Trends Watcher

2022 Election Reflection: 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: 2024 Outlook

As of November 6th, 2023, BISC is tracking 16 statewide reproductive health/rights measures that have been filed in 13 states for 2024. One has certified for the November ballot in Maryland.

On Ballot:

  • Maryland: Establishes a right to reproductive freedom in the state constitution.

Reproductive Freedom Campaigns Underway that Could Appear on the Ballot in 2024:

  • Florida [cleared for circulation]: No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider. This amendment does not change the Legislature’s constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion
  • Maine [filed through the legislature]: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Maine to protect personal reproductive autonomy.
  • Missouri [multiple versions cleared for circulation]: The Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative
  • New Hampshire [filed through the legislature]: Providing that all persons have the right to make their own reproductive decisions
  • New York [on ballot]: Providing that all persons have the right to make their own reproductive decisions.
  • Pennsylvania [filed through the legislature]: A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania providing for personal reproductive liberty
  • South Dakota [filed]: Makes abortion legal in South Dakota with regulations after the first and second trimester.

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

What Happened in 2022:

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

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.

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 2023, there still remain roughly 16 states that distinctly permit slavery, involuntary servitude, or both, in some form in their state constitutions.

In 2022, 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