Ballotpedia's update on 2012 ballot measure elections

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November 9, 2012

By Al Ortiz

MADISON, Wisconsin: Ballot measures, usually found near the bottom of the ballot during any election, may sometimes go overlooked by voters as they flock to the polls. However, 2012 was the year of the ballot measure, as same-sex marriage, marijuana, health care, abortion, collective bargaining, voter identification and other issues squeezed their way onto the ballot in certain states across the country. As the presidential election took center stage, voters in 38 states cast their vote on 176 ballot measures total on November 6.

Although results are not yet final, here is a quick update on what occurred during the general election, and how many measures are still too close to call. Official results will not be canvassed until later in the following weeks.

More updates will be reported as official numbers are finalized by state election officials.


  • 2012 has had the highest number of measures in four years at 188. 2010 had 184 and 2008 had 174.
  • Since 2000, the most number of measures to appear on statewide ballots was in 2006, when 226 measures were voted on.
  • Ballot measure approval ratings in even number years since 2008 have remained steady. 2008 had 60%, 2010 had 64% and 2012 had 66% approval rating.
  • A total of 8 elections on statewide ballot measures were scheduled for 2012.
  • With Legislative referrals, there was a decrease from 2010 in 2012, with 119 in 2012 and 134 in 2010 leaving this year with 15 less referrals. In the last presidential election in 2008, there were only 100 legislative referrals on the ballot.
  • Ballot initiatives saw a slight increase from 2010, with 50 citizen-initiatives on the ballot, four more than in 2010. However, compared to 2008, this year's total falls short of that year's by 18.

2012 ballot

In all there were a total of 188 measures that were certified for ballots placement in 39 states in all of 2012. 176 of those measures were on November 6 general election ballots.

Key points


Previous elections

  • 12 measures have been decided
  • 7 have been approved. Approveda
  • 4 have been defeated. Defeatedd
  • 1 was broken down into different measures across its state, so results vary.

Results breakdown of November 6

Out of the 176 measures on the general election ballot.

  • 108 measures were approved.
  • 55 were defeated.
  • 2 did not have results tabulated due to litigation.

November 2012 election stats
Total Approved (%) Defeated (%)
163 108 (66.2%) 55 (33.8%)

Breakdown by measure type

Legislative referrals

83 approved Category:Ballot measure endorsements

25 defeated Circle thumbs down.png

7 too close Nuetral thumb.png

Citizen initiatives

12 approved Category:Ballot measure endorsements

28 defeated Circle thumbs down.png

3 too close Nuetral thumb.png

2 did not have results tabulated Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot

Other measures

  • Constitutional convention questions: All 3 defeated Circle thumbs down.png
  • Advisory votes: Both approved. Category:Ballot measure endorsements

Veto referendums

Veto referendums occur when citizens circulate petitions targeting a piece of legislation passed by a state's legislature. Instead of enacting that legislation automatically, if enough signatures are collected, that legislation is placed on the ballot for public vote.

  • Out of the 11 on the November ballot, six pieces of legislation were approved by voters, while 5 were defeated.
    • All ballot languages of the referendums stated that a "yes" vote was to approve the legislation, while a "no" vote was to reject it.
Below is a chart comparing veto referendums from 2008, 2010 and 2012
2012 veto ref graph.jpg

Hot-topic issues


Below is a chart of top political issues covered by ballot measures:

Top Issues # measures per issue
Taxes 35
Administration of government 24
Bond issues 17
State judiciary 10
Law enforcement 8

Issue developments

Same-sex marriage

  • Four measures were on the ballot regarding this issue on November 6.
  • For the first time ever, same-sex marriage was approved at the ballot by state voters.
  • Minnesota Amendment 1, which would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman in the state constitution, was defeated.


  • Four states dealing with marijuana legalization were on the ballot on November 6
  • Montana IR 124 approved an amendment to a medical marijuana legalization law passed in 2004. The amendment will place certain limitations to medical marijuana.

Affordable Healthcare Act

  • Four measures challenging the Affordable Healthcare Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, were on the ballot on November 6.
  • Measures would amend the state constitution to state that no federal or state law shall mandate a person or employee to participate in any health care system.
  • Unclear as to how much effect these laws will have on the Affordable Healthcare Act, since federal law supersedes states law.

Other notable developments

  • Florida Amendment 6: Would prohibit the use of public funds for abortions except as required by federal law and to save the mother’s life. Measure was defeated. Defeatedd
  • Minnesota Amendment 1: Would require that all voters in the state show photo identification before voting. Measure was approved. Approveda
  • Michigan Proposal 2: Would add the right to collective bargaining for public and private sector employees to the state constitution. That measure was defeated. Defeatedd

Taxes and bond issues


Dollar sign (reflective metallic).gif

The following chart shows the total amount of potential authorized bonds that were on the ballot in 2012, how much money was approved and how much was defeated.

Bond issues appeared in Alabama, Alaska, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico and Rhode Island.

Note: 1 measure in Maine is still too close to call, which would authorize the issuance of bonds of no more than $11 million.


  • 15 approved
  • 1 undecided
Total amount on 2012 ballot Approved total amount Defeated total amount Too close to call
$2,370,089,200 $2,359,089,500 $0 $11,000,000


  • 15 approved
  • 2 defeated
Total amount on ballot Approved total amount Defeated amount Too close to call
$2,944,740,064 $2,289,172,240 $655,567,824 $0


  • 15 approved
  • 1 defeated
Total amount on ballot Approved total amount Defeated amount Too close to call
$18,591,642,000 $13,591,642,000 $5,000,000,000 $0


The following are notable developments regarding tax-related issues that were on the November 6 ballot:

  • There were a total of 8 tax increases on the ballot. Four were approved and four were defeated.
  • Four out of five property tax exemption measures passed - 1 in Alaska, 1 in Florida and 2 in Louisiana. 1 in Florida failed.
  • Three income tax measures were on the ballot in 2012 - 1 personal income tax increase failed (CA), 1 business income tax increase passed (CA), 1 new personal tax ban was approved (NH)

See also

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