By Wendy Underhill

Voters in six states addressed 31 statewide ballot measures yesterday, and the overwhelming answer was “yes.”  Of the 31, 27 measures passed.

Two of the four exceptions to the positive trend were high profile issues:

  • In Colorado, Amendment 66, a $950 million tax increase to fund preK to 12th grade education, was voted down by a 2-1 margin. Amendment 66 was by far the largest tax-related ballot measure in the nation. Opposition centered on the tax increase itself, and the proposed creation of a two-tiered income tax, instead of Colorado’s current flat tax. 
  • In Washington, Initiative 522, which would have required labeling for foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), received 46 percent in favor and 54 percent opposed. GMOs may become the next political issue to spread. In 2012, Californians turned down a similar measure for the Golden State, and in 2013, 95 bills were introduced in state legislatures around the country relating to labeling of foods with GMOs, after a negligible number in previous years.
Amy Oliver Cooke of the Independence Institute, front, celebrates during party for anti-amendment 66 at the Independence Institute in Denver.

A third “no” was to New York’s Proposal 6, which would have increased the retirement age for judges on New York’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals from 70 to 80. Apparently, 80 isn’t the new 70 after all.

Voters also turned down Washington’s Initiative 517, which would have made signature-gathering to put initiatives on the ballot a bit easier.

Getting to Yes

Voters in Maine gave thumbs-up to five bond measures. The largest will provide $100 million for transportation needs; the others will fund buildings for Maine’s universities, community colleges, Maine Army National Guard facilities, and the Maine Maritime Academy. These measures were all referred to the ballot by Maine’s legislature, a common practice downeast.

Texans were also fully supportive of the nine ballot measures they faced. Proposition 6, which passed with 73 percent of the vote, will create a State Water Implementation Fund to finance water projects in this dry state—with the funding coming from the state’s existing “rainy day” fund. Two measures, Propositions One and Four, give tax breaks to widows of servicemembers and disabled veterans.

New Jerseyites were positive, too.  On Public Question 1, by 81 percent, they agreed to let veterans’ organizations use money from bingo and similar games to support their organizations. At present, the Constitution allows this money to be used only for educational, charitable, patriotic, religious or public-spirited purposes. Senior citizen groups already may use bingo money to support their own groups.  On Public Question 2, by 61 percent, they approved an increase in the minimum wage, moving it from the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to $8.25, with indexing for future inflation.

New Yorkers were in a positive mood, too, overall.  The highest profile proposal, Proposal 1, will permit the state to authorize up to seven casinos. It passed with 56 percent of the vote.

Non-existent Hot Button Issues

This was not a year for social issues on the ballot. The closest any statewide ballot measure came this year to being a “hot button issue” was Colorado’s tax on recreational marijuana, Proposition AA, which passed with 64 percent of the vote. Last year, Coloradans voted to approve recreational marijuana; this year, they voted to add a 15 percent tax to fund school construction and 10 percent to fund marijuana enforcement.

For more on 2013 statewide ballot measures, see NCSL’s database of ballot measures. For more on the 2013 state elections check out NCSL's StateVote 2013 report.

Wendy Underhill covers elections policy for NCSL.


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