2016 ballot measures
Sixteen (16) ballot questions have been certified for spots on nine statewide ballots in 2016, as of April 2, 2015.
One of these measures will be on a pre-November ballot, leaving 14 to be decided on November 8, 2016.
Decisions made at the ballot box set the tone for future elections. From same-sex marriage bans to same-sex marriage legalizations, for example, ballot measures have and will continue to establish important precedents.
In 2012, Americans in two states, Colorado and Washington, voted to legalize recreational marijuana, thus initiating a national political conversation. In 2014, voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia did the same. With a majority of Americans now supporting marijuana legalization, 2016 could feature a wave of marijuana-related ballot measures. At least 20 initiatives legalizing the drug across 16 states have been proposed. Many advocates have their eyes set on California, which will likely see multiple initiative legalization efforts. "With California and some other, smaller states legalizing it in 2016, the federal government will be forced to reckon with this. We're hoping that this leads to the end of marijuana prohibition nationally," said the Drug Policy Alliance's Lynne Lyman.
Other potential bellwether issues include California's first-in-the-nation plastic bag ban and Nevada's background checks for gun purchases initiative. The outcomes of both of these measures have the potential to influence the discourse surrounding environmental and gun rights debates.
History of measures
2014 had an unusually low number of statewide ballot measures. The last time the number of statewide ballot measures dipped below 160 was in 1988.
In 2012, voters saw 188 statewide ballot questions. That number was lower than the 194 average for even-numbered years since 2000. After all statewide ballot measures were finalized for the year, it became apparent 2014 would perpetuate this downward trend since the 2006 high point of 226 measures.
2014 was particularly notable for the low number of initiated measures. Though 616 initiatives were filed, a mere 35 initiated measures went before voters. The last time this number dipped below 36 was in 1974. The low number of initiatives may have been due to the dozens of regulations on the initiative process that were enacted leading up to 2014 that made it tougher for initiative supporters to qualify initiatives for the ballot. Statewide ballots in 2012 featured 50 initiatives, significantly more than the number of those certified in 2014. 2010 ballots boasted 46, slightly fewer than 2012 but still 11 more than in 2014.
Initiatives were not the only measures failing to match previous years' tallies, as 2014's total number of measures was dramatically less than that of the past two even-numbered election years. Even legislatively-referred constitutional amendments, which were the most prominent type of measure featured on state ballots in 2014, were light when compared to previous years.
Of the 24 states offering citizens the power of initiative, the number of signatures required to get an initiative on a ballot is based on a percentage of votes cast in an election in all but three of them. Those three states are North Dakota, where the number of signatures required is tied to a percentage of the state's total population at the last census, Idaho, where signatures are based on the total number of registered voters at the last general election, and Nebraska, where signatures are tied to the number of registered voters at the deadline for petition filing.
In Florida and Utah, the number of signatures is tied to a percentage of votes cast in the last U.S. presidential election. The other 19 states tie their signature requirements to a number of votes cast in the last general election or, in some cases, specifically the last gubernatorial election or secretary of state election. Of those states,15 held elections in 2014 which determined the number of signatures required for initiatives in 2016.
Just as 2014's national voter turnout was the lowest since World War II, turnout was lower relative to the 2012 and 2010 general elections in most states. This caused signature requirements to fall, and in some cases, plummet in the 15 states tying 2016 initiative signature requirements to the 2014 general election. The average number of signatures required in these states fell 10.5 percent.
In California, signature requirements plunged 27.5 percent to 585,407 for initiated constitutional amendments and 365,880 for initiated state statutes. In 2014, 807,615 and 504,760 signatures were required, respectively. Signature requirements have not been set this low in California since 1979, when the state's population was only 60 percent of what it was in 2014. This has led commentators to speculate that 2016 will be an "initiative avalanche" or "initiative carnival," at least in California. The drop was even more pronounced in Nevada, where signature requirements tumbled 45.7 percent. Nevada is unique, however, because the state's signature requirements are based on votes cast in the general election; therefore, requirements fluctuate every two years.
Legal type of measures
Of the 15 measures certified for the 2016 ballot, 10 are legislatively-referred constitutional amendments, one is a legislatively-referred state statute, three are initiatives and one is a veto referendum.
|Type of ballot measure||2016||2014||2012||2010|
|Legislatively-referred constitutional amendments||11||91||99||106|
|Legislatively-referred state statutes||1||20||20||23|
|Automatic ballot referrals||0||1||3||4|
|Commission-referred ballot measures||0||1||0||0|
|Gubernatorial Powers Amendment||State Exec||Allows the governor to retain his or her powers and duties when absent from the state|
|Removal of Cap on Bonds Amendment||Bonds||Removes the cap on the amount of bonds the state is allowed to issue|
|Terms, Elections and Eligibility of County Officials Amendment||Local Gov't||Increases the terms for certain county officers to four years, provides that certain officers cannot change to a civil office during their terms, and defines “infamous crime” for the purpose of determining who is eligible to hold office|
|Suspension of Legislators Amendment||Legislature||Requires a two-thirds majority to suspend a legislator and defines the removal of rights, privileges and powers of a suspended legislator|
|CICA/SS||Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursement Initiative||Healthcare||Requires voter approval of changes to the hospital fee program|
|LRSS||Multilingual Education Act||Education||Repeals Prop 227 of 1998, thus allowing for bilingual education in public schools|
|VR||Plastic Bag Ban Referendum||Business||Ratifies SB 270, thus prohibiting plastic single-use carryout bags|
|State Intervention in Failing Public Schools Amendment||Education||Permits the state to intervene in “chronically failing” public schools|
|Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Amendment||Gov't Finances||Allows the legislature to add additional fees to certain convictions to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund|
|Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment||Hunt & Fish||Preserves the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife as a public good|
|Legislative Pay Council Amendment||Salaries||Creates an independent board that sets the pay of legislators|
|IndISS||Marijuana Legalization Initiative||Marijuana||Legalizes, regulates and taxes recreational marijuana|
|IndISS||Background Checks for Gun Purchases Initiative||Firearms||Requires that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check|
|Right to Farm Amendment||Agriculture||Prohibits the legislature from passing laws abridging the right of farmers and ranchers to employ technologies and practices without compelling state interest|
|Governing Technical Education Institutes Amendment||Education||Empowers the legislature to determine by who postsecondary technical education institutes shall be governed|
|Oath of Office Amendment||Con Language||Modifies the oath of office that all state elected and appointed officials must take|
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "2016 ballot measure."
- Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.
- Potential 2016 ballot measures
- Polls, 2016 ballot measures
- Petition drive deadlines, 2016
- 2016 ballot measure endorsements
- How to find campaign finance information about ballot measure campaigns
- Local ballot measure elections in 2016
- Reuters, "Voters give nod to legal marijuana in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C." November 5, 2015
- Pew Research Center, "6 facts about marijuana," April 14, 2015
- The Bellingham Herald, "Pot legalization across US may hinge on 2016 California vote," April 13, 2015
- Washington Post, "Voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest since WWII," November 10, 2014
- Al Jazeera America, "Actual election turnout far lower than reported," November 5, 2015
- San Francisco Chronicle, "2016 election poised for initiative avalanche," December 11, 2014
- Los Angeles Daily News, "Expect a ballot initiative carnival in 2016: Thomas Elias," February 16, 2015