Twenty ballot measures were voted on across seven states on Nov. 5. Earlier this year, Louisianans voted on four measures at their statewide primary on Oct. 12, and citizens in the U.S. Virgin Islands voted on one measure during a special election held March 30, bringing the total number of measures in 2019 to 25. This tally is similar to the numbers seen in recent off-year elections. In 2017, there were 27 measures; in 2015, there were 28; in 2013, there were 26.
Only three of this year’s measures were citizen’s initiatives (sponsored by groups who have gathered enough signatures to qualify the measure to be put on the ballot). Two of these initiatives came out of Washington, and the third was the Virgin Islands measure.
Nineteen of the 25 ballot measures were constitutional amendments, with only five making statutory changes. Twenty-two of these measures were legislative referendums, meaning they originated as bills that passed the legislature and then required the voters’ ratification before they could become a law.
The ballot measure topics were similar to those in recent years, including taxes, criminal justice and redistricting.
Taxes: Colorado had two measures related to taxes. Voters rejected Proposition CC, a measure to provide additional funding to transportation and education projects. Currently, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) law in Colorado prohibits the state from keeping any surplus revenue, and the failed measure would have allowed the state to keep and spend all the revenue it annually collects and use any surplus for transportation and education projects.
The second Colorado measure, Proposition DD, asked voters to allow wagering on sports events, a topic that has been of interest across the states since a U.S. Supreme Court decision lifted the federal prohibition on sports gambling in May 2018, allowing states to collect taxes on those earnings. Coloradans voted to pass this measure, which will collect a 10% tax on earnings from sports betting, and this revenue is earmarked for funding water projects in the state.
One of Washington’s two citizen’s initiatives, Initiative 976, concerned the tax fees for car-tabs—the registration stickers put on vehicles' license plates to show the month and year when the registration will expire. Voters in the Evergreen State chose to pass this initiative, fixing annual fees to $30 for motor vehicles under 10,000 pounds and removing local government’s authority to approve certain taxes and charges on vehicles. Seattle and King County, however, have already announced plans to contest the new law's constitutionality.
Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, and Texas had tax issues on the ballot, as well. Voters in Louisiana authorized education funding, and those in Maine approved a bond issue to improve transportation infrastructure. In New Jersey, voters passed a property tax deduction for veterans who reside in continuing care communities. Texans supported a flood infrastructure fund, increased the maximum bond amount for cancer prevention and research, dedicated taxes on sporting goods to protect natural areas, prohibited state income tax and more.
Criminal Justice: Pennsylvania voters approved Marsy’s Law, a crime victims’ bill of rights, but votes will not be certified until the state courts determine if the proposed law is constitutional. Marsy’s Law has been on the ballot in many states in previous years (seven states voted on it in 2018), yet it has, according to NCSL’s Anne Teigen, “received criticism, opposition and resistance in many states.” In 2017, the Montana Supreme Court ruled their Marsy’s Law amendment unconstitutional, and in June of 2019, the Kentucky Supreme Court came to the same conclusion about their version of Marsy’s Law.
Redistricting: Two measures were about redistricting. In Kansas, voters approved a legislatively referred measure to end the state’s process for removing nonresident military personnel and nonresident students from census data used for redistricting and joining the vast majority of the states. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, a reapportionment measure failed due to insufficient voter turnout.
Disaster Preparation: Two measures concerned catastrophes and disasters. Texans approved a temporary property tax exemption for disaster areas, and Washington voters okayed a measure to ensure government continuity during a catastrophic incident.
Other Highlights: Texas had the most ballot measures of any state with 10, and voters rejected just one: A measure that asked voters to allow a person to hold more than one municipal judicial office at a time. Texans also approved a measure that would allow a county law enforcement’s dog to be transferred to its handler at the time of the dog’s retirement—approximately 94% of voters said “yes.
In Washington, voters had a chance to overturn a previous ban on affirmative action policies. It was a tight race, but the citizen's initiative failed, and Washington's affirmative action ban will stand.
You can view all of the ballot measures from the 50 states and Washington, D.C., at the NCSL Ballot Measure Database.
Here are all of the ballot measures with links to their official sources: