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Crystal Ball Senior Columnist Louis Jacobson is analyzing several categories of state-level races for us this cycle. Today, he is looking at a variety of ballot measures that voters across the country will weigh in on. He has also analyzed contests for attorney general, secretary of state, state legislature, and state supreme court.
— The Editors
KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE
— As happens every 2 years, voters across the country find a variety of ballot measures to vote on in 2022.
— The most closely watched issues will include abortion, with 3 states voting on protecting abortion rights and 2 others considering whether to impose limitations on abortion; election administration, including efforts to both expand and tighten voting rules; policy toward immigrants; and further expansion of legalized recreational marijuana.
2022’s key ballot issues
As happens every 2 years, voters across the country find a vast array of ballot measures to vote on in 2022.
What follows is our rundown of the measures on voters’ ballots this year, based on tracking by Ballotpedia, our own research, and interviews with political experts in many of these states.
The most closely watched issues will include abortion, with 3 states voting on protecting abortion rights and 2 others considering whether to allow for limitations on abortion; election administration, including efforts to both expand and tighten voting rules; policy toward immigrants; and further expansion of legalized recreational marijuana.
This roundup does not address every single issue on state ballots this year, but it does cover many of them (and the ones we found to be the most interesting from a national perspective). We’ve grouped them by topic.
In 5 states, voters will be asked to approve measures addressing abortion. In 3 states — California, Michigan, and Vermont — the measures would enact policies sought by abortion-rights advocates. In 2 others, Kentucky and Montana, the measures seek to create or allow for limitations on abortion.
California’s Proposition 1, which was placed on the ballot by the Democratic-controlled legislature, would enshrine reproductive rights, including abortion and contraception, in the state constitution. Abortion rights are already secure in deep-blue California, and the measure is expected to pass easily: A Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 69% of likely voters back the measure, including two-thirds of independents. Analysts say the measure could drive Democratic turnout, potentially impacting some anti-abortion Republicans in Congress who are in close races in newly drawn districts.
Michigan’s Proposal 3, which was put on the ballot after the rapid collection of more than 735,000 signatures, would also enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution, although the situation for supporters is more urgent in Michigan than it is in California, because Michigan has a 1931 abortion ban on the books (though it so far has been blocked by the courts). In addition, Michigan’s legislature, for now at least, is controlled by Republicans. Polls have found the citizen-initiated measure leading, and its presence on the ballot may help bolster Democrats at the top of the ballot, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Meanwhile, in red-state Kentucky, the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment would make clear in the state constitution that there is no right to abortion or public funding of abortion. A Kentucky “trigger law” to ban abortion in most cases was set in motion when the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, although there is an ongoing legal battle over that law, and this vote is poised to impact it.
Another measure backed by anti-abortion groups, LR-131 in Montana, would provide that “infants born alive, including infants born alive after an abortion, are legal persons, requiring health care providers to take necessary actions to preserve [their] life.”
Several states are wading into another hot national issue: election administration.
Two states will consider whether to ease voting rules. Connecticut will weigh the Allow for Early Voting Amendment, which would permit in-person early voting, something most of its blue-state peers have already put in place. Aside from Connecticut, the only other states without early voting for all voters are Alabama, Mississippi, and New Hampshire. Voters turned down a similar proposal in 2014, but the experience of the pandemic, when many voters got used to modes of voting beyond in-person on Election Day, is expected to improve its chances of enactment this year.
Michigan voters will consider Proposal 2, which would permit the use of ballot drop boxes and require 9 days of early voting, as well as no-excuse absentee voting and the option of signing an affidavit in lieu of presenting an ID card at the polls.
