A Ballot measure is a law, issue or topic placed on a statewide or municipal ballot in the United States for voters to decide through an election. This long-existing term is also known as ballot propositions.
There are various ballot measure categories across the United States, including those put on the ballot by citizen initiative petitions, referred to by the state legislature or local governing body and those put on the ballot by state law or constitutional requirement without the need for action from a legislature or governing body.
There are generally three types of ballot measures: initiatives, referendums and recalls.
Initiatives are proposals individuals make to enact new laws or change existing ones. To place an initiative on the ballot, a petition, or gathering a specified number of citizens’ signatures is required. Bypassing the conventional legislative procedure enables individuals or interest groups to directly propose policies they deem necessary. Initiatives can address various concerns related to the economy, society and the environment.
The initiative process is used in 24 states, of those states, 18 permit initiative proposals for constitutional amendments and 21 permit proposals of statutes. In most circumstances, the proposal is put on the ballot for a vote of the people (“direct initiative”) after a sufficient number of signatures have been gathered. In other situations, the plan is submitted to the legislature first and, if accepted by the legislature, is not put to a vote by the general public (referred to as an “indirect initiative”). Sixteen states permit direct initiatives for constitutional amendments while only two states permit indirect initiatives. Eleven states permit direct initiatives for statutes; seven states permit indirect initiatives, and Washington and Utah both permit direct and indirect initiatives.
A public petition to propose to abolish a prior law passed by the legislature on the ballot is known as a referendum (or “popular referendum”). Twenty-four states allow referendums, with the majority also allowing initiatives. Referendums are actions that allow voters to decide on current laws or policies. They are typically sparked when legislative action is contentious, or lawmakers seek the public’s opinion on a particular subject. Referendums can decide whether proposed legislation or policy changes are accepted or rejected. Despite the Progressive’s belief that the referendum was equally significant to the initiative, referendums are relatively infrequent compared to initiatives.
A legislative measure, legislative proposition or occasionally “referred” measure is a proposal the legislature puts on the ballot. Citizens can remove elected officials from office using recall procedures before their terms are up. This process is frequently used when there are accusations of wrongdoing, incompetence or authorities fail to perform their obligations. Voters can hold elected representatives responsible through recalls. All states allow legislative measures except for Delaware, requiring most voters to ratify constitutional modifications. Legislators in certain states put advisory measures on the ballot that are not binding. Initiatives and referendums are far less common than legislative actions, which are more likely to pass. Commissions’ referral of measures to the ballot is also permitted in other states, including Florida. The United States has no provision for any national ballot initiative. However, the initiative and referendum are used much more frequently than their statewide equivalent because they are available nationwide in hundreds of counties, cities and towns.
One key element of direct democracy is ballot measures, which give voters direct access to the legislative process and the ability to influence public policy. People can propose, adopt or reject laws and policies through initiatives, referendums and recalls, giving them more power and fostering an informed and involved electorate. While ballot initiatives have limitations, their relevance resides in their capacity to limit the influence of elected officials and promote new policies.
NewMexico secretary of state works collaboratively to improve elections for Tribal communities.
By Lexington Soures
When New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver served as Bernalillo County clerk, she learned firsthand the challenges of translating election language. In the Navajo Nation, where Diné bizaad is spoken, no direct translation exists for Republican or Democrat.
When Toulouse Oliver attended her first Navajo Nation chapter meeting, she learned more about how election and political terms may differ from community to the next. While one community may identify a Democrat as a “donkey rider,” another may use the phrase “someone who walks with a donkey.” This experience led her to prioritize word choice.
“That was that was one of the big, mind-blowing things for me — how do we communicate,” Toulouse Oliver asked. “What terminology do we use even within the context of the Navajo language to make sure that that idea is communicated accurately? That is one of our big challenges.”
Toulouse Oliver acknowledged that assimilation and language eradication occurred in many Native communities. However, some voters maintain a traditional lifestyle.
“I have people in New Mexico that live in hogans with no running water and no electricity,” Toulouse Oliver said. “They live their very traditional way of life and that has not changed in their lifetime. So, what do we want to do? Leave these folks behind when it comes to the voting process? No, we have to come to them.”
Before 1948, the New Mexico Constitution did not allow certain Native people to vote. Miguel Trujillo, a member of the Pueblo of Isleta and a World War II Marine Corps veteran, then stepped in to challenge the constitution’s language. Prior to Trujillo coming forward, voting rights were denied to Natives who did not pay private property taxes on reservations despite having paid all state and federal taxes. With the right to vote eventually secured, Native voters faced limited access to voting locations and a lack of translated voting materials that included instructions, notices and even ballots.
While some counties complied with federal law and Department of Justice intervention, others were slow to adapt their processes.
“There’s sort of a history of really needing to get with it in terms of complying with federal law,” Toulouse Oliver said. “Fast forward to today, we have one letter of agreement left in existence for one county. We have the Native Voting Task Force in my office and then we passed the Native American Voting Rights Act this year.”
This year, New Mexico’s Legislature passed HB 4, covering a variety of voting rights issues including the first Native American Voting Rights Act. The bill expands a nation, tribe or pueblo’s ability to apply for amended voting locations and a secure ballot drop box, and allows voters to use government buildings as their mailing address.
“We gave them the opportunity to ask for and receive a secured monitor container, also known as a drop box, for once they receive that ballot, especially if they receive it at that tribal government building,” Toulouse Oliver said. “They can also deposit the ballot back at the government building. They don’t necessarily need to send it back through the mail.”
Local tribal governments were also provided much more flexibility through the bill. As a result, they can now establish the site of their polling locations, in addition to choosing where and how long early voting takes place.
“We’re hoping all of those things go a long way towards really improving some of those ballot access challenges,” Toulouse Oliver said.
Implementation is the secretary of state’s next major challenge. She and her office plan to provide resources to Native communities that include the new options and work to determine what is best for each community.
Otero County Clerk Robyn Holmes said the bill helps solve some challenges her county faces, such as a central address for ballot delivery. Otero County has around 12,196 Native voters who live on the Mescalero Apache Reservation.
“We work as county clerks with the Secretary of State’s Office and we come up with things that we feel will help voter outreach and get people out to vote,” Holmes said. “For that, we get along very well with our secretary of state. Our legislator’s listen to us and subsequently they pass the laws.”
Holmes said this hasn’t always been the case, though. However, over time, and despite party differences, clerks and legislators have been able to work together with Toulouse Oliver to communicate voters’ needs.
“We’ve been very fortunate with the offices of the secretary of state and clerks working so well together. It’s not always perfect, but for the most part, we can work it out and make it work for everybody,” Holmes said. “It’s different when you have large cities in one county and then you have very small, rural counties with two people working in their offices. It’s hard to implement bills and policies and procedures exactly the same for everybody.”
Toulouse Oliver recognizes that policy cannot be copied and pasted between New Mexico’s 23 federally recognized tribes, who speak eight different languages. The Native American Voting Rights Task Force was created in 2017 by the secretary of state to better connect with the needs of New Mexico’s three main tribes, including the Navajo Nation, the Pueblos and the Apache Tribes. The task force has representation from all of these groups, as well as an urban Native representative, but limits membership to a few members to remain productive. Members collaborate to inform the Secretary of State’s Office on areas of outreach and improvement, in addition to useful and appropriate language and messaging.
