By Rachel Wright, Policy Analyst

Proposed Ballot Measures
In recent years, voters have seen an uptick in the number of statewide ballot measures put to a vote in off-year elections. In November 2023, there were 41 statewide ballot measures proposed in the following eight states: Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin. In comparison, 39 ballot measures were considered in 2021, up from 36 ballot measures in 2019.

More than half of all ballot measures proposed in 2023 addressed the following policy issues:

Voters in three states — Colorado, Louisiana and Texas — considered eight ballot measures related to taxation. These measures sought to change property tax rates and provide tax exemptions to first responders and child care establishments, among other things. Notably, voters in Texas considered whether to prohibit a wealth or net worth tax.

Public Finance
Voters in four states — Louisiana, Maine, New York and Texas — considered 13 ballot measures related to public finance issues. These measures sought to institute public debt limitations and allocate additional funds to state retirement systems. Notably, voters in Texas considered whether to establish and authorize funding for various public infrastructure funds related to energy, broadband infrastructure and water supply projects.

Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and Minority Issues
Voters in four states — Louisiana, Maine, Ohio and Texas — considered five ballot measures related to civil rights, civil liberties and minority issues, such as religious freedom, suffrage and reproductive rights. Notably, voters in Ohio considered whether to enshrine the right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions” in their state’s constitution.

More information on the outcome of these ballot measures is provided in the following map and in the table at the conclusion of this article.

2023 Statewide Ballot Measures

Approved Ballot Measures of Note
Of the 41 ballot measures proposed this year, 35 were approved by voters in the following seven states: Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. Approved ballot measures addressed issues such as foreign involvement in elections, reproductive rights, recreational marijuana use and “right to repair” laws.

Foreign Involvement in Elections: Louisiana Amendment 1 and Maine Question 2
Voters in Louisiana and Maine approved ballot measures that prohibit foreign spending in state and local elections. With the approval of Louisiana Amendment 1, it is now prohibited to use funds, goods or services donated by a foreign government or foreign nongovernmental source in conducting elections in Louisiana.

Similarly, voters in Maine approved Question 2, which prohibits direct or indirect spending by foreign governments and entities with partial foreign government ownership or control in elections. In contrast to Louisiana’s Amendment 1, Question 2 also extends the prohibition on foreign spending to include the initiation or approval of ballot measures.

Historically, foreign contributions to federal, state and local elections have been prohibited by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Federal Elections Campaign Act (FECA). However, an FEC analysis of United States Supreme Court holdings states that the FECA should only apply to candidate regulations, not “referenda or other issue-based ballot measures.” Maine Question 2 sought to address this gap.

Reproductive Rights and Recreational Marijuana Use: Ohio State Issue 1 and State Issue 2
Ohioans approved two ballot measures in November 2023. The first, State Issue 1, established a constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including, but not limited to, contraception, miscarriage care and abortion. With the approval of Issue 1, Ohio became the third state to enshrine a state constitutional right to an abortion since the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

In 2023, a total of six ballot measures were proposed throughout the U.S. that addressed the right to an abortion — the most on record in a single year. As of January 2024, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legally protected the right to an abortion. This figure does not include states where abortion remains legal, but is not explicitly protected by state law.

The second ballot measure approved by Ohioans, State Issue 2, legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older. The measure also created the social equity and jobs program, which seeks to address barriers to “ownership and opportunities within the adult use cannabis industry for individuals and communities most adversely impacted by the enforcement of marijuana-related laws.” According to Section 3780.23 of the Ohio Revised Code, 36% of all revenue from the sale of cannabis by dispensaries will go to the program.

Data Access and Transparency: The Maine “Right to Repair Law”
In Maine, voters approved the “Right to Repair Law” Vehicle Data Access Requirement Initiative. This initiative ensures that vehicle owners and independent automotive repair shops can have access to vehicle on-board diagnostic systems. With the approval of this initiative, Maine became the second state — behind Massachusetts — to establish “right to repair laws” related to vehicles.

“Right to repair” laws are intended to address disparities in access to on-board diagnostic data between automotive manufacturers and independent repair shops. Currently, the federal government does not require automotive manufacturers in the U.S. to make on-board diagnostic data available to consumers. As such, manufacturer authorization is required to access this information, which can increase repair costs for consumers and limit where a consumer can take their car for repairs.

What to Expect in 2024
As of December 2023, a total of 55 statewide ballot measures have been proposed in 24 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Historically, voters encounter more statewide ballot measures in even-numbered years than in odd-numbered years. As the next November election draws near, policymakers can expect to see continued growth in the number of measures certified for state ballots.