Meanwhile, Nevada will consider Question 3, which would institute a ranked-choice voting system similar to the one that has attracted attention this year in Alaska, where it is being used for the first time. Like Alaska, Nevada would institute an all-party first round of voting; unlike Alaska, the top 5 candidates, rather than the top 4, would advance to the general election. In this second round, voters would rank-order their preferred candidates, with the bottom-polling candidates being eliminated one by one with their votes redistributed until the top vote-getter exceeds 50% of the vote. The system would be used for congressional, statewide executive, and legislative seats in Nevada. The measure has attracted some opposition from progressive groups and Democratic establishment politicians; polls have shown many voters undecided.
Three states, meanwhile, would tighten election rules, using methods that have historically been backed by Republicans.
In Arizona, Proposition 309 would require a date of birth and a voter ID number to submit mail ballots and would tighten the rules for acceptable photo IDs for in-person voting. In Nebraska, Initiative 432 would require a valid photo ID to vote.
In Ohio, Issue 2 would ban local governments from allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections, a practice that is sometimes allowed in other states but rarely in Ohio. Similarly, in its Dec. 10 runoff election, Louisiana voters will consider the Citizen Requirement for Voting amendment, which would put in writing that non-citizens cannot vote.
Finally, in a less politically fraught measure, Alabama voters will consider Amendment 4, which requires election law changes to be implemented at least 6 months before the next general election.
Immigration and citizenship
Two states would move to liberalize policy toward immigrants.
In Arizona, Proposition 308 would allow certain non-citizen residents to benefit from in-state tuition rates at public colleges. If passed, such students would qualify for the in-state rate. The measure was placed on the ballot by a coalition of Democrats and some Republicans in the legislature.
And in Massachusetts, Question 4 would approve a legislature-passed measure to allow residents to obtain a driver’s license even if they are not in the U.S. legally. GOP Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed the bill, but he was overridden by the Democratic legislature. Opponents of the law were able to put the issue before the voters, though. Residents would be able to qualify for a license if they can present a foreign passport or consular identification document.
Marijuana and other drug policy
Legal recreational marijuana, which has been a policy juggernaut in recent years, will be on the ballot in 5 more states this year, including some that would not be the most obvious hotbeds for such a policy.
The more surprising states are solidly red Arkansas (Issue 4), Missouri (Amendment 3), North Dakota (Marijuana Legalization Initiative), and South Dakota (Initiated Measure 27). In Arkansas, a Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College poll showed the measure getting nearly 60% support.
In some of these states, including Missouri, some progressive and minority groups who might otherwise be favorable to such measures have expressed concerns that embedded financial interests are poised to control licenses. But it remains to be seen whether such friction will be enough to derail the idea’s momentum.
A similar South Dakota measure already passed in 2020, but it was overturned by the state supreme court for covering more than one topic. Some speculate that its passage 2 years ago was boosted by appearing alongside a separate medical marijuana ballot measure that passed, possibly prompting confusion among voters and making its solo run in 2022 a bit more of a challenge. In North Dakota, meanwhile, a prior attempt to pass a recreational marijuana measure in 2018 fell short, but the current effort has more resources at its disposal.
Then there’s Colorado, where legalizing marijuana is old hat. There, the newest effort, Proposition 122, seeks to legalize a wider variety of “natural” substances, including psilocybin, which has been suggested as potentially helpful in treating addiction. The Colorado measure would establish state-licensed facilities that allow supervised use by adults. If passed, Colorado would become the second state to take a step in this direction, following Oregon in 2020.
With crime a hot topic on the campaign trail, several states are putting criminal justice proposals before the voters, usually to tighten their laws and practices.
In Alabama, Amendment 1 would allow the state legislature to determine offenses for which bail may be denied, while Amendment 3 would require the governor to notify the victim’s family before granting a commutation or reprieve of a death sentence.
In Ohio, Issue 1 would require judges to factor in public safety and a person’s criminal record when setting bail and bail-related conditions. The measure, which is backed primarily by Republicans, stems from a 4-3 state supreme court ruling that found excessive bail to be unconstitutional.
