2010 Ballot Measures
In this video, NCSL's Jennie Bowser gives an election recap of this year's ballot measures. Voters in 37 states considered a total of 160 statewide ballot measures on Nov. 2. Of the total, 42 came from the citizen initiative process. Learn more about this year's numbers and trends with our pre-election ballot measure overview, and stay up to date on ballot measure developments by reading the Prop*50 blog.
2010 ballots featured 160 statewide measures, including 42 citizen initiatives. That total was down significantly compared to recent years: in 2008, there were 59 initiatives, and in 2006 there were 76. The primary cause of this drop was likely the economy -- initiative campaigns had a tougher time raising the funds necessary to qualify an initiative and run a campaign in 2010's sluggish economy than they had faced in recent years.
The economy was a theme throughout election results as well. Voters gave a resounding "no" to every proposed revenue increase on the ballot, and with two notable exceptions in Colorado and Massachusetts, also approved every proposed tax cut. They also reined in the legislature's ability to pass tax increases, and at the same time approved several new programs with big price tags and no new revenue stream to fund them.
Drug and alcohol policy measures figured prominently on 2010 ballots. Alcohol measures were on the ballot in Massachusetts and Washington. In Massachusetts, they repealed the sales tax on alcohol. In Washington, voters rejected a pair of competing measures that would have shuttered state-operated liquor stores and privatized liquor sales. Voters in Arizona approved medical marijuana, while South Dakota voters rejected a similar proposal, the second time that's happened there. In Oregon, where the possession and use of medicinal marijuana has been legal since 1998, voters rejected a propsal to set up a system of dispensaries to sell medical marijuana. California voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and regulated it and taxed it like alcohol. Look for drug policy to be prominent on 2012 ballots too, as advocates try to influence voter turnout and affect candidate races via these measures with liberal appeal.
Voters in three states were asked to block the newly-enacted federal Affordable Care Act. These measures prohibited the state from requiring anyone to have health insurance or participate in a health care program. Arizona and Oklahoma voters approved their versions of this question; Colorado voters said no. The constitutionality of these questions remains in question and will ultimately have to be sorted out by the courts.
Other standout issues included Proposition 23, which would have suspended clean air laws in California until unemployment goes down to 5.5 percent. Voters rejected that proposal in spite of massive spending in favor of it by the oil industry. In Oklahoma, voters approved a legislative proposal that prohibits state courts from using Sharia law. Three big election issues passed: Illinois voters approved a process to recall the governor, Oklahoma voters approved a new voter ID law, and Vermont voters agreed to let 17 year-olds vote in a primary election if they will turn 18 before the general election.
One perennial issue of the past decade was notably absent from the ballot in 2010: same-sex marriage. 2010 was the first even-year general election since 1998 without a statewide question on this issue.