In 2024, citizens are already slated to vote on ballot measures related to taxation, suffrage and reproductive rights. For example, voters in:

  • Colorado, Missouri and New Mexico will decide whether to provide property tax exemptions for veterans and child care establishments.
  • Iowa and Wisconsin will decide whether to modify language in their state’s constitution regarding citizenship voting requirements.
  • Maryland will be asked to decide whether to establish the “right to reproductive freedom,” which is defined to include “the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy.”

2023 Statewide Ballot Measures

StateMeasure NameMeasure SubjectDescription
COProposition II: The Tobacco and Nicotine Product Tax Revenue MeasureTaxationAsks voters to either (1) allow the state to retain and spend revenue the state received above the estimated revenue generated from increases taxes on cigarettes and tobacco and nicotine products in Proposition EE, or (2) refund $23.65 million to distributors and wholesalers and reduce the tobacco tax rate by 11.53%.
COProposition HH: The Property Tax Changes and Revenue Change MeasureTaxationReduces the property tax rate; allows the state to retain and spend revenues [that it would otherwise be required to refund to residents under the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR)] to give local governments to make up lost tax revenues from the property tax rate reduction.
LAAmendment 1: The Ban on Private or Foreign Funding of Election Cost AmendmentGovernment Operations and PoliticsProhibits funds, goods and services donated by a foreign government or nongovernmental source for use in conducting elections.
LAAmendment 2: The Constitutional Right to Worship in a Church or Place of Worship AmendmentCivil Rights and Liberties, Minority IssuesProvides in the state constitution that “the freedom to worship in a church or other place of worship is a fundamental right that is worthy of the highest order of protection.”
LAAmendment 3: The State Retirement System Funding AmendmentPublic FinanceRequires a minimum of 25% of nonrecurring state revenue to be applied to the balance of the unfunded liability of the state retirement system.
LAAmendment 4: The Prohibit Property Tax Exemptions for Nonprofits Owning Damaged Residential Property AmendmentTaxationPrevents a nonprofit organization from receiving a property tax exemption if they own residential property that is in such a state of disrepair that it is dangerous to the public’s health or safety, as determined by the governing authority of the municipality or parish the property is located in.
LAAmendment 1: The Legislative Veto Sessions AmendmentLegislative ProcessProvides that the legislature may consider vetoed bills during a regular or extraordinary session rather than convening a separate veto session; clarifies that the governor’s deadline to act on a bill is based on the legislative session in which the bill was passed.
LAAmendment 4: The Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund AmendmentPublic FinanceProvides for changes to constitutional requirements for the state’s Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund.
LAAmendment 3: The Property Tax Exemptions for First Responders AmendmentTaxationAuthorizes local governments to provide a property tax exemption for first responders.
LAAmendment 2: The Remove Constitutional References to Inactive State Funds AmendmentPublic FinanceRepeals constitutional provisions establishing various state funds that are now inactive.
MEQuestion 1: The Voter Approval of Borrowing Above $1 Billion by State Entities and Electric Cooperatives InitiativePublic FinanceRequires voter approval for certain state entities, municipal electric districts, electrification cooperatives, or consumer-owned transmission utilities to incur an outstanding debt that exceeds $1 billion.
MEQuestion 2: The Prohibit Foreign Spending in Elections InitiativeGovernment Operations and PoliticsProhibits election spending by foreign governments, including entities with partial (5% or more) foreign government ownership or control.
MEQuestion 3: The Pine Tree Power Company InitiativeEnergyCreates a municipal electric transmission and distribution utility called the Pine Tree Power Company.
MEQuestion 4: The “Right to Repair Law” Vehicle Data Access Requirement InitiativeCommerceAllows motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities to have access to the vehicle on-board diagnostic systems.
MEQuestion 5: The Change Time Period of Judicial Review of Initiative Petitions AmendmentLawChanges the judicial review period from within 100 days of a petition being filed to within 100 business days from the deadline for filing a petition.
MEQuestion 6: The Require All Provisions of Constitution Be Included in Official Printing AmendmentCivil Rights and Liberties, Minority IssuesRepeals Article X, Section 7 of the Maine Constitution, which would provide for Section 1, Section 2 and Section 5, which concerns American Indian provisions, to be included in any printed copies of the state constitution.