In Montana, measure C-48 would require a search warrant to access someone’s electronic data. And in Georgia, the Suspend Compensation for Public Officials Indicted for a Felony Amendment would allow pay to be suspended for certain public officials while suspended from office after being indicted for a felony.
In South Dakota, Constitutional Amendment D would require the state to provide Medicaid for lower-income adults between the ages of 18 and 65. South Dakota is one of a number of red states that has declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Meanwhile, another health care proposal, Oregon Measure 111, is less concrete, with unclear policy impacts. It would add language to the constitution that says the state will “ensure” that every resident “has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.”
And in California, voters will consider a measure to increase regulations on kidney dialysis clinics, an issue that has failed to win enactment under prior ballot measures in 2018 and 2020. This time, Proposition 29 would set staffing, reporting and other requirements as well as ownership disclosure mandates for such clinics.
Voters in 2 states will face measures on the hot-button issue of guns.
In Iowa, the Right to Firearms Amendment would add language to the state constitution affirming the right to own and bear firearms and require strict judicial scrutiny of any alleged violation. If passed, the language might not only prevent future tightening of gun laws in the state but could also put existing statutes at risk.
The opposite is happening in Oregon, where Measure 114 would ban magazines with more than 10 rounds and would require a permit and a safety course to buy a gun. The measure’s chief petitioners were Portland clergy members, and reflecting the state’s rural-urban divide, it has stirred strong opposition outside metro Portland. Gun control measures have generally fared well in Oregon, driven by the heavy Portland-area vote, but the dynamics of this year’s gubernatorial race could be a wild card: Two of the three candidates in the state’s unusually competitive gubernatorial contest oppose the measure. The third, Democrat Tina Kotek, is in favor of it.
In Illinois, Amendment 1 would create a state constitutional right to collective bargaining. It specifically prohibits the enactment of any right-to-work law and lays out specific topics that can be subject to bargaining, including wages, hours, and working conditions. The measure does not distinguish between private-sector or public-sector employees and leaves open the definition of an employee. Polling has been sparse, but labor unions in the state are united behind it and have been funding a significant TV buy.
Tennessee, meanwhile, would go in the opposite direction with Constitutional Amendment 1. This right-to-work amendment would make it illegal for workplaces to mandate labor union membership. While the state has had a law on the books ensuring this since 1947, the measure is designed as a bulwark against potential future national legislation from a Democratic Congress.
In another common ballot measure topic, 3 jurisdictions — Nevada (Question 2), Nebraska (Initiative 433), and Washington, D.C. (Initiative 82) — have minimum wage measures on their ballots this year. The Nevada measure would increase the wage to $12 an hour by 2024. The Nebraska measure would increase it to $15 by 2026. And the D.C. measure would increase the minimum wage for tipped employees to the same level as non-tipped employees.
In 2 states, voters will consider measures that would lower taxes.
In Colorado, Proposition 121, sponsored by anti-tax advocates, would reduce the state income tax from 4.55% to 4.40%. This would follow approval by state voters of a 2020 measure to reduce the rate from 4.63% to 4.55%. No prominent elected official in Colorado has strongly spoken against this proposal, and little money has been spent on either side. The measure is expected to pass.
In Idaho, the Income and Corporate Tax Changes and Education Funding Advisory Question would recommend certain tax changes. It is favored to pass, but because it is only advisory, its practical impact remains unclear.
In a couple of other states, voters will be asked to raise taxes.
In Massachusetts, Question 1 would create a 4% surtax on income exceeding $1 million and devote the proceeds to education and transportation. Labor and liberals strongly favor the tax; the business community is strongly against it. Both sides are up with television ads. Polls have shown a lead for the surtax, but late-deciding voters could break against it.
In Arizona, Proposition 310 would create a 0.1% sales tax for 20 years to fund state fire districts.
Finally, in an intergovernmental showdown, West Virginia voters will consider the Authorize Tax Exemptions for Vehicles and Personal Property Used for Business Amendment. The measure would authorize the state legislature to exempt personal property used for business activity from taxation. This could hamper the budgets of localities that depend on those taxes for services.
