What is a Ballot Measure?

Ballot Measures

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.

Schoolhouse to Statehouse

Elected educators’ policy work places students first

By Maggie Mixer and Abeer Sikder

From classrooms to Capitols, a nationwide community of state leaders serve as educational advocates on their chamber floors. They drew inspiration from real-world experiences and outstanding students that left lasting impacts during their previous — and even ongoing — careers as teachers, professors and school administrators. 

Despite having a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences, the policy work of nine state legislators is rooted in one common cause: students. 

Kentucky Rep. Kim Banta, a former teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, noted that educators are deeply in touch with their communities and the day-to-day challenges faced by students and their families. 

“Teaching is an amazing boot camp for most other things that you can do in life that might be stressful or difficult,” Banta said. “[Educators] have their fingers on the pulse of what the struggles are, what problems people are having … because you see every single segment of society [in schools].” 

The 17-year teaching career of California Sen. Susan Rubio went beyond the classroom, as she helped students and their families navigate housing and food insecurity, language barriers and more. 

“As an educator, I was exposed to so many of the issues our community members were facing,” Rubio said. “Early on, a few families came to me for support and help outside the classroom, letting me know they didn’t have funding for supplies … and I would try to connect them with [other] resources [too].” 

Rubio said soon after she learned the true scale of the problem “and, as a teacher, [she] could only do so much.” Rubio decided she wanted to help her community from a broader platform. With access to more resources, she launched her first political campaign. Prior to joining the California Senate, she served Baldwin Park, California, for 13 years as a city clerk and city council member. 

Other state leaders, such as Virginia Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, were driven to run for office due to specific challenges experienced in the classroom as an educator. Hashmi, who was professor at Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia, also founded the college’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. After teaching for nearly 30 years, she put her name on the ballot because she “saw the state government pulling funding and resources away from students and families, and [she] knew that we could do better for thousands of deserving students.” 

Current and former students have been a continuous source of inspiration for these elected officials. While most gave up being full time educators to hold elected office, many still teach part time or make guest appearances at their district’s schools and agree that it remains one of the best parts of their jobs. 

Indiana Sen. Andrea Hunley, who taught high school English before her 10 years as a principal, recounted being inspired by students organizing against gun violence, high schoolers’ talented navigation of artificial intelligence programs and a third-grade class’s sit-in protest for more recess time. According to Hunley, students’ creativity and enterprise are “leaps and bounds ahead of us” and ahead of the legislation currently in place. 

Hunley’s experiences drove her not only to serve as an elected official but to also always focus on creating broad and innovative policy because “we’re legislating for the future and for future generations.” 

“It’s like our legislation never caught up to where our kids are,” Hunley said. “If we legislate in a way that we think like teachers … we plant seeds for today so that they can bloom tomorrow. We would legislate very differently as we think about generational impact, which is what teachers do every single day.” 

Once elected, many of these legislators continued to draw substantive lessons, as well as inspiration, from their time as educators. Among the most important skills, though, was interacting and communicating with others in an effective manner. 

Hashmi compared serving constituents and students, discussing the importance of being “timely, responsive and informed about how to resolve constituent concerns.” She added that it has improved her ability to engage with colleagues as she strives to “focus on the nuances of arguments” and “bring as much background and information as [she] can to influence the understanding of others.”

Pennsylvania Sen. Dave Argall took a unique path compared to most other legislators, entering elected office before becoming an educator. While serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and later in the Senate, he took night classes for 13 years to earn his master’s degree and doctorate in public administration. 

As an instructor, Argall returned to teach night classes as a state and community college instructor. It was there he acquired the ability to concisely present complicated issues to his constituents. 

“When you’re meeting with college students one night a week for 15 weeks, you learn how to condense a lot of information.” Argall said. “I think that practice has been really helpful to me [when] meeting with constituents at town hall meetings.” 

Listening respectfully is another side of communication legislators learned from their classroom experiences. Indiana Sen. Fady Qaddoura teaches courses on civic engagement and executive leadership as an adjunct faculty member in Indianapolis. In his experience, receiving critique on projects in academia as a doctoral student and researcher taught him the important role that diverse perspectives play in the process of creating high-quality work. 