“We don’t want to copy and paste, first of all,” Toulouse Oliver said. “We don’t want to treat all of our tribal areas the same and all of the individuals because they have different cultures, different languages.”
While Holmes doesn’t need to translate ballots, her office does translate the portion of the proclamation affecting the reservation. These translations are recorded and played through the local radio station.
Because each tribe has a unique voting culture, including who can vote and what positions are open for election, it is important to approach each tribe with their culture in mind, according to Toulouse Oliver.
“There are just so many culture and language ins and outs that, as a white woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, I am not the expert, nor am I ever going to try to be, nor am I ever going to try to superimpose what I think works in tribal areas,” Toulouse Oliver said. “I want folks to tell us what works in [their] community. What creative ideas do you have? How can we invest in those? How can we live those? That’s kind of the work that [the task force members] do.”
Despite progress, Native voters continue to face challenges, including limited ballot collection services, language translation and the digital divide. A report by the Native American Rights Fund found voting barriers typically fell under 11 categories, including geography, infrastructure concerns, nontraditional addresses and IDs, and the digital divide. The 2020 report found only 66% of eligible native voters across the nation are registered.
Toulouse Oliver uses buildings of cultural importance, like chapter houses in the Navajo Nation, to help increase access to polling locations.
“We use schools, we use other public buildings where available, but even then, you’re often talking about an individual having to drive 50 to even as many as 200 miles to get to the nearest in-person polling place,” Toulouse Oliver said. “We’re trying to expand — as much as we can — mobile early voting units [that travel] to these communities to be there for two or three days to a week during the early voting period.”
Because many who live on reservations receive their mail at a post office box or reside in remote, nontraditional areas without valid U.S. mailing addresses, New Mexico law allows voters to describe their addresses.
“We’ve done a really good job in New Mexico for years at addressing the issue of not having a standard physical address,” Toulouse Oliver said. “You can literally draw a map, write a description or say, ‘I live three streets down from the giant cottonwood tree after you get off of the exit at Highway 85.’”
While voters are able to describe their address, this can be challenging when ballots or other voting materials need to be delivered. Toulouse Oliver said mail delivery can be infrequent, or that individuals may not receive mail at their home. In New Mexico HB 4, the Legislature addressed issues regarding ballot delivery, allowing individuals to use their local tribal government building as an individual’s mailing address. Toulouse Oliver said this eases the process because the U.S. Postal Service delivers to every tribal government building in the state.
“One good thing that came out of this last session was that the Legislature passed the law that on reservations they could have one location, like at their community center or wherever they designate,” Holmes said.
“They’ve created this law that allows our reservation to say, ‘Anybody that wants to request a ballot that was on the reservation, you can have it mailed back to our community center and we’ll get it to you,’ as opposed to going to their address where apparently they feel like they don’t get their mail all the time.”
Native voters living in urban areas face challenges that are different than those on reservations. Based on the population, some urban areas are required to have translated ballots or a translator on call. Many urban native voters have access to broadband internet and are aligned with their nonnative neighbors, but there may be more cultural challenges.
“I think there is a particular part of the Native community that may live physically within an urban area. They live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, or Gallup, New Mexico, or Farmington, but they still consider their whole chapter and maybe their parents’ or their grandparents’ residence [to be] where they actually live, where they are from,” Toulouse Oliver said. “In many ways, it’s interesting to see our urban Native voters needing to go back to that place of origin in order to vote or to apply for and get an absentee ballot. The challenge there then is just going like we would do with any other group. What is what makes you interested in wanting to vote? How can we make it easier for you to register and get your ballot?”
Another challenge is the size and resources available for some communities. A tribal community’s size or economic resources may lead them to be more invested in federal elections, or the opposite may be true. Toulouse Oliver added that opinions on the importance of elections may differ even within communities, increasing the challenges of civic education.
Many of these smaller communities also struggle with access to broadband connectivity or phone service. This creates an additional challenge for election officials.
“How do we make sure those voters have information and access to the ballot box in the same way that a voter who lives in Gallup or Shiprock,” Toulouse Oliver said. “Those are the kinds of challenges we’re trying to navigate.”
One program tackling this challenge is the Native American Election Information Program. Created in 1988, the program facilitates voter education programs in counties with the largest Native populations. The program educates communities on the election process, upcoming elections, and provides election assistance for both tribes and county clerks to ensure compliance with federal and state law.
Toulouse Oliver increased the number of staff to better cover the needs of Native communities. The liaisons translate necessary documents into both the appropriate language and the correct media. For example, publication requirements necessitate the use of radio in some communities.
“It’s a lot of work for two people, but they do an amazing job,” Toulouse Oliver said. “They’re the ones who are physically out there in the communities, hearing from those tribal leaders on what they need, what we need to be doing better and what is something that they need from us versus what is something they need from county government. Sometimes we can all three work together to get something accomplished.”
In counties with a larger Native population, a tribal liaison works with the county clerk to provide tools or resources. As well, while not required, each Native community hires poll workers from their community. These workers provide a cultural connection and can help with any language or assistance needs. Toulouse Oliver said this lessens the stress and intimidation of voting, especially for new or infrequent voters.
Holmes said she does not work with a liaison, but she has built close relationships with community members, like an attorney on the reservation. For voter drives, a member of the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office joins Holmes’ office.
“I’m friends with the attorney up there,” Holmes said. “We make sure we have an open dialogue between us. If they need anything or if we need something, [we’re both very good to accommodate each other].”
Looking ahead, Toulouse Oliver hopes to expand her office’s work with the Native community. A facilitator will join the Native American Voting Task Force to help the group explore programs and funding for the future. Toulouse Oliver said the successes, or failures, of this “regearing” phase will determine future programs.
The work of the Secretary of State’s Office with the Native community can, in a larger sense, be applied to other minorities. Toulouse Oliver said that while not all marginalized communities may face the same challenges, other voters benefit from the lessons learned from listening to communities’ needs and allocating appropriate resources to them.
“As an elected official, you have to be open to saying, ‘You tell me what you think your community needs. I’m not here to tell you what I think it needs,’” Toulouse Oliver said. “If it’s not me, who can I give tools and resources to that are needed to be that person, that messenger. Not all marginalized communities have the same challenges. [We’re] not just taking that cut and paste approach.”
Today, The Council of State Governments announces a partnership with its longtime collaborator in the election space, The Turnout, to form the Election Technology Initiative (ETI). The ETI will support and develop open-source technologies for election administrators to improve the security and transparency of U.S. and international elections as well as increase voter confidence, accessibility, and participation.
“State election officials are among the heroes of our democracy. They consistently carry out free and fair elections with professionalism and integrity. With the leadership of Microsoft, election officials now have new tools to assure citizens that their vote counts,” said David Adkins, executive director/CEO of The Council of State Governments. “CSG is proud to launch the Election Technology Initiative in partnership with The Turnout to enhance voter confidence in elections.”