Several states have education on the ballot this fall.
In California, Proposition 28 would require funding for K-12 art and music education. In Colorado, Proposition FF would create and fund the Democratic-backed Healthy School Meals for All program; the costs would be paid by reducing state income tax deductions for households making over $300,000 per year. In New Mexico, Bond Question 3 would permit the issuance of nearly $216 million in bonds for public higher education institutions, special public schools, and tribal schools.
And in West Virginia, voters will consider the Legislative Approval of the State Board of Education Rules Amendment, which would require the legislature to approve any rules proposed by the state board of education.
Two big blue states have environmental measures on the ballot this year.
New York voters will consider Proposal 1, which would allow $4.2 billion in bonds to be issued for environmental and infrastructure projects, including climate change mitigation. The measure is thought to have broad support and weak opposition. It stems from a proposal originally unveiled in former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) 2020 state of the state address.
California, meanwhile, has Proposition 30, which would increase the personal income tax above $2 million by 1.75%, dedicating the revenue to zero-emission vehicle incentives and projects as well as wildfire prevention. Perhaps unexpectedly, the measure is sponsored by Lyft; this connection has been criticized by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, putting him on the same “no” side as some GOP-leaning groups. But electric vehicles are popular in California, and this measure may be able to pass despite this opposition.
Colorado voters will weigh in on Proposition 123, which would dedicate 0.1% of existing income tax revenue, possibly as much as $300 million a year, toward housing, including affordable housing financing programs and assistance to people who are experiencing homelessness. Anti-tax advocates worry that this could diminish future tax refund checks. But affordable housing is a major issue in fast-growing Colorado, suggesting that the measure could fare well at the ballot box.
Two states — Alabama (Amendment 2) and New Mexico (Constitutional Amendment 2) — will consider measures to boost investment in broadband infrastructure and, in the case of New Mexico, energy, water, and other services.
Nebraska voters will consider Amendment 1, which would authorize local governments to spend revenue to develop commercial air service at local airports.
Nevada voters will weigh Question 1, a legacy of the long-running battle for the Equal Rights Amendment. It asks whether the state constitution should guarantee equal rights regardless “of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin.”
Arkansas, meanwhile, will seek to protect religious liberty with consideration of Issue 3. It would provide that “government shall not burden a person’s freedom of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”
In another measure related to religion, Tennessee voters will consider Constitutional Amendment 4, which would remove constitutional language preventing religious ministers from serving in the state legislature. The ban has remained on the books until now even though the U.S. Supreme Court had struck it down in 1978. Because it has been unenforceable, both parties have seen ministers elected to the legislature.
The two most notable gambling-related measures are side by side in California.
Proposition 26 would legalize sports betting in person at Indian casinos and licensed racetracks, while Proposition 27 would legalize sports betting online. As is often the case with gambling measures, the interested parties are spending heavily. However, the existence of 2 competing measures on the California ballot has often been an ominous sign for both. So far, a Public Policy Institute of California survey found only 34% of likely voters supporting Prop 27, with 54% in opposition.
California Proposition 31 asks voters to weigh in on a bill signed by Newsom in 2020 that would prohibit California retailers from selling flavored tobacco products. The ballot measure is being backed by the tobacco industry, which opposed the bill and was able to collect enough signatures to delay its implementation unless and until the public approved it. A yes vote would implement the bill as signed by Newsom, and it’s considered a good bet to pass, because in California, tobacco has long been unpopular among voters.
In Arizona, Proposition 211 would require disclosure of donors to independent expenditure efforts exceeding $50,000 on statewide campaigns or $25,000 in local campaigns. The measure is backed by activists who oppose “dark money” in campaigns.
