California voters passed Proposition 14 today, which asked for an open statewide primary instead of separate party-based primaries in California election.

However, there are many more interesting ballot questions to come in 2010.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a great, albeit still premature, rundown of what questions we can expect to see states voting on come November.

They also have a very very useful review of the different categories of ways these ballot questions can end up on the ballot, summarized below:

1. Citizen Initiatives – A petition-based ballot measure driven by citizens of the state.

2. Popular Referenda- Also a petition-driven process which allows voters to put a hold on a law newly enacted by the legislature while they gather signatures. If petitioners gather sufficient signatures, the new law goes on the ballot for voter approval. If voters approve it, it takes effect. If voters reject it, the law does not take effect. Some states call this process the “people’s veto.”

3. Constitutional Conventions– Whether there is a need to hold a constitutional convention is a question citizens of states are asked a regular intervals according to state constitutions:

4. Legislative Referenda- Usually, questions that the state legislature has referred to voters according to that state’s constitution. These are the most common types of ballot questions, since not every state has citizen-initiated ballot measure processes.

Here’s their look at the issues voters will be deciding on in November, direct from the NCSL.

Citizen Initiatives

Among the 100 issues qualified for statewide ballots in November so far, 13 are citizen initiatives. These address topics that are typically quite common in the initiative process, including:

  • Drug policy (legalizing possession of marijuana and taxing its sale in California, and legalizing medical marijuana in Arizona and South Dakota)
  • Taxes and budgets (three measures in Colorado, including cuts to property, motor vehicle, income and telecommunications taxes and a measure requiring voter approval for government debt)
  • Abortion (a “personhood” initiative in Colorado, amending the state constitution to define “person” as beginning at conception)
  • Casino gaming (Maine)
  • Redistricting (California and Florida)
  • Education funding (Oklahoma)

Popular Referenda

There are two popular referenda qualified for the November 2010 ballot so far:

  • Ohio: Voters will decide whether to overturn a law passed in 2009 to allow slot machines at race tracks.
  • South Dakota: If voters say “yes” to Referred Law 12, a smoking ban passed by the legislature and signed by the governor will take effect.

Constitutional Conventions

Voters in four states — Iowa, Maryland, Michigan and Montana — will see a question this November asking if they want to hold a constitutional convention.

Legislative Referenda

So far, there are 64 measures referred to the ballot by legislatures on tap for November.

  • Health insurance: A measure on the Arizona ballot would prohibit mandatory participation in any health care system. Voters rejected a similar measure in Arizona in 2008. Similar measures have been referred to the ballot by legislatures in Florida and Oklahoma. Also, Missouri has a similar question on the primary ballot.
  • Secret ballot voting: Often called Save Our Secret Ballot, these measures guarantee the right to vote a secret ballot in all state and federal elections as well as labor representation elections. It is on the ballot in four states so far this November: Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.
  • State budgets
    • In Arizona, voters will consider two budget-related questions. One would repeal the a measure passed by voters in 2006. It increased tobacco taxes and directed the new revenue to programs for early childhood development and health programs. The measure on this November’s ballot would redirect the tobacco tax revenues to the general fund and require that they be used for early childhood development and health programs, while repealing the specific programs mandated by the 2006 measure and the board created to govern the programs. The second Arizona measure would transfer the $123.5 million balance in the Land Conservation Fund to the state general fund.
    • The Hawaii legislature has referred a question to the ballot asking voters to give them the authority to decide whether excess funds should be returned to taxpayers via rebates or tax credits, or diverted to funds to be used during a budget downturn or emergency.
    • Iowa legislators are asking voters to approve the creation of a Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Its revenue would come from a sales tax increase of three-eights of one percent.
    • In North Dakota, the legislature would like to create the North Dakota Legacy Fund, with revenue coming from oil and gas taxes.
    • The Oklahoma legislature would like to amend the constitution to prohibit any entity other than the legislature from setting budget amounts. The measure, Question 754, takes direct aim at the only initiative on Oklahoma’s ballot this November: Question 744 would set a minimum average the state must spend per-pupil on preK-12 education each year. The average would be determined by a formula based on spending by surrounding states.
    • Ballot Measure 3 in Virginia would increase the maximum size of the Revenue Stabilization Fund from ten to fifteen percent of the state’s annual income and sales tax revenues.
  • Property taxes
    • Florida: Amendment 3 would reduce the maximum annual increase in the assessed value of a nonhomestead property from 10 to five percent. Amendment 2 would provide an additional homestead tax credit for deployed military personnel.
    • Indiana: Public Question 1 would set caps on property taxes for homesteads, residential property, agricultural land and other real property.
    • Louisiana voters will consider a limitation on property tax increases.
    • Missouri: Amendment 2 would provide a property tax exemption for disabled former prisoners of war.
  • Elections issues
    • Campaign finance: The Florida legislature is asking voters to repeal the state’s public campaign financing option for statewide candidates.
    • Recall: The Illinois legislature would like to establish a process whereby voters could recall the governor.
    • Term limits: In New Mexico, Amendment 2 would extend county official term limits. The Oklahoma legislature is asking voters to approve term limits for statewide officials. Legislators are already term-limited in Oklahoma.
    • Voter ID: The Oklahoma legislature is asking voters to approve a requirement that voters show a photo ID before receiving a ballot.
    • Initiative process: Question 750 in Oklahoma would change the basis for calculating the required number of signatures on an initiative petition from the state office receiving the highest number of votes to the number of votes cast for governor.
    • Redistricting: The legislature in Florida has referred a question to the ballot that will compete with two citizen initiatives on redistricting.
  • Legislatures: The Alaska legislature has approved a question asking voters to increase the size of the legislature. If approved, the measure would add two senators and four house members. The Oregon legislature is asking voters to approve annual legislative sessioins. Currently, it is one of just five legislatures that meet only in odd-numbered years. In Lousiana, a question posed by the legislature would prohibit a salary increase for certain state elected officials, including legislators, from taking effect during the term of office in which it is approved. In Oklahoma, Question 748 would change the name, membership, and some procedures of the Legislative Apportionment Commission. A constitutional amendment on the ballot in Utah would clarify the residency requirements for legislator eligibility.
  • Affirmative action: A prohibition on preferential treatment in public employment, education and contracting is on the ballot in Arizona. This measure is similar to initiatives that have been on the ballot in previous years in California, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington. This is the first time a legislature has put this question on the ballot.
  • Right to hunt and fish: Voters in three states will consider whether to add the right to hunt and fish to their state constitutions: Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee.
  • Right to bear arms: A constitutional amendment on the ballot in Kansas would clarify that the right to bear arms is individual, rather than collective.
  • Bond measures
    • California: drinking water
    • Idaho: regional airports
    • Maine: land conservation
  • Criminal justice: A measure in Washington would allow a judge to deny bail to a person charged with an offense that is punishable by life in prison.

The state with the most legislative referenda on the ballot so far is Oklahoma, with eleven (plus one initiative, bringing the total to twelve). Arizona is in second place, with nine legislative referenda on the November ballot.

Source- National Conference of State Legislatures



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