On Nov. 8, voters will decide 130 ballot measures. Earlier this year, voters weighed in on five measures, and Louisianans will see three more in December, bringing the 2022 total to 138.
Most measures get on the ballot in one of two ways: Through a citizen initiative—where citizens have an idea for a statutory or constitutional change and gather signatures to place it on the ballot—or through a referral to the ballot from the legislature. Occasionally, voters try to repeal a law passed by the legislature, and that is known as a popular referendum or people’s veto. This year voters across the nation will see:
- 101 legislative referrals in 34 states.
- 29 citizen initiatives in 12 states and Washington, D.C.
- Two popular referenda—one each in California and Massachusetts.
- Three automatic questions in Alaska, Missouri and New Hampshire asking voters if they’d like to have a constitutional convention.
- Three non-binding advisory questions: One in Idaho and two in Washington, which are automatically referred to the ballot whenever the Evergreen State’s legislature passes a bill creating or increasing taxes or fees.
Information about all individual ballot measures can be found on NCSL’s statewide ballot measure database.
Legislatures and Legislators
Voters across the country will see at least 12 measures related to legislatures and legislators—far higher than in most years—and most were unsurprisingly referred to voters by the legislators themselves. Arkansas, Idaho and Kentucky are all seeking permission from voters to call themselves into special session, rather than requiring the call to come from the governor. Three other states—Kansas, Louisiana (two measures) and West Virginia—aim to increase legislative oversight of various government entities or proceedings. In Michigan, voters will consider whether term limits for state legislators should change from three two-year terms in the house and two four-year terms in the Senate (14 years total) to a combined 12 years. North Dakotans will also weigh in on an initiative to establish term limits for state legislators and governors.
Eligibility requirements may change in two states. Maryland voters will decide if state legislators must reside and maintain a residence in the district that they wish to represent for six months before an election. Tennessee voters will consider whether to remove the constitutional provision disqualifying religious ministers from being elected to the state legislature. Voters will also decide new penalties for legislators in two states. In Georgia, a measure asks voters if assemblymembers and other public officials should have their pay suspended if they are indicted for a felony. And in Oregon, a citizen initiative asks voters if state legislators should be excluded from re-election for unexcused legislative absences.
Abortion often features on voter’s ballots, and this year—in the wake of the Supreme Court overruling Roe v. Wade—voters will see six: the most abortion-related ballot measures ever in a single year. Kansas voters rejected an anti-abortion measure during the state’s Aug. 2 primary. In Montana, voters will see a legislative referral that would require medical care be provided to infants born alive, including after an attempted abortion. Kentuckians will vote on a measure that aims to establish no constitutional right to abortion. Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont will weigh in on the opposite, a constitutional right to abortion.
In Oregon, voters will decide whether to establish a constitutional right to affordable healthcare. South Dakotans will weigh in on a citizen initiative that aims to expand Medicaid. If it passes, the Mount Rushmore State would be the 39th to expand Medicaid in the Affordable Care Act era. Arizonans will consider a citizen initiative that would limit interest rates on healthcare debt. And in California, voters will decide a citizen initiative related to dialysis clinic requirements—while not a common topic for ballot measures in other states, dialysis has been on the Golden State’s ballots for the last three general elections.
Drugs and Alcohol
This year is a big one for marijuana on the ballot. Voters in five states—Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota—will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana. In all but Maryland, these measures are citizen initiatives. And South Dakotans might have déjà vu— voters there passed a similar adult-use marijuana measure in 2020, but it was overturned by the state supreme court. Coloradans will weigh in on an initiative to decriminalize certain psychedelic plants such as psilocybin; the first statewide measure on psilocybin passed in Oregon in 2020. Voters in the Centennial State will also see three initiatives relating to alcohol, with one each on liquor store licenses, grocery store wine sales and alcohol delivery services. And Californians will decide a popular referendum on the legislature's 2020 ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products. A “yes” vote will uphold the contested legislation, while a “no” vote would repeal it.
Civil and Criminal Justice
Over the past few years, there has been a small trend to remove from state constitutions provisions that permit slavery or involuntary servitude as punishments for a crime. Voters in four states—Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont—will have the option to remove such language from their states’ constitutions. Two states seek to make changes to bail. In Alabama, voters will decide if the state legislature can be allowed to create criminal offenses for which bail may be denied. And in Ohio, the legislature is asking voters to require judges to set bail amounts based on public safety considerations. Another Alabama measure would require the governor to provide notice to a victim’s family before commuting a death sentence. And a legislatively referred measure in Montana would require a search warrant to access a person’s electronic data— Michigan voters approved a similar measure in 2020.