The initiative will begin with the transition of ElectionGuard, the open-source software program developed by Microsoft’s Democracy Forward Initiative, to the ETI. ElectionGuard provides voting system vendors and election administrators the capability to perform end-to-end verifiable elections and post-election audits. ETI will provide the governance structure of the ElectionGuard codebase and oversee its implementation of end-to-end verifiability. RC Carter will join The Turnout and continue to lead the project. Dr. Josh Benaloh, one of the core and earliest contributors of the cryptographic foundations ElectionGuard is based upon, will continue to serve as principal technical advisor to the project and oversee the ElectionGuard specification, and Microsoft Research will continue to contribute important implementations of the specification and codebase.
“The Turnout is excited to partner with CSG on the Election Technology Initiative to bring additional layers of accountability, accessibility, and transparency to elections; building on the foundation that Microsoft set for us,” said Jared Marcotte, president of The Turnout. “We’re also happy to announce that RC Carter will be joining our team of election technology experts. It’s a rare gift to have someone who’s been with a project since its inception, has a clear and specific vision for its growth and development, can liaise and manage the various development teams, and can effortlessly explain a highly technical project to any audience. That’s RC.”
ElectionGuard was announced at Microsoft BUILD in 2018. Its first public election occurred in Fulton, Wisconsin, in February 2020 with VotingWorks. After a partnership with Hart InterCivic announced in July 2021, ElectionGuard was used in the November 2022 General Election in Franklin County, Idaho, in conjunction with Hart, Enhanced Voting, MITRE, and the Center for Civic Design.
“At Microsoft, we are working with our partners to create technology solutions that can safeguard the electoral process around the world. Four years ago, we launched ElectionGuard as a new open-source contribution to the development of secure, transparent, and accessible voting systems,” said Ginny Badanes, senior director of Microsoft’s Democracy Forward program. “Today, we are transitioning ElectionGuard to the Election Technology Initiative so they can continue this important work. With Microsoft’s ongoing support, CSG and The Turnout are the right team of trusted experts to advance ElectionGuard’s mission of empowering voters to verify that their vote counted.”
What is End-to-end Verifiability? End-to-end verifiability (e2e-v) uses advanced cryptography and security software to create a public encrypted copy of the tally and of each ballot used in an election. Voters can verify that their ballots were included in the final tally and independent verifiers can be built to confirm the tallies derived by the ballots are correctly counted.
E2e-v is the only mechanism other than paper ballots that allow for software independence, a key requirement of systems certified under the Election Assistance Commission’s Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 standards. It’s also the only technology that can achieve software independence across both paper-and non-paper-based systems, which makes it a critical enabler of additional voting methods and improving accessibility generally. ElectionGuard is currently the only comprehensive end-to-end verifiability system under development in the U.S.
About The Council of State Governments CSG is America’s largest organization of state officials and the nation’s only nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization serving all three branches of state government. Founded in 1933, CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy to help communities across the nation and advance the common good.
About The Turnout At the intersection of technology and election infrastructure, The Turnout works to help governments better understand and assess military and overseas voting, to perform security self-assessments and upgrade their cybersecurity, to visualize and analyze their processes, and to standardize and validate their elections data.
If there is one constant in election administration, it’s change.
Election officials are constantly innovating to meet the evolving needs of voters. Voter portals, “one-stop self-service” sites, enable voter access to individualized voting materials.
Vermont’s election portal, called My Voter Page or MVP for short, provides a web-based data search interface of information extracted from Vermont’s statewide voter registration database. MVP provides a web-based data search interface of information extracted from Vermont’s statewide voter registration database.
In early 2015, the Vermont Secretary of State’s office initiated an 18-month development and implementation plan for the voter portal as part of a larger Election Management System solution. Election management and portal development began after a competitive procurement process resulting in the selection of a PCC Technology Group, LLC, now known as Civix, the state’s collaborator.
Elections in Vermont are conducted at the township level by 247 town clerks. According to Will Senning, Vermont Director of Elections, building an election management system stemmed from a desire to include an individualized hub for a voter’s information and allow each voter to interact electronically with their specific clerk. The portal allows voters to view their sample ballot, respond to a National Voter Registration Act notice, request an absentee ballot, check that the request was received and view the absentee ballot issue date and the date the clerk received the ballot.
From the outset, Vermont’s MVP allowed all Vermont residents to electronically register to vote, take the voter oath, review or respond to any voter challenge letters, find their elected officials and check their:
Voter registration status
Absentee ballot status.
Mail-in application and ballot status.
Registration information on file with the town office.
Sample ballot for the upcoming election.
Portal Use for Vermont’s Military & Overseas Voters
This includes all Vermont military and overseas citizens covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). On Aug. 29, 2016, Condos told Vermont Business Magazine,
“Voting for our military and overseas voters is now easier than ever. It is my pleasure to present this information [about MVP] to help these Vermonters register and vote.”
Through MVP, Vermont’s military personnel and overseas citizens can easily participate in the election process by registering to vote and requesting a blank ballot online. In Vermont, voters covered by UOCAVA must return their ballots by mail. However, they may request their ballot by phone, fax, email or mail. They may also request that their unvoted blank ballot and certificate for the return envelope be delivered to them electronically via MVP. Voters who request delivery of a blank ballot through MVP receive an email generated by the system stating their ballot is available and providing them with a login. The voter can access the ballot through MVP and either mark the ballot through onscreen marking before printing, or hand mark the ballot and then return it by mail. Per UOCAVA, any ballot requested more than 45 days before the election will be mailed on the 45th day before the election. This means that if the blank ballot is sent electronically the voter would receive it immediately, allowing them more time to return their completed ballot.
Accessible Voting and Vermont’s Portal
According to Vermont’s Election Division website, “Vermont’s election laws are designed to make it easy for all eligible Vermonters to vote and to register to vote. One of the specific purposes of the Vermont Election Laws is ‘to provide equal opportunity for all citizens of voting age to participate in political processes.’”
In 2018, after a competitive procurement process, a new accessible voting solution was introduced by the Vermont Secretary of State’s office. This solution – OmniBallot – is a tablet-based ballot marking system that marks the voter’s selections onto paper ballots, increasing the privacy and independence of a voter with disabilities. OmniBallot also contains an online interface that enables citizens with disabilities to vote from home during the early voting period.
Post-Pandemic Voting by Mail and the Portal
After experimenting with vote-by-mail procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vermont joined California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington to become one of eight states that now conduct elections almost entirely by mail.
As a result of a 2021 Vermont law, all active registered voters in Vermont are now mailed a ballot for each general election, unless they have requested that their ballot be electronically delivered via their MVP. All Vermont voters are able to cast an absentee ballot if they so choose. Vermont voters can return their ballots via mail, in-person at their town or city clerk’s office, via secure ballot drop box before Election Day or at their polling place on Election Day.