“[This perspective] helps us build bridges of trust among legislators to understand that when we raise a question or concern, it is not politically motivated,” Qaddoura said. “It comes from a genuine concern about the policy that is being debated or discussed.” 

Qaddoura’s approach helped shape how he interacts with other senators and last year contributed to colleagues nominating him for the Indiana Senate’s annual civility award. 

Similarly, Iowa Sen. Jeff Taylor — even as a member of a majority caucus — said he works to listen to everyone on the Senate floor. After many years as a professor, academic and author, he believes that there is always more to be learned from others. 

“I make it clear [to students] that they’re free to disagree if they don’t see things the way I see it; I’m not going to hold it against them,” Taylor said. “I think I borrow that approach of fairness and objectivity from the classroom while on the Senate floor and in committee meetings.” 

Rubio found that her experiences listening to and balancing the different perspectives of 30 students in a classroom greatly informed her ability to “create policy that’s sensitive to everyone’s needs.” In a large, diverse state like California, this crucial skill has helped her understand where her community fits in massive, statewide bills. 

Many legislators who held administrative positions, like principals and superintendents, reflected on how listening was one of many skills they learned as educators that improved their ability to collaborate, especially with colleagues across the aisle. Banta and several of her colleagues with backgrounds in education work hard to build consensus, which she attributed to their experiences in education environments where “it was never my way or the highway.” 

“We [educators] tend to listen a little bit better and we tend to be problem solvers and we try to get everybody on board,” Banta said. “You always have to work with people and come to some kind of consensus [as a principal] and I think that transfers right into this job.” 

Wisconsin Rep. Dave Considine described how the goal of educational environments and improvement, not perfection, informed his approach to collaboration. Considine, a special education teacher for nearly 30 years, credits the patience he has brought to the Legislature for enabling him to stay focused on moving forward — no matter how slowly. 

“[Politics can be] a step forward, then maybe a step or two back, and then another big step forward, and then maybe half a step back,” Considine said, drawing parallels to his teaching tenure. “You don’t change behaviors overnight. That was my specialty, and so I’m used to that.” 

For many legislators, education offered an avenue to acquire strategies now utilized for policy development. Curriculum development is among those strategies. Often data driven, this specific process is one that helped prepare many of the nine legislators for life in office. 

According to Delaware Rep. Sherae’a Moore, a former English teacher, data-driven curriculum development “translates well into the legislative process.” 

“Evidence-based policymaking is crucial for achieving effective and equitable outcomes and [limiting] unintended consequences,” Moore said. “By being on the front lines, we understand that the educational systems are intricate, involving multiple stakeholders and layers of governance. This experience prepares us to navigate complex policy landscapes as we are the ones witnessing the impact of policies directly in the classroom.” 

Moore has integrated this approach into her work in the statehouse by using “data to drive any type of decision making, before [she] even drafts legislation,” to ensure that the policies she proposes fit the needs of her constituents. 

Educational experiences can also form legislators’ outlooks on the connections between different issues. Argall described sharing the view of his predecessor — another long-time educator — on the “spaghetti bowl theory of government” that “everything is related to everything.” 

For Argall, the perspective of his predecessor impacted his approach to identifying and creatively addressing problems. In 2003, After seeing the “very tight correlation” between the availability of good jobs and a community’s education level as a community college instructor, he organized the conversion of an abandoned junior high school into a community college center. 

“The building had been around since, I think, the 1920s, and was just sitting kind of sad, empty and beginning to deteriorate,” Argall said. “Sometimes in this job, you just need to bring the right people to the table.” 

Through the combined efforts of the community college, the local government, Argall’s office and a private foundation, they not only converted the building into a new education center but also funded the incoming class’s tuition. 

“I can still see the faces of the parents when [former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker] made the announcement about free tuition for two years,” Argall said. “The parents understood the power of that moment and we literally changed lives that day.” 

The project helped “breathe new life” into local students’ futures and the surrounding community, a central goal of Argall’s efforts around Pennsylvania, which have also included a series of anti-blight laws. 

The transition from education to elected office was not necessarily a career switch for these nine legislators. Rather, it presented a new side of the same path of service that they were already walking. Education placed them on the front lines of their communities and helped teach them how to effectively work with and for others — lessons that they have brought into elected office to continue to serve current and future generations. 

