The Hot Sheet



As of April 19th, 2023, BISC is tracking 159 statewide measures in 13 states for 2023. Six measures have been certified for the ballot so far:

2023 Outlook:

  • Oklahoma – Criminal Legal Reform (Failed on Ballot 3/7/23): State Question 820: Would have legalized marijuana for adults 21 years old and older. The initiative would also have provided a process for individuals to seek the expungement or modification of certain previous marijuana-related convictions or sentences.
  • Louisiana Democracy (On Ballot 11/18/23): Provides that the legislature may consider vetoed bills during a regular or extraordinary session rather than convening a separate veto session; clarifies that the governor’s deadline to act on a bill is based on the legislative session in which the bill was passed.
  • New York – Fiscal Policy (On Ballot 11/7/23): Removes the debt limitation of 5% in property valuations for small city school districts.
  • Wisconsin – Criminal Legal Reform & Economic Justice (All passed on Ballot 4/4/23):
    • Question 1: Conditions of release before conviction. Shall section 8 (2) of article I of the constitution be amended to allow a court to impose on an accused person being released before conviction conditions that are designed to protect the community from serious harm?
    • Question 2: Cash bail before conviction. Shall section 8 (2) of article I of the constitution be amended to allow a court to impose cash bail on a person accused of a violent crime based on the totality of the circumstances, including the accused’s previous convictions for a violent crime, the probability that the accused will fail to appear, the need to protect the community from serious harm and prevent witness intimidation, and potential affirmative defenses.
    • Advisory Question: Shall able-bodied, childless adults be required to look for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits?

2022 Recap:

In November of 2022, voters in 37 states decided on 132 statewide ballot measures – with democracy, criminal legal reform, fiscal policy, and economic justice ballot measures making up the bulk of the measures we watched. BISC monitored 82 of those, 50 of which were referred by state legislators.


Whether it’s attacks on our democracy, measures undermining the power of governors to act in an emergency, or attempts to undermine direct democracy — democracy is the issue we saw the most of on the November 2022 ballot. Another major trend we saw in the 2022 election cycle was an influx of reproductive rights ballot measures. We are already seeing these trends continue in the measures being introduced for 2024 statewide ballots.

BISC is tracking measures across every issue area that have been introduced for the 2024 election. Let’s break it down:

  • Democracy: 171 measures in 34 states
  • Initiative Process: 104 measures in 31 states
  • Civil Rights: 49 measures in 26 states
  • Criminal Legal Reform: 47 measures in 19 states
  • Economic Justice: 33 measures in 16 states
  • Education: 28 measures in 18 states
  • Environmental Protection: 6 measures in 6 states
  • Fiscal Policy: 83 measures in 28 states
  • Health Justice: 11 measures in 9 states
  • Reproductive Health/Rights: 21 measures in 19 states


Why are the attacks happening?

Efforts to undermine and weaken ballot measures have been increasing since the 2016 election in response to progressive wins and people-powered democracy at the ballot box. 

In many states, some 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 have escalated and 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. BISC and our partners are fighting back against these attacks and spearheading the movement to #DefendDirectDemocracy

As we continue to face rising restrictions on voting rights, reproductive freedoms, and civil liberties, it is more important than ever to protect our freedom to shape the laws that govern us — especially through ballot initiatives. Together, we can fight against the anti-democracy initiatives that threaten our livelihoods and work to build a democracy rooted in equity and justice, where all people are treated with dignity and thrive.

What does an attack on direct democracy look like?

Some tactics used by lawmakers who are attempting to weaken the ballot initiative process include:

  • Proposing legislation to make the ballot process harder to access
  • Bringing forth legal challenges against initiatives that have been already been approved by voters
  • Blocking the implementation of ballot measures that have already passed

During the 2022 legislative session, BISC monitored 109 bills intended to alter or restrict the ballot initiative process.

Current State of Attacks:

There were 6 initiative process attacks on the ballot in 2022, and hostile legislatures across the country are doing everything they can to increase that number in coming elections. In 2023 legislative sessions, 139 bills have been introduced in 35 states that would impact the ballot initiative process, 58 of which BISC opposes. 

Anti-direct democracy that were on the ballot in 2022 included:


  • Prop 129: Single subject requirements for ballot initiatives [PASSED]
  • Prop 132: 60% supermajority vote requirement for tax-related measures [PASSED]
  • Prop 128: Legislative alteration of ballot initiatives [FAILED]


  • Issue 2: Increase the voter approval threshold on ballot initiatives from a simple majority to 60% [FAILED]

South Dakota:

  • Amendment C: Require a three-fifths vote of approval for any ballot measures that would increase taxes or fees [FAILED]


Progressive policies are passing at the ballot in Red, Blue, and Purple states such as Florida, Arizona, Missouri, Idaho, Minnesota, and Montana. Through the power of direct democracy, the People are transforming power, advancing racial equity, and galvanizing a new progressive base. 

Through the power of direct democracy, citizens have passed policies such as: 

  • Minimum wage increases
  • Protecting and expanding reproductive freedoms
  • Decriminalization of marijuana
  • Paid Family Leave
  • Medicaid expansion
  • Taxing the wealthy
  • Restoration of voting rights
  • Reparations
  • Transforming public safety

History of Abortion on the Ballot Since 1970


We know that Americans overwhelmingly support access to abortion and reproductive freedom, making it more important than ever for voters to use the power of direct democracy in order to directly influence the future of abortion access. Despite anti-choice lawmakers’ efforts, ballot initiatives can secure our reproductive freedoms.

Between 1970-2021, there were 40 ballot measures related to abortion on statewide ballots — 34 of which were attacks. Thirty-four attack measures occurred in 17 states, with some states facing multiple attacks on the same subject year after year. Only 10 of those 34 attack measures have passed in 50 years.

With the protections of Roe v. Wade in place, there were only six proactive measures related to abortion introduced between 1970-2021, four of which were approved by voters. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, this trend has accelerated at unprecedented levels.

What Happened in 2022:

In November of 2022, voters in Michigan, Vermont, and California codified the right to an abortion in their state constitutions. Voters in Kansas, Montana, and Kentucky also turned out in droves and rejected the harmful anti-choice measures that appeared on their statewide ballots.

These victories support what we’ve learned and shared over the years: Ballot measures transcend party lines and often receive higher turnout than candidates.

What’s in Store for 2024:

On Ballot:

  • Maryland: Maryland voters will be asked to enshrine abortion rights into the state Constitution next year, after the Maryland Legislature passed SB 798, also known as the “Right to Reproductive Freedom Act.” SB 798 affirms that: “every person has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including the ability to decide to prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy,” and if passed by voters, that language would be added to the Declaration of Rights under Maryland’s Constitution. 

Campaigns Underway that Could Appear on the Ballot:

  • Ohio: The Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom campaign has been approved for signature gathering and aims to get a measure on the ballot that would amend the Ohio Constitution to explicitly protect reproductive freedom for all.

As 2024 draws closer, we expect to see this trend continue as more states continue to qualify reproductive freedom amendments for their statewide ballots. 

For more information on our analysis or to schedule an interview with one of our policy experts, please contact our Strategic Communications Director, Caroline Sanchez Avakian at [email protected]