Vermont’s My Voter Portal conveniently and securely facilitates voter registration, viewing of a sample ballot, electronic ballot delivery, ballot tracking and more. It is a valuable tool supporting Vermont’s new vote-by-mail process and for the state and local election officials who serve voters – including military and overseas Vermonters worldwide, and voters with accessibility challenges .
 MVP is not the official record of a voter’s registration. Voter registration records are retained by each person’s voter registration office in the specific Vermont town where they reside at https://mvp.vermont.gov/.
The Overseas Voting Initiative (OVI) traveled to Italy in December 2022 to gain a better understanding of the challenges that Americans living overseas face when voting from abroad.
The first day of meetings in Venice kicked off with Denise Tecchio from American Corners based in Trieste, Italy. American Corners, or American Spaces, are supported by the U.S. Department of State and provide cultural programs and events for foreign citizens. In addition to providing English language classes, a maker space for doing crafts and DIY projects and a ukulele club to sing English songs, Ms. Tecchio’s group assists American citizens with information on elections and voting. American Corners in Triste coordinates with the U.S. Embassy in Milan to help voters send their ballots by diplomatic post. The OVI group had a good conversation with Ms. Tecchio about the barriers to voting in primaries, which is not just a problem faced by overseas citizens, but a nationwide turnout problem.
Upon arrival in Florence the following day, the group traveled to the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial, containing the headstones of 4,392 Americans who died defending freedom during World War II in Italy. The group heard from an American citizen who is the superintendent of the facility, which is owned by the U.S. government, about the history of the war effort in Italy. Election Assistance Commission Chair Thomas Hicks and Commissioner Donald Palmer, recently retired Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos and Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) Director Scott Wiedmann laid wreaths at the memorial.
The next day’s meetings began with information on FVAP’s Ambassador program. Developed over the last several years, the program engages expatriate Americans living in a country to act as liaisons to help U.S. citizens vote. Ambassadors are currently located in Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. Italy’s FVAP Ambassador, Sean Greene, told the group that the most common question he gets are about a voter’s residency and which address to use when voting. He also received many practical questions, like how to provide the embassy a ballot to include in the diplomatic pouch, how to fold an FVAP-provided DYI envelope and whom to contact with questions. Mr. Greene noted that during the pandemic it was more difficult to engage voters, but he was able to engage overseas citizens online through social media and Zoom Q&A sessions facilitated by the embassy and consulates. Going forward, Mr. Greene suggested that FVAP could have regional ambassadors who set up virtual office hours and conduct much of their outreach online.
The afternoon session in Florence and morning session in Rome featured discussions with expatriates about the barriers they face in returning ballots from abroad. Of note, these discussions highlighted that Europe has stronger privacy laws than we are accustomed to in the United States, making it difficult to identify and track U.S. citizens living abroad. This can make it hard to reach these citizens to inform them of their right to vote and how to cast a ballot. It can also take a long time for mail to travel from abroad to the United States, and there is sometimes a lack of trust in the local mail system, particularly in Italy.
Another barrier is simply understanding the system. Expatriates don’t always realize that getting a ballot is a multi-step process that requires a citizen to first register to vote and then request a ballot, or that the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) in most states achieves both of these requests. Additionally, depending on their state of residency, voters may have to request a ballot each calendar year. There is also a misunderstanding about “intent to return,” the question that classifies overseas citizens as living permanently overseas or temporarily overseas, which affects the type of ballot voters are eligible to receive in some states. Often, U.S. citizens living abroad aren’t sure whether or not they will return to the U.S. and they have difficulty answering the question. They may also worry about tax implications, both in the U.S. and in their current country of residence, depending on how they answer the question.
The final activity of the group was a highlight for many – a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Rome and a tour of the mail facilities. The Embassy in Rome and other U.S. Overseas Missions (embassies and consulates) provide secure collection boxes for U.S. citizens to return their ballots during federal elections. Ballots are sent to the U.S. via an unclassified diplomatic pouch, through the Diplomatic Post Office (DPO). Diplomatic pouches containing ballots and other unclassified mail are sent first to a sorting facility in Dulles, Virginia, and then put into the U.S. mail stream. This process has important implications for election officials because many states permit ballots from military and overseas voters to be counted if they are received after election day but postmarked beforehand. The issue of how they are postmarked when received at a U.S. embassy and when they are received at the Dulles sorting facility thus may affect whether the ballot is ultimately counted or not.
The ability for overseas citizens to track their ballots through the system is another area of concern for those living abroad. Engaged voters like to be informed of when their ballot arrives in the U.S., is in the hands of election officials and is ultimately counted. Using the DPO system described above, State Department employees and their eligible family members can track their ballots, but expatriates not associated with the State Department don’t have tracking capabilities.
The conversations and many lessons learned from the trip to Italy will help inform the work of the OVI in the coming years, with a particular focus on understanding the unique barriers of private, non-military citizens living overseas.
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Overseas Voting Initiative (OVI) 2019 report Examining the Sustainability of Balloting Solutions for Military and Overseas Voting, said “states are under increasing legislative pressure to have contingency plans in place for all aspects of their election systems, including the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) balloting solutions, due to recent national disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Dorian, and global threats of terrorism, civil disobedience, cyberattacks and mail service disruptions.” A case study in emergency preparedness can be found in New Jersey.
Superstorm Sandy is known as such because it was more than justa hurricane that ripped through the East Coast of North America beginning on October 22, 2012. Sandy was a Category 3 hurricane followed immediately by a post-tropical cyclone that made landfall in rapid-fire succession over several days. The storm did not end until November 2 after killing at least 117 people in the United States plus 69 people in Canada and the Caribbean. It also left $68 billion in destruction in its wake, even forcing the closure of the New York Stock Exchange for two consecutive days, the first time this happened since 1888 due to a weather catastrophe.
Election officials are some of our nation’s greatest go-to resources for contingency planning and logistical challenges. They are leaders in thought and action when it comes to disaster preparedness and resilience of operations. Elections must always happen as scheduled, in spite of any hurdle, disruption, or disaster. New Jersey election officials in a post-Sandy environment certainly typify this statement.
If a state is going to supply its counties with necessary tools for today’s ever-evolving technology and security environments, they wanted to make their investment – paid for through the Help America Vote Act Election Security Funds – stretch as far as possible to include tools for disaster recovery, contingency planning, redundancy, and sandboxing for UOCAVA and other electronically returned ballots.
Thus, in addition to the Chromebook with its sandboxing environment, New Jersey’s Go Bags were later augmented to include a second Chromebook to serve as a redundant back-up, as well as a printer, a hot spot router, multiple power supplies, paper, and pens. These items were then fitted in secure, durable hard-shell cases for each local election office.
New Jersey’s aptly-termed “Go Bag” is an example of a statewide initiative to enhance contingency planning. Local election jurisdictions can be prepared for all types of unforeseen circumstances and emergencies that can negatively impact the administration of elections in their state.
New Jersey’s Go Bag is a portable election office, developed by the New Jersey Division of Elections team as a contingency plan and business process continuity tool. It contains the necessary supplies for local election officials in New Jersey’s 21 counties to conduct business from anywhere and meet multiple disaster scenarios.
