By Sarah E. Hunt, Esq., Manager, State Issues and Ethics Officer
This election cycle’s ballot measure trends are coming into crystal focus as 38 states have already certified just over 100 ballot measures for the 2014 primary and general election ballots. Measures may continue to earn coveted ballot slots throughout the summer, as petitioners in several jurisdictions can still gather signatures in hopes of making this November’s ballot.
We already know roughly how many measures will make the fall ballot and which topics they will address. Current trends indicate the majority of direct democracy states will have between three and eight statewide ballot questions this year. A few states are experiencing a significant volume of ballot measures. Louisiana voters, for example, will settle 14 ballot questions in November, by far the most of any state.
The issues of marijuana, education and taxes will once again make a strong showing across the country. Issues surprisingly absent this cycle include gambling and tort reform. Only one state, Kansas, is currently slated to vote on a gaming ballot question, and only California has certified a civil justice system ballot question.
Here is an overview of which states are voting on trending or unique ballot questions:
Minimum Wage: Alaska and South Dakota voters will decide whether or not their states ought to increase minimum wage rates. California, Arkansas, Nebraska, Illinois, District of Columbia and Michigan have pending ballot measures, although the minimum wage is not expected to make the California ballot because the campaign was ended when it failed to garner labor support.
Judiciary: Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Louisiana, Nevada and Florida will consider ballot questions on the judiciary, with topics including mandatory retirement ages, judicial selection, judicial responsibilities, and the creation of new courts.
Education: Alabama will vote on rules for local school board expenditures, Georgia will consider whether or not to extend property tax exemptions to private operators of dormitories on state college campuses, North Dakota will vote on re-organizing the State Board of Higher Education, and Oregon and Hawaii will consider school funding.
Marijuana: Marijuana advocates continue their campaign with a decriminalization measure on the ballot in Alaska and a medical marijuana measure on the ballot in Florida. Petitioners are still gathering signatures for measures in Oregon and the District of Columbia, and there was a failed campaign to put a marijuana question on the 2014 Montana ballot. In an election 2016 preview, activists in Arizona, California, and Maine are laying the groundwork to put pro-pot measures on the ballot in those states next cycle.
Fiscal: In August, Alaska will vote on the repeal of tax incentives for the oil industry. California voters will consider whether or not to increase the state’s rainy day fund. Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee will vote on tax matters, with the majority of these ballot questions limiting the ability of the government to levy or increase certain taxes.
Other: New York will vote on whether or not to create an independent redistricting commission. Arkansas voters will consider a legislative referral, HJ 1009, a comprehensive legislative ethics reform referral that will ban corporate campaign contributions. Oregon will have a referendum on a bill passed by the legislature that creates a pathway to drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants.
You can track hotly contested statewide ballot questions on our Stateside Associates 2014 Election website. Our State Ballot Initiatives FactPad insert is an additional resource Stateside Associates offers to help you keep up with direct democracy across the states. I welcome your thoughts and questions about the state of direct democracy this election year at email@example.com.
Sarah E. Hunt, Esq. is Manager, State Issues and Ethics Officer at Stateside Associates. She works with clients on a wide range of state and local government affairs issues. Sarah also helps Stateside and its clients navigate lobbying ethics, comply with campaign finance laws, and develop political giving strategies. She practiced campaign finance, election law, and non-profit management with a boutique political law firm for several years prior to joining Stateside Associates.