This year we’ll also see two union-related measures—both referred to voters by legislatures. Illinois voters will decide whether to create a constitutional right to collective bargaining. And Tennessee voters will decide whether to enshrine the state’s “right to work” law in the constitution. Minimum wage is on the ballot, too. A citizen initiative in Nebraska seeks to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2026, and a legislative referral in Nevada would create an increase to $12/hour by July 2024. In D.C., an initiative aims to increase the tipped minimum wage of $5.05 to match the non-tipped minimum wage by 2027.
Several measures relate to education this year. With bipartisan support, the Arizona legislature has referred a question to voters asking if non-citizens should receive in-state college tuition. If passed, this would repeal a measure that voters approved in 2006 preventing non-citizens from receiving in-state tuition. Several measures seek to increase education funding, primarily through income tax increases or bond measures in California, Colorado, Massachusetts and New Mexico. And in West Virginia, the legislature has placed a question on the ballot that would require legislative approval of any proposed rules from the state board of education.
Taxes are always on the ballot. Several of the education measures in the previous section would increase taxes on certain income brackets. Property taxes, though, are by far the most common type of tax measure on voters’ ballots this year—and most are exemptions or reductions, such as those in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and West Virginia. Two measures would make notable changes to property taxes in the face of natural disasters: a Florida measure would allow flood resistance improvements to be disregarded when assessing property value, and one in Georgia would allow temporary property tax changes for areas damaged by disasters. Other significant tax-related measures include a citizen initiative in California that would tax incomes above $2 million to fund zero-emission vehicle projects and wildfire prevention programs and a Colorado initiative that aims to decrease the state income tax from 4.55% to 4.4%. In 2020, voters approved a similar income tax deduction that was placed on the ballot by the same sponsors.
Alabama voters will decide if local governments should be able to use American Rescue Plan Act funds for broadband internet infrastructure. New Mexicans will consider not just broadband infrastructure, but natural gas, electric, water and more when they weigh in on a measure that would authorize the legislature to provide funds for household services infrastructure. And in New York, voters will consider a bond measure to fund water infrastructure, climate change mitigation and land conservation projects.
Elections are a huge topic this year, featuring in at least 12 different measures. An Arizona measure would make several changes to the state’s voter identification laws, including requiring voters using mail ballots to provide a birth date and voter ID number. A Nebraska initiative also seeks voter ID changes that would require a photo ID. A legislatively referred measure in Connecticut would amend the state constitution to allow the legislature to enact early in-person voting. An initiative in Nevada seeks to establish open top-five primaries and ranked-choice voting for general elections. No state currently uses top-five primaries, though California and Washington use a “top two” system, and Alaska uses “top four.” An initiative in Michigan also aims to make sweeping changes to the state’s voting policies—including authorizing drop boxes, establishing nine days of early voting, allowing military and overseas ballots to be counted if postmarked by Election Day and requiring public disclosure of donations used to pay for elections or audits. In Alabama, voters will consider whether the constitution should be changed to require that any election law changes must be implemented at least six months before the next general election. Arizona voters will weigh in on a campaign finance initiative that would establish new disclosure requirements for independent expenditures. And voters in Louisiana and Ohio will weigh in on the controversial issue of non-citizens voting in local elections—both measures would prohibit it.
Sometimes ballot measures, particularly citizen initiatives, are the subject of ballot measures— and this year there are more than usual. Three measures would raise the vote threshold for some ballot measures from a simple majority to 60%. One in South Dakota was already rejected by voters on the primary ballot; the others in Arizona and Arkansas will be decided this November. Arizonans will see two additional measures related to direct democracy on their ballots: an effort to establish a single-subject rule for citizen initiatives and one that would allow the legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot measures that have been ruled unconstitutional by the state or federal supreme court. In Colorado, a legislatively referred measure would require any initiative affecting income tax to have ballot titles and fiscal impact summaries that explain how the change would affect those taxes for people in different income categories. And in Florida, voters will decide if they want to abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years to propose changes to the state's constitution.
Other Notable Highlights
- Two measures aim to legalize sports betting, both in California.
- An initiative in Colorado would fund affordable housing projects with 0.01% of the state’s federal income tax revenue.
- Gun rights are on the ballot in Iowa; while gun control is in Oregon.
- Nevadans will consider an Equal Rights Amendment, which would prohibit discrimination on account of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.
- Arkansas voters will decide if they want to pass the Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment, which would provide that the government shall not burden a person’s freedom of religion.
- In Massachusetts, voters will consider a referendum on HB 4805, which would allow all residents to apply for driver's licenses, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.
- And Alabama voters will have the opportunity to ratify the new Constitution of Alabama of 2022. In 2020, voters passed a measure authorizing the legislature to update the language in the constitution, and the new version removes racist language, deletes duplicative content, rearranges the sections and amendments and more. Unsurprisingly, this measure has bipartisan support and very little—if any—opposition.