MEQuestion 8: The Allow Individuals Under Guardianship for Reasons of Mental Illness to Vote in Elections AmendmentCivil Rights and Liberties, Minority IssuesProvides that individuals under a guardianship for reasons of mental illness can vote for governor, senators and representatives.
MEQuestion 7: The Remove Residency Requirement for Initiative Petition Circulators AmendmentLawRemoves the requirement that an initiative petition signature gatherer must be a resident and registered voter of Maine.
NYExclude Indebtedness for Sewage Facilities AmendmentPublic FinanceExcludes indebtedness for the construction or reconstruction of sewage facilities contracted prior to 2034.
NYRemove Debt Limit on Small City School Districts AmendmentPublic FinanceRemoves the debt limitations in the New York Constitution from small city school districts.
OHIssue 1: The 60% Vote Requirement to Approve Constitutional Amendments MeasureLawRequires a 60% vote to approve a constitutional amendment; increases the signature distribution requirement; and eliminates the signature cure period.
OHThe Ohio Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion InitiativeCivil Rights and Liberties, Minority IssuesProvides that each individual has the right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.
OHIssue 2CommerceLegalizes the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older.
OKQuestion 820: The Marijuana Legalization InitiativeCommerceLegalizes marijuana in Oklahoma.
TXProposition 12: Texas Abolish Galveston County Treasurer AmendmentGovernment Operations and PoliticsAbolishes the Galveston County treasurer and authorizes the county to employ or contract a qualified person or designate another county officer to fulfill the functions previously performed by the treasurer.
TXProposition 11: Texas Authorize Bond Issues in Conservation and Reclamation Districts in El Paso County AmendmentPublic FinanceAuthorizes the state legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to allow the county to issue bonds to fund parks and recreational facilities.
TXProposition 9: Texas Changes to Teacher Retirement System AmendmentPublic FinanceAuthorizes the state legislature to make cost-of-living adjustments or other benefit enhancements to eligible annuitants of the teacher retirement system.
TXProposition 8: Texas Creation of Broadband Infrastructure Fund AmendmentPublic FinanceCreates the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund to finance high-speed broadband access.
TXProposition 7: Texas Creation of State Energy Fund AmendmentPublic FinanceCreates the Texas Energy Fund and authorizes funding to modernize electric generation facilities.
TXProposition 14: Texas Creation of the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund AmendmentPublic FinanceCreates the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund.
TXProposition 6: Texas Creation of the Water Fund AmendmentPublic FinanceCreates the Texas Water Fund to finance water projects.
TXProposition 13: Texas Increase Mandatory Retirement Age for State Judges AmendmentGovernment Operations and PoliticsIncreases the mandatory retirement age for state judges from 75 to 79.
TXProposition 3: Texas Prohibit Taxes on Wealth or Net Worth AmendmentTaxationProhibits a wealth or net worth tax.
TXProposition 4: Texas Property Tax Changes and State Education Funding AmendmentTaxationIncreases the homestead tax exemption to $100,000 and increases the state funding for public education.
TXProposition 2: Texas Property Tax Exemption for Childcare Facilities AmendmentTaxationAllows local governments to exempt child care facilities from property taxes.
TXProposition 5: Rename State University Research Fund and Establish Ongoing Revenue Source AmendmentPublic FinanceRenames the National Research University Fund to the Texas University Fund and establishes an ongoing revenue source from the accrued interest of the economic stabilization fund.
TXProposition 1: Right to Farming, Ranching, Timber Production, Horticulture and Wildlife Management AmendmentCivil Rights and Liberties, Minority IssuesEstablishes a right to farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture and wildlife management in the state constitution.
TXProposition 10: Tax Exemption on Medical Equipment and Inventory AmendmentTaxationAuthorizes an ad valorem tax exemption on equipment and inventory manufactured by medical or biomedical companies.
WIQuestion 1: The Conditions of Release Before Conviction AmendmentCrime and Law EnforcementAuthorizes the state legislature to define serious harm in relation to the conditions a judge imposes on an accused person released before conviction.
WIQuestion 2: The Conditions for Cash Bail AmendmentCrime and Law EnforcementAuthorizes judges to impose cash bail on an accused person of a violent crime based on circumstances, like the need to protect the community from serious harm and the probability the accused will not appear in court.
WIQuestion 3: The Work Requirement for Welfare Benefits Advisory QuestionLabor and EmploymentAdvises the state legislature to require able-bodied childless adults to look for work in order to receive taxpayer funded welfare benefits.

Recommended Posts