In addition to its role in business continuity efforts, the Go Bag also serves as a stand-alone workstation. It enables the detection and mitigation of malware and other cybersecurity threats from email attachments and other electronic files received by local election officials.
Each Go Bag contains a dedicated, stand-alone, mobile Chromebook workstation with a “sandboxing environment,” for retrieval of electronic ballots, as New Jersey law permits military and overseas citizen ballots to be returned electronically. New Jersey typically requires a mailed ballot as well, but that requirement may be waived in a declared emergency. A sandbox is a separate, partitioned environment where electronic ballot attachments can be opened securely by election officials to isolate potential viruses or other malware prior to an email entering the local network or mail server. If threatening activity is detected, the email is flagged and the election officials is prevented from unknowingly opening the malicious content, thereby infecting their network. Thus, sandboxing provides New Jersey’s local election offices with a more protective environment where electronic ballot attachments and other balloting materials can be opened securely – and separately from their other systems potentially averting a major issue. For reference, New Jersey’s sandboxing environment deployment is similar to the technology implementation in South Carolina as described in this OVI article.
It’s important to note that New Jersey’s local election duties are divided among multiple county offices. County clerks use the sandboxing solution to process military, overseas citizen, and vote-by-mail applications, while the county boards of election use them to safely open returned electronic ballots from voters authorized to cast electronic ballots. Therefore, the state purchased 51 sandboxing environments – and 51 Go Bags – for all the local election official offices across their 21 counties including county clerks, board of elections offices, and in the case of New Jersey’s larger counties, the county superintendents of elections /commissioners of registration.
New Jersey’s dual purpose “Go Bag” for each of its 21 counties equipped with two Chromebooks, a printer, a hot spot router, multiple power supplies, paper, and pens in a case.
New Jersey’s Go Bags are an effective tool for mitigating cybersecurity risks and enabling continuity of election operations in the face of unforeseen logistical challenges in any type of emergency. Thus, we’re sharing this implementation overview from New Jersey in the event it helps other states and local jurisdictions who are considering various election risk mitigation strategies. We also encourage state and local election officials to share their ideas or proven methods with us by emailing us at [email protected].
In 2022, Nevada voters approved a ballot measure to change its elections to ranked choice voting. Since this ballot measure is a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, the measure will again require approval in 2024 to take effect. If the state votes to reapprove ranked voting, it joins a growing number of U.S. cities, counties and states in using a ranked choice voting system for elections.
What is Ranked Choice Voting? Ranked choice voting is any system for counting votes that gives voters the option to rank their choices in order of preference. If a voter likes candidate A, but would prefer candidate B over candidate C if their favorite (candidate A) did not win, they could rank the three candidates accordingly on their ballot (A > B > C).
How do votes get counted in such a system? There are multiple methods, but the most common one is the alternative vote. During the alternative voting process, the candidate receiving a majority of first choice votes wins and the election is over. If no one wins a majority of votes, the ranked choices come into play. In the most common form of ranked voting, the last-place candidate gets eliminated (i.e., the candidate with the fewest first choice votes), and the voters who chose that candidate as their first choice have their votes reallocated to their second choice. For example, if candidate A came in last place, the vote would go to candidate B. This process continues until a candidate achieves a majority of votes.
Ranked choice voting can play out in different ways depending on the exact version of ranked voting a locality adopts. Most places utilizing ranked voting elect a single winner in a given election, while other locations use a multi-winner format of ranked voting where multiple officials are elected in a single contest, such as for a city council. Most forms of ranked voting are considered majoritarian (i.e., they try to ensure majority rule), while others are considered proportional (they focus instead on maximizing representation for different parties). Some common forms of ranked voting are explained in the table below.
Comparison of Ranked Choice Voting Systems
Ballot Counting System
Seats Elected at Once
Alternative Vote (AV)
Candidates with fewest first preference votes are eliminated successively and their voters go to their next choices until one candidate has a majority.
Alaska and Maine, Australia and Fiji, the Oscar for “Best Picture” and the Hugo Awards for Science Fiction
Two Round – Majority Runoff
Candidates who are not in first or second place in total votes are eliminated in the first round. The second round includes only the top two candidates.
Georgia and Louisiana, France presidential elections
Two Round – Majority Plurality
Candidates who do not reach a certain threshold of votes are eliminated in the first round. The second round includes all candidates that met the threshold.
France legislative elections
Preferential Block Vote or Multiple Transferable Vote (MTV)
Candidates with the fewest first preference votes are eliminated successively and their voters go to their next choices until one candidate has a majority. The count is then repeated with the elected candidates removed until all seats are filled.
Some local elections in Utah
Single Transferable Vote (STV)
Candidates with fewest first preference votes are eliminated successively and their voters go to their next choices until all seats are filled.
Some local elections in Massachusetts, Michigan, and California, Ireland and Malta legislative elections
Varies with number of seats awarded at once
Candidates with the highest rankings are elected successively until all seats are filled.
Kiribati presidential nominations and Nauru legislative elections, the Major League Baseball’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), the Heisman Trophy for college football
What States Use Ranked Choice Voting? As of January 2023, ranked choice voting is used in Alaska and Maine, in addition to 53 cities and counties representing roughly 11 million voters. Military and overseas voters cast ranked voting ballots during federal runoff elections in Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. The map below shows states where ranked voting is used for at least some elections.
Note: This map only includes uses of ranked voting that result in a candidate being elected to office. Party primaries, conventions and other nominating processes are not included in this data, but some states do use ranked voting for those processes.
When and how jurisdictions utilize ranked voting varies widely. Some areas use it only for primary elections but not general elections, while others use it in general elections but not primaries. There are also other areas that use it for both. Jurisdictions can also elect to use ranked voting for electing some offices but not others. Alaska, for example, uses ranked voting only for its general elections, while its primaries use a top four system in which voters choose their top candidate. The top four candidates then go to the general election. Other locations continue to use ranked voting as a way to replace primaries entirely, consolidating primaries and general elections into a single contest. Many cities in the U.S., including Salt Lake City and other Utah cities, have implemented ranked voting as a way to consolidate nonpartisan primaries and general elections into one election.
States with ranked choice voting Maine first adopted ranked voting in 2016 for state and federal primary elections. It was then adopted in 2018 for all general congressional elections. The state later expanded its use to presidential general elections beginning in 2020. Use of ranked voting will begin in 2024 for presidential primaries.
Alaska enacted ranked choice voting by ballot measure in 2020. Its first use came during a special election in August 2022 that resulted in Rep. Mary Peltola defeating former Alaska Gov. Sara Palin for an open U.S. congressional seat. The state uses ranked voting for all state and general elections.
In Nevada, voters recently approved a ballot measure changing the state’s elections to a system with nonpartisan primaries that allow voters to choose candidates from any party. After the primary, ranked voting occurs for general election, at which time voters can rank their top five candidates in order of preference. Implementation requires a vote of approval again in November 2024. The state will use ranked voting for state and federal elections but not presidential.
