By Wendy Underhill

On Nov. 5, citizens of six states—Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington—will vote on a total of  31 statewide ballot measures. That number is on par with other odd-year general elections.

None deal with social hot-button issues, such as same sex marriage, legalizing medical or recreational marijuana, or abortion. The closest to being a “social issue vote” is Colorado’s proposal for taxing retail marijuana, Proposition AA.  In 2012, Colorado’s citizens voted to legalize marijuana; this year, they’re voting on how (and how much) to tax it.

Of all the ballot measures, just three are citizen initiatives, a lower number than usual. Citizen initiatives are measures that are initiated and pushed toward the ballot by individuals or groups; 24 states provide this avenue. From 2001 through 2011, the number of citizen initiatives in odd years has varied between 2 and 17.

The three citizen initiatives are: Colorado’s Amendment 66, a $950 million tax increase through a new funding formula for  preK-12 schooling; Washington’s Initiative 517, which, if enacted, would tweak the initiative and referendum process; and Washington’s  Initiative 522, that would require labeling for products containing genetically modified organisms or “GMOs.” GMOs may be taking off as a national issue; California had a similar initiative in 2012, which was defeated,  and this year 95 bills were introduced  in state legislatures dealing with labeling of GMOs. 

In addition to citizen initiatives, how else do ballot measures get on the ballot? Mostly, they are “referred” to the ballot by state legislatures. The only other mechanism at work this year applies only to Washington, where nonbinding “advisory votes” are required after any legislative actions that raise taxes. Five such votes are on the Washington ballot.

Other votes of interest? New Jersey voters will weigh in on whether to  set an indexed minimum wage in the Constitution (Public Question 2).  New Yorkers will have the chance to authorize up to seven casinos (Proposal 1) and “up” the retirement age for judges (Proposal 6). Texans will (or will not) create a State Water Implementation Fund to help finance water projects in their arid state (Proposition 6). And the voters in Maine will address five bond measures on the ballot, focused on infrastructure and higher ed construction.

For more on 2013 statewide ballot measures, see NCSL’s database of ballot measures. And for results of these votes, look right here, the morning of November 6.

For more on the 2013 state elections check out NCSL's StateVote 2013 report.

Wendy Underhill covers elections policy for NCSL.

Posted in: Elections
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |

Subscribe to the NCSL Blog

Click on the RSS feed at left to add the NCSL Blog to your favorite RSS reader. 

Blog Archives | By Category

About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


Share this: 
NCSL Early Bird Registration
We are the nation's most respected bipartisan organization providing states support, ideas, connections and a strong voice on Capitol Hill.

NCSL Member Toolbox


7700 East First Place
Denver, CO 80230
Tel: 303-364-7700 | Fax: 303-364-7800


444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 515
Washington, D.C. 20001
Tel: 202-624-5400 | Fax: 202-737-1069

Copyright 2015 by National Conference of State Legislatures