By Amanda Zoch
Election Day is right around the corner and by the time results roll in, citizens from eight states and one territory will have voted on 25 ballot measures this year.
Citizens of the U.S. Virgin Islands voted on their ballot measure at a special election on March 30, and Louisianans weighed in on four measures during the statewide primary election on Oct. 12, passing two: Proposed Amendment No. 2, “Education Excellence Fund,” and Proposed Amendment No. 3, “Board of Tax Appeals.” 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’ citizen-initiated 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 other citizen initiatives 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 976, 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.
Amanda Zoch is an NCSL legislative policy specialist and Mellon/ACLS Fellow.