Cities with ranked choice voting The same story is also present in the 53-plus cities utilizing ranked voting. For example, since 2009 Minneapolis has used it for 22 city offices and some park board and board of taxation seats. New York City employs its use for city primary, as well as special elections for mayor and other citywide offices. Since 2021, ranked voting has also been used in New York City to elect borough presidents and city council. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, it has been used to determine mayor, city council, and municipal judge elections since 2018.
More to come Nine cities and the state of Nevada had ballot measures concerning ranked voting in 2022. Of these, all but two passed:
Nevada – approved in 2022; reapproval required in 2024 to go into effect.
Ensuring majority rule Elections with more than two candidates can often result in a candidate winning with less than 50% of the vote, leading to a winner who doesn’t have a majority of support from the public. Maine voters were driven to adopt ranked voting after nine of its 11 gubernatorial elections were won with less than 50% of the vote during a 20-year period, including three governors’ races with winners who had less than 40% of votes. With ranked choice voting, if no candidate receives a majority of voters’ first choices, a process is used to reallocate voters to their next preferences until a winner gets a majority, upholding majority rule.
More choices and more influence for voters Ranked choice voting can also give voters more choices, allowing them to vote for a viable candidate without having their vote placed used on a preferred candidate who is unlikely to win. If their first choice doesn’t win, they know their vote will count for their next most preferred choice(s). Ranked voting can enable two similar candidates to compete without fear of possibly splitting the vote. This may help reduce the spoiler effect, which is the phenomena of two similar candidates or parties losing to a very different candidate or party because voters couldn’t effectively coordinate on one choice. Currently, some candidates and parties — usually those from underrepresented groups in elected office — are pressured to stay out of races for fear of acting as a spoiler.
Ranked voting also helps ensure that voters’ preferences actually influence the outcome of an election. For example, in 2020, more than 3 million Democratic primary voters voted for a candidate who had already withdrawn from the race. In 2016, more than 5% of votes were cast for Republican candidates that had withdrawn from the primaries. These specific kinds of “wasted votes” often occur with early voting when voters fill out ballots a week or more ahead of election day. Ranked voting enables these voters to have backup candidates if their top choice drops out.
Ranked voting is an especially valuable tool for military and overseas voters who encounter a number of barriers to voting. Federal law requires states to provide these voters with ballots at least 45 days prior to elections, but runoffs require sending a new set of ballots, delaying the runoff and reducing turnout. By the time military and overseas voters receive their ballots, candidates may no longer be in the race, leading to the possibility of more “wasted votes.” Since voters can rank candidates on a single ballot with ranked voting, their vote still counts if a runoff occurs or a candidate drops out. Currently, six states use ranked voting for its overseas voters: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina.
More civility in campaigns In ranked voting elections, candidates have an incentive to court as many voters as possible in hopes of winning. If they are not the first choice of voters, they can succeed by acquiring enough votes as the second or third choices. This can lessen the tendency to run negative campaigns involving attacks on opponents and instead encourage efforts to positively interact with as many voters as possible, even those who may not view them as a first choice. According to a survey of Republican primary voters in Virginia, the use of ranked voting resulted in a more positive congressional primary in 2022. A 2013-14 survey of voters in ranked voting and non- ranked voting cities revealed that voters in ranked voting cities were more satisfied with the tone of campaigns, and noticed less criticism and negative campaigning, than non-ranked voting city voters.
Lower cost for elections and improved turnout By replacing primaries and runoffs with ranked voting, jurisdictions can save money and improve voter turnout. In non-ranked voting elections, when no candidate meets a necessary threshold, jurisdictions must hold a second election that costs taxpayer money. New York City saves $20 Million every time ranked voting avoids a runoff. When the two rounds of voting are consolidated into a single election, there also tends to be higher and more representative turnout. Throughout the past twenty years, federal primary runoff elections have seen a median turnout decline of 37% between the first and final rounds, whereas a 2016 study found ranked voting general elections are associated with a 10-point increase in voter turnout compared to the primary and runoff elections they replace.
Broader representation In elections with multiple winners, proportional ranked voting enables diverse groups of voters to elect their candidates of choice. In single winner races, ranked voting promotes the representation of historically underrepresented groups, including women and people of color. In one study, researchers found that women’s representation increased in cities using proportional ranked voting during the early 1900s. It was also revealed that single-winner ranked voting has increased women’s representation in the 21st century. Another study found that cities utilizing ranked voting also have better electoral outcomes for women and people of color.
Voter support for ranked choice voting For all the discussion from party leaders and others about whether ranked choice voting is a good idea, voters themselves express broad support for the practice and find it easy to use. After using ranked voting for the first time in 2022, 85% of Alaska voters described it as “simple.” In New York City, 95% of voters across all ethnic groups who participated in the city’s 2021 primary elections described the ranked voting ballot as “simple to complete”; nearly 80% said they understood it extremely or very well; and 77% supported using it for future elections. After using ranked voting for the first time in 2018, 94% of Santa Fe voters reported feeling either very or somewhat satisfied with the format and more than 70% supported its use in future city elections.
Why Not Use Ranked Choice Voting? Some opponents of ranked choice voting dislike it for one of the same reasons its supporters promote it: it can weaken the far right or left wings of the two main political parties. These critics worry it could weaken the influence of the two main parties and allow more centrist candidates an easier path, thus diluting the power of very progressive or very conservative politicians and policies.
Others worry the changes to filling out a ballot could confuse or deter voters, possibly disenfranchising groups of people who aren’t aware of how to use the ranking mechanism. Another concern is the time it takes to count ranked choice ballots, which could lead to a lack of confidence in the results.
Still others take issue with specific forms of ranked choice voting, arguing that in some cases it can lead to a person winning who doesn’t have majority support. This can happen if a candidate starts off with fewer first-choice votes, and thus gets eliminated, but may perhaps have a greater number of second choice votes.
There’s also the issue of voters not using all of their ranking slots or having all of their ranked picks eliminated, which can lead to “ballot exhaustion” — a drop off in the total number of votes being counted in the later rounds of counting.
The Future of Ranked Choice Voting in the U.S. As state and local governments continue to reconsider how best to run their elections with an eye toward issues like election security, trust in democracy, and voter access, ranked choice voting is one tool they are considering and often adopting. There are certainly many things to consider when evaluating whether to use ranked voting. Given its popularity with many voters and advantages over other systems of voting, ranked choice voting is worth a closer look.
Under-represented populations and minority groups see state leaders sworn in following 2022 midterms
By Trey Delida
The 2022 midterm election was historic on many fronts. From newly elected officials to landmark rulings, states across the country experienced many milestones last year.
Midterm elections are often a temperature check for how the public feels about the presiding administration. This midterm came at a culmination of special circumstances: every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives was contested, the nation endured a divisive presidential election and the world emerged from a debilitating pandemic.
Ahead of the 2022 midterms, an estimated 60% of U.S. voters believed health care, inflation, jobs and the economy, and national security were the most important issues, according to Statista.
The 2022 midterms also proved successful for underrepresented populations. People of color, LGBTQ+, women and other minority groups won many key races, expanding representation in public office.
