Ballotpedia, committees registered to support or oppose 2020 statewide measures have so far reported a combined total of $803.7 million in contributions and $512.9 million in expenditures.

Major issues on the ballot in 2020 include eighteen measures in 14 states on elections policy, 19 measures in 12 states addressing tax-related policies, and marijuana-related initiatives in six states.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources:  Ballotpedia, Wikipedia
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