The NCSL Blog


By Theresa Nelson

Election season is right around the corner, and, before the year is out, citizens from nine states will have voted on 25 ballot measures.

Sound Transit in June showed off the Siemens light-rail cars that will go into service in early 2020. An initiative on the November ballot would cut car-tab taxes, including those collected by Sound Transit, possibly costing the agency $328 million in revenue a year. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)Citizens of the U.S. Virgin Islands voted on their ballot measure at a special election on March 30, and Louisianans will decide on four measures at the statewide primary election on Oct. 12. The rest of the measures will face voters on Nov. 5.

Five of these measures propose statutory changes, while 20 propose to amend the states’ constitutions.

Three of these measures originated as citizens initiatives.

The Virgin Islands’ measure was intended to reapportion the state’s legislative districts but was defeated when not enough voters turned out to meet the state’s constitutional majority turnout requirement. The remaining two come from Washington—Referendum 88, which aims to “guarantee equal opportunity and access to public education, public employment, and public contracting in Washington without discrimination …,” and Initiative 978, which hopes to “limit annual car-tab fees to $30 for motor vehicles.”

Car tabs are the registration stickers drivers put on their vehicles’ license plates to show the month and year their registration will expire. In 2017, drivers in three Puget Sound counties faced much higher car-tab fees after a 2017 law approved Sound Transit 3, which authorized an increase in car-tab fees: For “a $10,000 car, [the] Sound Transit’s car-tab fee went from $30 to $110 a year.” If this initiative passes, it would fix annual fees at $30 for motor vehicles under 10,000 pounds and would remove local government’s authority to approve certain taxes and charges on vehicles.

Twenty-two measures are bills referred by legislatures to voters. One of these, a Marsy’s Law amendment, will be on the ballot in Pennsylvania in 2019 after being voted on in seven states in 2018. Though it faces opposition, in 2018 and 2019 crime victims’ rights measures were the most popular criminal justice measures on the ballot.

Additional issues on ballots this year include election petition signatures, sports wagering, dual office holding, continuity of state government, affirmative action, and tax exemptions for veterans living in continued care facilities.

Texas wins the prize for the most measures in 2019, where voters will decide on 10 propositions. The Lone Star State also wins the award for the most heartwarming measure, as voters there will be asked if they support a constitutional amendment to allow a county law enforcement’s dog to be transferred to the dog's handler to live out a happy retirement when its service to the county is complete.

For more information about all of the measures on the 2019 ballots, visit the NCSL Ballot Measures Database and 2019 StateVote webpage (coming soon).

Theresa Nelson was a summer intern in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.

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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.