Newly elected Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, once a press secretary for former President Donald Trump, became the first female elected to the role in state history. Florida Rep. Maxwell Frost became the first Afro-Cuban and first born member of Generation Z elected to serve in Congress. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore made history as his state’s first Black governor. His running mate, Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, became the first immigrant and first Asian-American elected to statewide office in Maryland.
Among the other historic outcomes of the midterm elections were victories by two political newcomers. Rhode Island Sens. Victoria Gu and Linda Ujifusa made history as the first Asian Americans elected to their state Legislature.
Gu is a first-generation American, while her parents were raised in an island community outside of Shanghai. They came to the states for education and stayed after taking jobs at the University of Rhode Island. Gu now represents her hometown, South Kingstown, as a senator.
Before her election, Gu studied at Harvard University, obtaining a degree in economics and computer science. Although she originally had no plans to run for office, Gu’s work as a citizen lobbyist expanded her involvement with campaigns and political organizations.
“I think I’m similar to a lot of younger folks who are concerned about climate change and environmental issues,” Gu said. “Outside of my day job I was citizen lobbying, working with and managing a lot of volunteers. I found that I really enjoyed working with people who were very passionate about any kind of issue.”
Anti-Asian hate crime spiked 339% nationwide from 2020 to 2021, according to NBC News. That was a pivotal point for Gu, who, like those around her, saw the need for more representation of their community.
“When I first started talking to family friends about running, they were very enthusiastic because they saw the need for more representation, especially after everything that was happening at the beginning of COVID with the resurgence of anti-Asian sentiments and bias,” Gu said. “I guess — stereotypically — we’re the scientists, engineers or office workers but not often looked to for leadership roles. When it comes to running for office, it’s often the local parties that recruit candidates, and that pipeline has historically not included many minorities.”
It wasn’t long after Gu announced her campaign that she received an outpouring of support and encouragement from her family and community. Her campaign was also an inspiration for some. After Gu’s campaign announcement, an Asian American high school student from a town just north of South Kingston reached out to volunteer.
“She reached out on her own. She said she was really inspired and wanted to work on the campaign or volunteer,” Gu said. “She started coming out about once a week for canvassing, and that was very early on during the primary when we were essentially going door to door.”
Gu’s victory also aligns with a successful election for women across the country. Data from the CSG Center of Innovation shows that women won 34.1% of all projected state-level races and 71.5% of all projected state-level races with at least one woman on the ballot. In total, 46.1% of women incumbent candidates won reelection.
The expansion of LGBTQ+ representation in public office was furthered by the victories of Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, Massachusetts Gov. Maura
Healey and New Hampshire Rep. James Roesener. Govs. Kotek and Healey made dual history as the first openly gay women elected in their respective states, while Rep. Roesener became the first openly transgender man to be elected to a state legislature.
The U.S. needed to elect 35,854 more LGBTQ+ individuals across local, state and national offices prior to the 2022 midterms to reach equitable representation, according to the Victory Institute, a branch of the Victory Fund organization, which is dedicated to aiding LGBTQ+ candidates get elected.
Of those LGBTQ+ candidates, Michigan Rep. Jason Hoskins made history as the first LGBTQ+ person of color elected to his state Legislature — a responsibility he does not take lightly.
“I’ve gone into a lot of spaces where I’m usually the first or the only. It can be a lot because sometimes you are speaking for all the people you represent,” Hoskins said. “If I’m going into a room, I might be the only Black person; I might be the only gay person; and certainly, I’m going into the Michigan House as being the only Black gay person. So, there are going to be times when things come up and I — and only I — might be able to speak on it. That could be a great opportunity to educate and be a voice for those who are not here or don’t see themselves here.”
Hoskins never intended to run for office despite garnering a wealth of experience in local government as a member of city council in Southfield, Michigan, and even by establishing and running the University of Detroit Mercy Law chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Throughout his rise in the political ranks, he didn’t believe public office was for people like him. Being both Black and gay, Hoskins never believed he could win an election. That was until he started working with Michigan’s first openly gay Senator, Jeremy Moss.
“I could see what he dealt with, and how he navigated being gay and being an elected official,” Hoskins said. “Seeing how he was able to navigate that space showed me you can be an LGBTQ elected official and be effective, respected and be able to do great work for your community. I think seeing it be possible is the main thing and then getting the support to do it.”
Running for office is challenging, especially for those who do not have connections and funds like more seasoned politicians. Now that offices across the nation have elected many officials who are a recorded first for their respective roles, the focus has shifted toward maintaining diverse representation.
Organizations like the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) help elected officials maintain a sustainable model of equity that accurately represents the population served by the official. This is achieved by aiding minority candidates with funds, volunteers and other essential resources needed to run a campaign — all of which are crucial to mobilizing and empowering minority communities.
Georgia Rep. Ruwa Romman, a political newcomer, understood the importance of these organizations as their work entails much of her background. She co-founded the CAIR Georgia chapter Georgia chapter in 2020, and also helped create the Georgia Volunteer Hub to connect volunteers nationwide to available organizational opportunities.
This year, Romman made history as the first Muslim woman elected to the Georgia House and the first Palestinian to serve in any of the state’s public offices, a feat she believed could not have occurred without a community behind her.
“I didn’t magically become a successful candidate. It took having an entire community behind me and, for the record, it wasn’t just the Muslim community,” Romman said. “The majority of people that stood with me, voted for me and helped me are not Muslim. The reason I had the confidence, tools and vocabulary to explain my unique experience is because of other Muslims who have come before me and built an infrastructure to help me.”
According to CAIR, 146 Muslim-American candidates ran for local, state and federal office positions in this past election. Of those candidates, 82 were victorious, up from 71 in 2020. With the percentage of Muslim-American elected officials rising, the pressure on people like Romman can be heavy.
“I am incredibly honored and proud to be making history,” Romman said. “It’s also a huge sense of responsibility. In addition to representing my district, I’m now representing a group of people who for a long time have not had representation at the table.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Being part of a marginalized or notoriously underrepresented group, these candidates know what it’s like to walk in that identity and what changes will be beneficial, or detrimental, to their communities.
Winning an election is just the start. Those who run for public office do so for a multitude of reasons, but at the core they want to help others. Helping others for Rep. Hoskins means making Michigan a more welcoming place to all.
“I hope what comes out of this is me making policies that really impact change here in Michigan,” Hoskins said. “I do want to make it a more open and welcoming place for everyone. I also want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can in the state to make it more economically vibrant.”
As for Rep. Romman, she hopes that in using her platform to share her experiences that she can incite the change she wanted growing up.
“I can share my experience; I can talk about — for example — the impact that public education had on me. I can talk about the importance that teachers have had in my life and how they saved my life. I can talk about the fear I had growing up because I didn’t have consistent access to health insurance,” Romman said. “I think, as a state lawmaker, people now listen to that a little bit more than they did if it was just a random millennial tweeting or posting on Instagram, Facebook or Tik Tok.”
Undeniably, the 2022 midterm elections will go down in the history books. Historic firsts swept the nation, even in unsuspecting states. Post-election results reveal that this midterm was historically close, and neither party totally dominated, leaving us all to wonder what awaits in 2024.
