Attacks + Threats


Current State of Attacks:

As of September 8th, 2023, BISC is tracking 42 measures that would impact or weaken the ballot initiative process in 15 states. 35 of those have been filed through the legislature.

On Ballot 2024:

  • Arizona [OPPOSE]: Require signatures from 10% of qualified voters in each legislative district to qualify initiated state statutes for the ballot and would require signatures from 15% of qualified voters in each legislative district to qualify initiated constitutional amendments for the ballot.
  • North Dakota [OPPOSE]: Requires a single-subject for initiatives and requires proposed constitutional initiatives to appear on the ballot and be approved at the primary and general election to become effective.

On Ballot 2023:

  • Ohio’s Issue 1 [DEFEATED]: In Ohio, self interested lawmakers and special interests lobbied to create an August 8th special election in an attempt to permanently rig Ohio’s constitution in their favor and prevent Ohioans from voting on a reproductive freedom amendment. Luckily, Ohio voters saw past this anti-democratic power grab and soundly defeated Issue 1 in August of 2023.

Why are the attacks happening?

The national fight over ballot measures began to pick up around a decade ago when a coordinated push happened across the country to use the ballot initiative process to expand Medicaid and enact other popular, progressive policies that fare well with voters across the political spectrum. We have seen another steep escalation in legislatively-referred attacks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and voters in Red, Blue, and Purple states have been using the power of direct democracy to enshrine reproductive freedom into their state constitutions.

In 2015, BISC began implementing a proactive, long-term strategy co-created with state leaders and grassroots organizers to achieve progressive policy wins and build lasting, equitable power on the ground through ballot initiatives. We’ve been successful, so it’s no surprise that we’ve been seeing a steep rise in ballot measure process bills in state legislatures.

In many states, politicians and wealthy special interests are trying to make it harder for voters to propose and pass ballot initiatives under the cover of so-called “reforms.” These attacks are coordinated and they have become more nuanced, sophisticated, and would have deeper impacts on the initiative process. These restrictive measures take a variety of forms, but they all serve the same function: to undermine the will of the people and diminish their decision-making power.

What Happened in 2022?

During the 2022 legislative session, BISC monitored 109 bills intended to alter the citizen initiative process. Six measures to change or restrict the ballot measure process were on state ballots in 2022.

Three anti-direct democracy initiatives were on Arizona’s 2022 ballot:

  1. 60% Supermajority for tax increases [PASSED: Proposition 132]
  2. Legislative Alteration of Ballot Initiatives [FAILED: Proposition 128]
  3. Single Subject Ballot Initiative [PASSED: Proposition 129]

Arizona’s state constitution contains strong protections that limit the legislature’s power to repeal or amend initiatives that have already been approved by voters. This is because Arizonans approved the Voter Protection Act in 1998 — a voter-initiated constitutional amendment that prohibits lawmakers from modifying any voter-initiated statute unless their change “furthers the purpose” of the initiative itself. 

Proposition 128, the anti-direct democracy initiative that failed on Arizona’s 2022 ballot, would have amended Arizona’s constitution to widen the circumstances under which legislators may repeal or amend a ballot measure — even after it’s been approved by voters. One lawmaker in the state explained that the proposition is “a very sneaky way to undermine the Voter Protection Act without actually having to repeal the Voter Protection Act.”

Unfortunately, two of the anti-direct democracy initiatives passed. Proposition 129 imposed a “single subject” rule for all voter-initiated measures, yet it did not impose any such requirements on amendments proposed by the state’s legislature. This initiative functions as yet another tool for the state’s GOP-packed Supreme Court to invalidate voter initiatives. 

Proposition 132 raised the approval threshold from 50% to a supermajority of 60% for any voter-initiated measure related to raising taxes.

One anti-direct democracy initiative was on the ballot in Arkansas in 2022:

Protect AR Rights led the fight against Issue 2, a constitutional amendment that was introduced by legislators as a clear attempt to make it nearly impossible for Arkansans to exercise their Constitutional right to petition our government. If approved, Issue 2 would have ended citizen rights to pass ballot measures with a 50% majority vote, raising it to a 60% vote requirement instead. In a major win for direct democracy, Issue 2 was struck down by Arkansas voters in November 2022!


Legal challenges are an unavoidable step in the initiative process. Opponents use them to disrupt, stall, or exhaust progressive campaigns. In recent years, Republican politicians have launched legal challenges against progressive initiatives to either block implementation or restrict the initiative process as a whole. 

BISC is currently monitoring legal challenges in 15 states.