Ballot measures about ballot measures
A number of states, especially those with Republican legislatures, are seeking to curb the reach of citizen-sponsored initiatives. In many such states, initiatives can be the only practical way for Democrats to enact progressive policies, such as minimum wage increases, the expansion of Medicaid, and the legalization of marijuana.
Arizona voters will face 3 such proposals. Proposition 128 would allow the legislature to amend or repeal ballot measures after approval if they contained provisions ruled invalid by state or federal courts. Proposition 129 would require measures to stick to a single topic; in other states, such requirements have led to courts tossing measures off the ballot before being voted on. And Proposition 132 would raise the threshold for passing ballot issues that would raise taxes from a simple majority to three-fifths.
Meanwhile, in Arkansas, voters will consider Issue 2, which would set a three-fifths threshold for approving initiated constitutional amendments and statutes. In Arkansas, progressives have been joined in opposition by some religious conservatives. A recent survey by Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College found the measure running even, but with 36% undecided.
And in a slightly different vein, Florida voters will weigh Amendment 2, which would abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. This panel, which is next set to meet in 2037, proposes new state constitutional amendments that voters consider for possible passage. The panel put 7 measures on the ballot in 2018. With longstanding GOP control of the legislature and the governorship, Florida Democrats argue this would cut off one of the few avenues for pursuing policy change.
Voters in Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont will each consider measures that eliminate language in their state constitution that condones slavery or involuntary servitude. Backers say the language is not only objectionable on principle but could also have practical impacts for the treatment of incarcerated individuals. Three other states — Colorado, Nebraska and Utah — have approved similar measures since 2018.
Currently, if Arizona’s governor resigns or dies in office, the secretary of state takes over. Proposition 131 would create the office of lieutenant governor, to be elected on a joint ticket with the governor.
Separately, Tennessee will consider another measure, Constitutional Amendment 2, that is somewhat more complicated. In Tennessee, the lieutenant governor also serves as speaker of the Senate. If the governor dies or resigns, the lieutenant governor becomes governor and gives up his legislative position. But if the governor is temporarily unable to serve, the lieutenant governor, under current law, can only become acting governor by giving up his legislative position, which is a disincentive to serving under this type of temporary scenario. The amendment would allow the speaker of the Senate to serve temporarily as acting governor without having to give up his legislative post, although the speaker would temporarily yield his legislative duties. The measure was placed on the ballot with broad support of lawmakers in both chambers.
Rules for legislatures and legislators
In Oregon, Measure 113 would keep state lawmakers from running for reelection if they were to notch 10 or more unexcused absences in either chamber. This grew out of the state’s two-thirds quorum rule, which has been used by Republicans on several occasions to halt business in one or both chambers by simply not showing up. (In other states, such as Texas, Democrats are in the minority and have used similar stalling tactics.)
In Kansas, the Legislative Veto or Suspension of Executive Agency Regulations Amendment would allow the legislature to revoke or suspend an executive agency’s rules and regulations by a simple majority vote. This effort follows ongoing tensions in the state between Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and the GOP-majority legislature.
In Michigan, Proposal 1 would set 12-year term limits for state legislative service, as well as stiffen financial disclosure rules for legislators and statewide elected officials. Currently, Michigan’s legislative term limits are 6 years in the House and 8 in the Senate; no such financial disclosure rules for top officials exist today. The measure was hammered out by a former CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and a former president of the Michigan AFL-CIO. Before passing the measure to the voters, however, the legislature weakened the financial disclosure rules.
Term limits are also on the ballot in North Dakota, in the Term Limits for Governor and State Legislators Initiative. The measure would set term limits at 8 years for the governor, and up to 8 years in each legislative chamber.
|Louis Jacobson is a Senior Columnist for Sabato’s Crystal Ball. He is also the senior correspondent at the fact-checking website PolitiFact and is senior author of the forthcoming Almanac of American Politics 2024. He was senior author of the Almanac’s 2016, 2018, 2020, and 2022 editions and a contributing writer for the 2000 and 2004 editions.|