“We give that level of support to our kids because we genuinely, and in a loving and compassionate way, want our kids to be better than us,” Qaddoura said. “Imagine if you can extend that feeling — to give them the best of who you are so that they can live better lives — to the rest of the population and to your fellow citizens.” 

Evolving CSG, Dept. of Defense Initiative Continues Enhancing Accessibility for U.S. Military, Overseas Voters

By Morgan Thomas

The Overseas Voting Initiative continues to conduct research, analyze Uniformed Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act voter data, and cultivate dialogue surrounding innovative strategies to enhance voter accessibility through the act. 

The OVI is a collaboration between The Council of State Governments and the Department of Defense Federal Voting Assistance Program focused on improving voting access for U.S. military and overseas voters. 

Service members, their families and other U.S. citizens residing overseas face many challenges when trying to obtain and cast their ballots in U.S. elections. Service members deployed to remote areas, students studying abroad or government workers working abroad in difficult-to-access locations must overcome hurdles to exercise their right to vote. Mail operations can be intermittent or even nonexistent in some locations. Power, and therefore access to electronic communications, can also be unreliable. 

Voters facing any of these challenges are protected under the Uniformed Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which is also commonly referred to as UOCAVA. UOCAVA was enacted by Congress in 1986 and provides U.S. citizens and their eligible family members a legal basis for absentee voting requirements. Each U.S. citizen abroad faces unique challenges, making it difficult for both the voter and election officials. 

The Overseas Voting Initiative works with local and state election officials who comprise its OVI Working Group. The Working Group is divided into subgroups that focus on specific areas of interest centered on improving voting accessibility for UOCAVA voters. Through these subgroups, the OVI has conducted research, promoted technology and policies, informed state policymakers about overseas voting issues, and shared best practices with state and local election officials and other stakeholders. Some critical areas of research include: 

UOCAVA balloting solutions. 

Improving communications and connections between UOCAVA citizens and their election offices. 

Making voter registration easier for UOCAVA citizens. 

Considering how DOD digital signature capabilities can facilitate document signing by certain UOCAVA voters. 

Examining how the ballot duplication process can be improved through transparent standard operating procedures and new technologies. 

In addition to these areas of research, the OVI has also created a data standard for the Election Administration and Voting Survey, or EAVS, Section B Data. This standard allows election officials and the Federal Voting Assistance Program to conduct a deeper analysis of UOCAVA voter behavior. The Working Group analyzes and makes recommendations for changes to EAVS Section B Data to improve the survey to serve the voters and election officials better. 

Now in its 10th year, the OVI has conducted more than 27 Working Group meetings in 14 states and U.S. territories, one U.S. Embassy, and visited 11 military installations. In early spring 2024, the OVI will be releasing a series of modules identifying best practices for communicating with military service members, their families and citizens living abroad. 

Empowering Native Voters

New Mexico 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.” 

CSG Travels Abroad to Expand Apprenticeship Education

By Trey Delida

Last week, CSG staff and members attended the 2023 Transatlantic Apprenticeship Study Trip in Germany. From Stuttgart to Munich, Bayreuth to Berlin, attendees saw firsthand how well-developed apprenticeship programs impact communities.

Hosted by DIAG USA, a nonprofit that gathers stakeholders based on the example of German apprenticeship programming, the goal was to show how one country successfully implements apprenticeships.

Other organizations from the United States included the Urban Institute, the Colorado Office of Apprenticeship, the Workforce Development Board system in California, members of the Pennsylvania Senate and more.

As states face workforce shortages across sectors, apprenticeships could be a viable solution in expanding work-based learning and upskilling workers.

“As rapidly changing technology is revolutionizing the way we work, we are on the forefront of preparing our partners for this transformation,” DAIG USA posted on its LinkedIn. “Many companies are looking for a sustainable pipeline of talent that more effectively supports their goals for growth and profitability. We believe that Apprenticeship programs offer an innovative and win/win solution.”

The trip included visits to German businesses, government offices, schools and the German Chamber of Commerce, all of which utilize apprenticeships as a career pathway.

CSG has partnered with DIAG USA for several years. Center of Innovation Deputy Director of National Programs Sydney Blodgett shared that the trip allowed attendees to learn about the established German apprenticeship system firsthand.