Please note that this article is based on projected results and may change with certified election results.
Changes to legislative and executive power in the states were on the ballot this November. In this year’s state elections, voters considered issues like the power to convene a special legislative session, the state legislative veto and the creation of new executive offices. This article analyzes the results of these ballot measures in Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas and Kentucky.
Arkansas, Idaho and Kentucky considered options for calling a special legislative session.
Kentucky voters decided against a constitutional amendment addressing legislative power with 54% of voters selecting “no”. Constitutional Amendment 1 would have allowed the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House to convene the legislature by a Joint Proclamation for up to 12 days a year and allowed each chamber to extend the end date for the legislative session by a three-fifths vote. With the failure of this measure, only the Governor can call a special legislative session in Kentucky.
In Arkansas, 61% of voters rejected a similar ballot measure for Issue 1. This amendment would have allowed either a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers or a joint proclamation by House and Senate leadership to convene a special session. Currently, only the Governor of Arkansas has that power.
Kentucky and Arkansas are two of 13 states that give the governor sole power over calling a legislative session. Illinois, Ohio and Delaware are the only three states that do not require a legislative vote or Governor’s authority to convene a special legislative session.
With 52% of Idaho voters selecting “yes” on Constitutional Amendment SJR 102, the state now allows Senate and House leadership to convene a special legislative session if they receive a joint proclamation from three-fifths of lawmakers in each chamber. Idaho joins 17 other states where a supermajority is required to convene a special legislative session.
Arizona voters decided to create the position of lieutenant governor.
Proposition 131 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that establishes the office of Lieutenant Governor who would run for election on a joint ticket with the gubernatorial candidate. Voters in Arizona supported this ballot measure with 55% voting “yes”. Before this ballot measure was passed, the Arizona constitution stipulated that if the office of the Governor becomes vacant, the Secretary of State should succeed, but the passage of this amendment transferred that power to the Lieutenant Governor.
With this amendment, Arizona joins 45 states who have an elected lieutenant governor position.
Kansas voters rejected the state legislative veto.
Kansas Constitutional Amendment 1, the Legislative Veto or Suspension of Executive Agency Regulations Amendment, was narrowly rejected by voters. Constitutional Amendment 1 authorized the legislature to veto or suspend rules or regulations adopted by executive agencies via a simple majority vote. With a close finish, 50.5% of voters selected to reject this amendment.
From 1939 through 1984, Kansas lawmakers could rewrite or veto any regulation adopted by an administrative agency. In 1984, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in Stephan v Kansas House of Representatives that this legislative veto violated the constitutional commitment to separation of powers. Before the election, Kansas legislators could only revise or reject administrative procedures by passing a bill that the governor signs into law, but a joint committee could review regulations and make recommendations. Passage of Constitutional Amendment 1 would have expanded legislators’ power and limited the ability of state agencies to unilaterally implement rules that have the effect of law.
Since 1976, Idaho, Iowa and Nevada have passed ballot measures expanding the legislative veto. If Constitutional Initiative 1 was passed, Kansas would have joined at least six others- Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, New Jersey and Nevada– in allowing legislators to veto executive actions.
CSG will continue to provide initial results on key topics as well as more in-depth analysis in the days following the election. Find those articles on Twitter (@CSGovts) and at csg.org/state-talk.
Prior to the 2022 general election, only ten women across nine states and one territory held the gubernatorial position. Nine of these women ran as the incumbent candidates in the 2022 election – all nine gubernatorial incumbent women won (Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon did not run for reelection due to term limits). Four other states, Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts and Oregon, elected women governors, setting a record for the most women serving as governors concurrently.
Nationally, prior to the 2022 midterm elections, 23 states had never elected a woman as governor, 16 of which held gubernatorial elections during the 2022 midterm elections. Women were on the ballot for the 2022 gubernatorial race in 12 of these 16 states, and nominated as either a Republican or Democratic candidatein six (Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio). Women won the gubernatorial election in three states, Arkansas, Massachusetts and New York, bringing the number of states that have never elected a woman to the gubernatorial role down to 20.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) made history in 2022 as the first woman to be governor of Arkansas. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) is the first woman elected as lieutenant governor in Arkansas. Massachusetts’ Attorney General Maura Healey (D) and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) of New York made history as the first elected governors of their respective states (both states appointed women as governors previously). Arkansas and Massachusetts are the first states to have women serving concurrently in both the governor and lieutenant governor positions. Additionally, both Healey of Massachusetts and Tina Kotek (D) of Oregon made national history simultaneously as the first openly lesbian candidates to be elected governors in the US.
Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands also held gubernatorial elections in 2022. The Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands have never elected a woman to the gubernatorial position. Christina Sablan made history as the first woman in the Northern Mariana Islands to be nominated by a major party for the gubernatorial role. In Guam, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero made history in 2018 as the first woman elected to governor. Guerrero won reelection in 2022.
Election Results So far
As of Nov. 15, 2022, Ballotpedia has projected winners for 92.1% of the 6,514 state-level races in the 2022 general election. Data fromBallotpedia shows that 35.5% of state-level race candidates are women. Of these women, 45.3% were incumbents, 7.1% ran for positions in the executive branch, 5.0% ran for positions in the judicial branch and 88.0% ran for positions in the legislative branch. In just under half (48.6%) of the state level races, at least one candidate identified as a woman. Overall, women won 34.1% of all projected state level races and won 71.5% of all projected state level races with at least one woman on the ballot. 46.1% of women incumbent candidates won reelection.
(NOTE: gender information for 12.9% of state level candidates was unavailable. Gender information for all candidates within a race was unavailable for 1.7% of all state races. These candidates and races were excluded from all analyses).
Gubernatorial elections took place in 36 states and three territories in 2022. Women won 12 states and one territory out of the 29 gubernatorial races with a woman candidate on the ballot (27 states and two territories) and accounted for 31.8% of the gubernatorial candidates on the ballot. The number of states and territories with a female governor increased from 10 to 13.
Of the 4,464 lower legislature races across 49 states and three territories, just under half (47.9%) had at least one woman candidate on the ballot.
35.2% of these candidates were women of which 46.9% were incumbents.
Women won 72.6% of the 1,938 projected lower legislature races with a woman candidate and 33.9% of all projected lower legislature races.
96.9% of women incumbents in projected races won.
In the upper legislature, nearly half (48.0%) of the 1,278 races across 46 states and two territories, had at least one woman running on the ballot, and women made up 34.2% of the candidates. Of these women, 40.4% were the incumbent candidate.
Women won 69.2% of the 1,193 projected state senate races with a woman candidate and 32.4% of all projected upper legislature races.
96.3% of women incumbents in projected races were reelected.
What These Results Tell Us
Overall, data from projected races indicate that fewer women than men, about one-in-three candidates, appeared on the ballot in the 2022 general elections. Women won just over one-in-three races across all state level races. When looking just at the races that include at least one woman on the ballot, women perform better, winning about seven-in-ten races. Women perform particularly well in state judicial races and in the races in which they appear on the ballot, perform worst in state executive races.