Trends Watcher

2022 Overarching Trends

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 this November was an influx of reproductive rights ballot measures. 

In recent years, we have seen an alarming increase in legal challenges against progressive initiatives that qualified for the ballot, as well as challenges against measures that were successfully passed by voters. Efforts to stop the implementation of progressive measures that have been passed by voters are blatant attempts by self-interested legislators to silence the voice and Will of the People. 

Increasing Attacks on Direct Democracy

Attacks on direct democracy have been increasing since the 2016 election in response to progressive wins at the ballot box. The public makes decisions through ballot initiatives that legislators are obligated to follow — yet, in many states, politicians and wealthy special interests want to undermine the Will of the People, so they 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 are becoming more nuanced, more sophisticated, and would have deeper impacts on the initiative process.

During the 2022 session, legislators were increasingly bold in their attacks on direct democracy. The proposed changes to the initiative process were aimed at keeping citizens from exercising their rights to propose and change laws using the tool of direct democracy.

We continue to see these four trends in bills attacking direct democracy:

  • Supermajority passage requirements for ballot measures as high as 66.7%
  • Increased signature thresholds
  • Subject limitations
  • Geographic distribution–requiring signatures to be collected from a specific number of counties, congressional or legislative districts

Influx of Reproductive Freedom Ballot Measures in 2022

We know that Americans overwhelmingly support access to abortion and reproductive freedom. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, voters in Red, Purple, and Blue states have increasingly used the power of direct democracy to directly influence the future of abortion access.

As the first state to vote directly on the right to abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Kansans sent a clear message: No to abortion bans. Voters used their power to strike down the “Value Them Both” amendment — allowing abortion to remain safe and legal in Kansas. In November, voters in Montana and Kentucky followed suit and rejected harmful abortion bans that attempted to mischaracterize abortion and criminalize pregnant people and medical professionals. 

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

Removing Slavery From State Constitutions

In recent years, BISC has been supporting partners working to remove slavery as a form of punishment from their state constitutions. 

Across the country, in the year 2022, there still remain roughly 16 states that distinctly permit slavery, involuntary servitude, or both, in some form in their state constitutions. This year, voters in 4 states — Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont — abolished dangerous racist language from their state constitutions that allowed for enslavement or servitude as punishments for crimes.

Since 2018, three additional states — Nebraska, Utah, and Colorado — have amended their constitutions to abolish slavery without exception. Each initiative passed with sizable majority support.  

Types of Ballot Measures

There are several types of key ballot measure issue areas, including:

  • Democracy: Policies that pertain to our governing systems 
    • Voting Rights 
    • Elections 
    • Campaign finance
    • Redistricting
  • Fiscal Policy: Policies that pertain to taxation and government spending
    • Income Taxes 
    • Property Taxes 
    • Corporate and Business Taxes 
    • State budgets 
    • Education budgets 
  • Ballot Initiative Process: Changes to laws governing ballot measures
    • Signature  Gathering 
    • Language development 
    • Protection and implementation of ballot measures that are approved 
  • Civil Rights: Guarantees of equal social opportunities and protection under the law, regardless of race, religion, or other characteristics
    • Racial equality 
    • Gender equality 
    • Marriage equality 
    • Criminal Legal Reform – Laws, procedures, institutions, and policies at play before, during, and after the commission of a crime
    • Sentencing 
    • Abolishing the Prison Industrial Complex 
  • Reproductive Health/Rights: Access to health care for all reproductive needs.  Pertaining to a person’s ability to decide when to become pregnant, to terminate a pregnancy, and the legal protections to act on that decision
    • Reproductive Health: A continuum of physical, mental and social-emotional care pertaining to the reproductive system at all stages of life. 
    • Reproductive Rights: largely focused on abortion and contraception. 
  • Health Justice: Access to equitable and affordable quality health care for all
    • Medicaid expansion 
    • Universal healthcare 
    • Cost transparency 
    • Full body health care 
    • Corporate responsibility and  accountability 
  • Economic Justice: Systemic policies that end the cycle of poverty and prevent wealth inequality
    • Worker Rights
    • Wages
    • Benefits 
    • Paid Sick Leave 
    • Paid Family Leave  
    • Fair lending 
    • Housing 
  • Education: Policies in the educational sphere that govern the operation of education systems
    • School to Prison Pipeline 
    • Curriculum
    • Vouchers
    • Choice policies 
  • Environmental Protection: Policies that impact the protection of the natural environment, conservation of natural resources and the existing natural environment
    • Oil & Gas 
    • Mining 
    • Air quality 
    • Recycling 
    • Land use 
  • Immigration: Policies that influence migration for permanent settlement, temporary labor migration, migration for family reunification and migration of highly skilled workers