OVERVIEW: BALLOT MEASURE PROGRESS
Progressive policies are passing at the ballot in states such as Florida, Arizona, Missouri, and Montana. Through the power of direct democracy, the People are transforming power, advancing racial equity, and galvanizing a new progressive base. Through the ballot and the legislature, citizens have passed policies such as:
- Minimum wage increases
- Decriminalization of marijuana
- Paid Family Leave
- Medicaid expansion
- Taxing the wealthy
- Restoration of voting rights
PROGRESSIVE WINS LEAD TO ATTACKS ON DIRECT DEMOCRACY
BISC has been leading the national, coordinated strategy to pass progressive ballot measures.
Since 2016, dozens of progressive measures have passed in states around the country. Red states have been leading the charge on many important issues. In these states, ballot measures have been the tool of necessity and choice to pass policies that elected officials refuse to take up.
Our victories on minimum wage, earned paid sick time, voting rights and access, redistricting and voter restoration in states like Florida, Arizona, and Missouri have resulted in mounting attacks at state legislatures on the ballot measure process itself.
These attacks have been increasing significantly in recent years; In 2017, BISC monitored just 33 initiative process bills. During the 2021 legislative session, BISC has monitored 146 bills intended to change or limit the ballot measure process. Twenty-five bills have been enacted or headed to voters for approval.
RECENT VICTORIES & PROGRESS:
DEFENDING DIRECT DEMOCRACY
Idaho: The Idaho Supreme Court recently upheld the People’s fundamental right to legislate.
The Idaho Supreme Court protected the right of the people to propose and change laws by striking the increased geographic distribution requirement the Idaho legislature imposed in the 2021 legislative session. The court struck the law in light of the legislature’s “unmistakable pattern” of “constricting the people’s initiative and referendum powers after they successfully use it.”
Florida: The US District Court for the Northern District of Florida upheld voter’s right to free speech by striking a contribution limit on direct democracy campaigns.
The District Court blocked the Secretary of State from enforcing the law, which would have limited contributions to ballot initiative campaigns to $3,000 during the signature gathering process. Florida is one of the most expensive states in which to run an initiative campaign, with signature collection costing millions to achieve.
Minnesota: The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with direct democracy and allowed voters to exercise their right to the ballot without delay.
The Minnesota Supreme Court put an end to repeated legal challenges to the ballot language of Question 2 which will appear on the City of Minneapolis’s 2021 ballot. The court wrote that the challenges do not rise to the high standard the court has set for legal challenges. The court’s decision allows voters to weigh in on Question 2 and decide for themselves what public safety will look like in their city.
Missouri: The Cole County Circuit Court struck down two statutes that violate the right to the referendum.
A Cole County judge ruled that two statutes that allow the state to cut down the time referendum campaigns have to collect signatures violate the state constitution. Judge Beetem wrote that “[t]he State may not constitutionally delay the circulation of a referendum petition for the purpose of certifying a ballot title.” The state supreme court is set to weigh in on whether those provisions impede and interfere with the people’s referendum power in the coming weeks.
LGBTQIA+ RIGHTS AT THE BALLOT
Virginia: Repeal Same Sex Marriage Prohibition – ON THE 2022 BALLOT
In 2022, Virginia voters will have the chance to approve the Virginia Right to Marriage Regardless of Gender Amendment, which would require Virginia to “treat all marriages equally under the law regardless of the sex or gender of the parties to the marriage.”
Massachusetts: Closing the Racial Wealth Divide – QUALIFIED FOR THE 2022 BALLOT
The Massachusetts Fair Share Amendment would create an additional 4% tax on the portion of incomes above $1 million for the purpose of improving Massachusetts public schools and pre-K programs; rebuilding crumbling roads, bridges, sidewalks, and bike paths; making high-quality public higher education affordable; and investing in fast and reliable public transportation
Missouri: Medicaid Expansion – PASSED BY VOTERS IN 2020
The Missouri Supreme Court ensured that the hundreds of thousands of Missourians could access healthcare in a July decision. The court clarified that, contrary to what state politicians were saying, the ballot measure that expanded Medicaid did not violate the state constitution and that the state must follow the will of the voters and implement the expansion.