“We visited the different stakeholders involved in workforce development and learned how they encourage folks to get into different career pathways and all the different entry and exit points,” Blodgett said. “We’ve worked with them for a couple of years now, and as apprenticeships are growing in the US, people are looking at alternative pathways to careers as the student debt crisis grows in the U.S., people are really looking at other ways to get into careers.”

CSG works extensively with several organizations and stakeholders on the expansion of apprenticeships in the United States.

For more information on CSG’s work to improve access to apprenticeships, click here.

Spreading the Word about Evaluations

A learning agenda can be a powerful tool for structuring communication with evaluation stakeholders. It also assists in ensuring that the right people are involved in guiding what programs are evaluated and informed of relevant evaluation results and responsive to any reforms suggested by evaluators.

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Wisconsin’s Braided Funding Efforts

By Enmanuel Gomez Antolinez

While numerous public, private and nonprofit programs and services are available to support the employment of youth and young adults with disabilities (Y&YADs), a lack of coordination between stakeholders can result in service gaps and duplication. Wisconsin used braided funding strategically to increase coordination and alignment between employers, service providers, education sponsors and workforce systems, enhancing Y&YADs services and outcomes. Braided funding is a financing method that uses multiple funding streams to support the total cost of a program or service. It ensures that funding goes where it is most needed, encourages interagency coordination and ensures the appropriate program and administrative costs are properly charged to each separate funding stream. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, braided funding can be used to:

  • Support an individual with a disability with the goal of pursuing, gaining, or keeping Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE),
  • Support Pre-Employment Transition Services, and
  • Support post-secondary preparation and transition activities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Braiding Federal Funding to Expand Access to Quality Early Care and Education and Early Childhood Supports and Services: A Tool for State and Local Communities” discusses this in more detail.

While this tool has an early education focus, the analysis it utilizes is equally applicable in a transition setting. Specifically, as outlined in the tool, states and local governments may consider implementing the following strategies to support and expand transition services to Y&YADs through braided funding by:

  • Identifying funding streams.
    • Identify what funding sources are available in your state or locality and identify how this funding can be used to achieve specific goals.
  • Developing an inventory of funds known as a fiscal map, directed toward a particular population (e.g., Y&YADs) or service group. A fiscal map can be used to:
    • Recognize duplicative funding streams as well as gaps in funding.
    • Establish methods to use funds more strategically.
  • Identifying eligible populations and comparing funding requirements.
    • For many funding streams, there are rules and restrictions that govern the use of the funds. Therefore, it is important to identify eligible populations and understand the differences in eligibility and reporting requirements among various funding streams available in your state or locality.
  • Building and initiating data-sharing agreements to make it easier for state and local organizations to braid funds.
  • Developing shared goals and a plan for collaboration.
    • Permit local agencies, organizations, task forces, councils or committees to perform coordinated planning and funding functions outside a formal state framework.
    • Use interagency planning groups to coordinate funding for specific objectives.
  • Building state or local programs that use multiple funding streams rather than leaving it to individual provider level to pursue different funding streams.
  • Developing governance structures to support collaboration between agencies and other key players in state or local entities.

Wisconsin is one state that engages in braided funding to support Y&YADs. Wisconsin’s 2020-23 Combined State Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Plan prioritizes and directs state agencies to identify opportunities for braided funding to provide effective employment services to individuals with disabilities. Wisconsin’s WIOA Plan also directs cost-sharing to be negotiated among state entities, such as education, vocational rehabilitation (DVR) and local entities such as long-term care and mental health agencies. For example, cost-sharing may be negotiated among DVR, the school district and long-term care or mental health programs when there is an overlap in educational and employment/rehabilitation goals and services. This negotiation increases coordination between the various parties to ensure their specific funds contributed to the program or service are used for their designated purposes.

Similarly, the Wisconsin Departments of Health Services, Workforce Development and Public Instruction developed a comprehensive Transition Action Guide (TAG). This guide outlines a strategic approach to help Wisconsin state and local governments identify overlaps or gaps in service provision in the areas of communication, coordination and service delivery for Y&YADs transitioning from school to work. It lists funding sources and their eligibility requirements so agencies can pursue braided funding opportunities. The resource also discusses cost-sharing agreements among agencies and when these agreements are appropriate.

