ATTACKS ON THE BALLOT MEASURE PROCESS:
In 2015 BISC began implementing a proactive, long-term strategy co-created with state leaders 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 2017, BISC monitored just 33 initiative process bills. During the 2021 legislative session, BISC monitored 146 bills intended to change the ballot measure process.
BISC is currently monitoring 87 bills to change the ballot measure process or block ballot measure implementation in 13 states.
BALLOT MEASURE THREATS
ON OUR RADAR
Top States to Watch:
There are a large number of direct democracy attacks from Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Missouri, and South Dakota. Three of the top threats BISC is tracking include:
Arizona: State advocates are tracking a shocking number of Democracy attacks during this legislative session. Among these bills are a number of attacks on the initiative process, including new procedures to invalidate signatures, increased signature collection requirements, and increased voter approval thresholds. This year, Arizona voters will consider the imposition of a single subject rule and the repeal of the Voter Protection Act — a 24 year old law which protects ballot measures from being altered by legislators after they are approved by voters.
Florida: Following the trend of their 2021 legislative session, Florida legislators have introduced bills intended to dilute direct democracy from a few different angles: (a) by making the signature collection process more onerous and more confusing, (b) by severely limiting the subjects voters can consider at the ballot, and by limiting campaign contributions during the signature gathering process.
Missouri: The legislature has introduced nearly two dozen attacks on the initiative process as of March 1, 2022. These attacks are designed to curtail Missourian’s initiative and referendum rights in a variety of ways, including raising the voter approval threshold, increasing the signature collection requirements, expanding the geographic signature collection requirements, increasing the fees to file signatures, creating new ways signatures can be invalidated, and even making the processes indirect by giving the legislature say over what voters propose. After failing to pass attacks last year, Missouri legislators are even more determined to undermine the people’s tool this year.
LEGAL CHALLENGES LANDSCAPE:
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 10 Legal Challenges across 10 states in various stages of litigation: implementation, campaign, and legislation.
Arizona: A tremendous blow to education funding came down when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the Prop 208 funds are “compulsory transfers of tax revenue” and not grants, directly contradicting the ballot language. Grants are not subject to the state’s education spending cap. The court went further and determined that if the Maricopa County Superior Court finds that Prop 208 will exceed the spending cap, then the entire law is unconstitutional. Prop 208 is projected to raise an estimated $827 million annually, $600 million above the spending cap.
Mississippi: The Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the entire initiative process, stating that it is impossible to follow as written and that the legislature will have to amend the constitution for it to be workable. The court invalidated the signatures gathered for a medical marijuana initiative and prevented the law, which passed with 74% voter approval, from going into effect. The initiative process is effectively repealed unless and until the legislature amends the state constitution.