For more information and state examples of the benefits of braided funding efforts, review CAPE-Youth’s “Improving Transition Services for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities through Braided Funding.”

CSG, The Turnout Launch New Initiative with Microsoft Support to Increase Voter Confidence

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.

Latest ‘Guideposts for Success’ Offer State Leaders Tools to Educate, Support Employers

By Trey Delida

Since 2005, the “Guideposts for Success” have equipped state leaders with up-to-date, innovative practices that increase the opportunities for youth and young adults with disabilities to transition into the workforce.

The latest brief, “Guideposts for Success: States Engaging Employers through Policy,” serves as a model for policymakers by providing them with the tools necessary to educate and support employers in their states in hiring or providing learning opportunities for youth and young adults with disabilities.

According to Andrew Karhan, project director at San Diego State University’s Interwork Institute, the brief draws on state examples and actual conversations with employers who have experience in this process. As part of the project, Karhan collaborated with the Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth).

“The brief was compiled through a deep dive into research, the current best practices related to employer engagement and the comparable employer practices towards enhanced inclusion,” Karhan said. “Some previous policies in this space have not had the intended impact. Therefore, this brief was approached through a lens of improvement science, where we asked how we can introduce change ideas leading to improvement?  The ideas presented here were born out of this research and conversations with employers and experts in the field to ultimately lead to these improvement ideas.”

The “Guideposts for Success: States Engaging Employers through Policy” is founded on six policy considerations, including:

  • Developing structures for states to become model employers of youth and young adults with disabilities.
  • Simplifying current incentives and introducing new incentives to encourage employers to develop inclusive workplace practices.
  • Facilitating telework to adapt to changes in the world of work.
  • Educating employers about the business case for their participation and support of youth and young adults with disabilities in work preparation programs.
  • Assembling tools guided and developed in partnership with national centers and employer organizations and disseminating them at the state and local levels.
  • Enhancing existing state workforce systems to foster equitable access.

The policy framework provides lawmakers and state leaders with evidence-based practices to aid youth and young adults with disabilities when obtaining employment through improved education.

“As youth transition into postsecondary environments or employment, it is critical for us to lay the necessary groundwork for them to move into employment in their field of interest and skill,” Karhan said. “The low employment outcomes of youth and young with disabilities have been well documented and, as a result, this brief offers new approaches and policy levers to help change this narrative.”

The development of “Guideposts for Success: States Engaging Employers through Policy” was led by CAPE-Youth, and is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy, The Council of State Governments, the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University, and the Interwork Institute at San Diego State University.

States Promote Apprenticeships to Expand Career Pathways during 2023 Legislative Session

By Mary Wurtz and Jackson Beauregard

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there are approximately 9.5 million job openings in the U.S., but only 5.6 million unemployed workers to potentially fill those roles. Considering these workforce shortages, many states pursue opportunities to expand work-based learning and to invest in upskilling existing workers through registered apprenticeship.

A registered apprenticeship is a high-quality, industry-driven career pathway that combines paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction to prepare workers for skilled careers in a variety of occupations. Historically, apprenticeships have been associated with trade professions, but now more than 1,000 occupations have been approved for registered apprenticeship by the U.S. Department of Labor, including roles in nursing, information technology, cybersecurity, human resources and more.   

Registered apprenticeship programs can help states to address workforce shortages by empowering employers to grow their own talent pipelines. Through apprenticeship, employers invest directly in employees by providing training both on the job and in the classroom and mentorship by pairing apprentices with skilled mentors who support them throughout the program. Because apprentices learn while they work, programs typically have few to no minimum experience requirements. This makes apprenticeship programs a great tool for recruiting individuals who have traditionally faced barriers to employment and postsecondary training, like formerly incarcerated individuals or individuals with disabilities.

Throughout the 2023 legislative session, several states adopted strategies to expand registered apprenticeships, such as establishing apprenticeship grant programs, promoting the use of apprenticeships in previously non-apprenticeable occupations and providing additional benefits to individuals in apprenticeship programs.

Texas introduced HB 3723 (2023), which would establish a Rural Workforce Training Grant Program providing targeted funding for job-specific training, including apprenticeship programs, in counties with a population of less than 200,000. Grant money may be used to cover “costs associated with training materials, instructors’ fees, participant wraparound expenses, facility fees, administrative costs, and outreach, mentoring, and recruiting costs” for apprenticeships and other training programs.

Kansas enacted HB 2292 (2023), which establishes multiple grant funds and tax credits for employers offering apprenticeships in a variety of fields, including:

  • A tax credit of up to $2,500 per apprentice for employers of apprentices in registered apprenticeship programs, up to 20 apprentices per employer. An additional tax credit of $500 is available per apprentice enrolled in a secondary or postsecondary career and technical education program.
  • The Kansas Nonprofit Apprenticeship Grant Program Fund, offering $2,750 per apprentice to “eligible nonprofit employers and nonprofit healthcare employers,” with up to 20 apprentices per employer.
  • The Kansas Educator Registered Apprenticeship Grant Program, established to fund tuition, fees, books and materials for education apprentices pursuing postsecondary education degrees. Education apprentices in Kansas can receive up to $2,750 per year for the purpose of increasing the number of qualified, credentialed teachers in the state of Kansas.

Idaho enacted SB 1069 (2023), which amends existing law to enable the State Board of Education to issue a certificate to a teacher who completed an approved registered apprenticeship program. These amendments create the possibility of state developed apprenticeship programs that meet the same standards as traditional teacher preparation programs and will be targeted toward individuals who have not earned bachelor’s degrees. Education degrees are often costly, and requirements of traditional programs, like unpaid student teaching, dissuade many individuals from pursuing their teaching certifications. Idaho is now one of more than a dozen states utilizing paid teacher apprenticeships to address these challenges.

Additionally, Idaho passed HB 16 (2023), which removes barriers for state agencies when hiring apprentices to fill public workforce shortages. Under new legislation, state agencies will be able to hire apprentices to fill shortages without counting them toward their annual budgeted full-time equivalent caps.

Washington enacted HB 1525 (2023), which expands the state’s existing child care subsidies to include individuals participating in a state registered apprenticeship program. Previous bill language included those in a registered apprenticeship, but the individual also needed to be a full-time student. Now, those who are in an apprenticeship program but are not students may receive the child care benefit. Apprentices are eligible to receive child care benefits for the care of one or more eligible children for the first 12 months of their enrollment in a registered apprenticeship program, if the individual’s annual adjusted household income does not exceed 75% of the state median income.

Minnesota enacted HF 1937 (2023), which increases the reimbursement amount that eligible service members and their family members are entitled to receive for costs associated with apprenticeship programs and other on-the-job training programs. The new law increases the aggregate amount of reimbursement from $10,000 to $15,000 over the eligible person’s lifetime, or a total of $3,000 per fiscal year. This reimbursement is in addition to benefits provided under the federal G.I. Bill, which provides funding for books, supplies and housing to veterans in approved apprenticeship programs.

These pieces of legislation build on the work accomplished by states in previous years to expand their apprenticeship systems. For example, in 2019, Alabama passed HB 570, which eliminated barriers to obtaining an occupational license by completing an apprenticeship program. Under the 2019 legislation, individuals who complete an apprenticeship may be granted an occupational license in that trade if the individual also completes all necessary examinations and meets other statutory requirements. The law also states that individuals who complete apprenticeship programs may not be required to complete additional testing requirements, affirming apprenticeships as high-quality preparatory programs for occupational licensure examinations.

Additionally, in 2022, Alaska passed HB 114, which directs the Department of Education and Early Development to “provide educational opportunities in the areas of vocational education and training and basic education to individuals over 16 years of age who are no longer attending school.” This includes encouraging engagement with “businesses and labor unions to develop a program to prepare students for apprenticeships or internships that will lead to employment opportunities.”

As states continue to expand their apprenticeship systems to build new career pathways, The Council of State Governments education and workforce team is available as a resource for policymakers. CSG provides states with no-cost technical assistance on registered apprenticeship, work-based learning and other topics related to workforce development. CSG can also help states to develop registered apprenticeship programs in state and local government to address their own public sector workforce needs.

For more information, contact CSG Policy Analyst Mary Wurtz via email at [email protected].