Ballotpedia:Analysis of the 2008 ballot measures

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Main article: 2008 ballot measures

In 2008, 174 statewide ballot propositions were voted on in 37 different states, including 153 ballot measures that appeared on the November 4 ballot.

Ballot measures appeared on ballots as initiatives, referenda, commission referrals, legislative referrals and automatic referrals.

Altogether, 104 propositions were approved and 70 defeated for a win/loss ratio of about 60%. Initiated measures had a lower approval rating--only about 40% of initiatives were approved.

Statistical summary of 2008 election results

Initiated measures

This chart includes all initiated measures on 2008 ballots, including those prior to November.

Type of ballot measure How many on 2008 ballot? 2008 wins 2008 losses
Initiated constitutional amendment 30 12 18
Initiated state statute 38 14 24
Veto referendum 6 5 1
Total 74 31 43

Legislative and other referrals

This chart includes all referred measures on 2008 ballots, including those prior to November.

Type of ballot measure How many on 2008 ballot? How many won? How many lost?
Legislatively-referred constitutional amendment 77 55 22
Legislatively-referred state statute 15 14 1
Automatic ballot referral 3 0 3
Commission referral 5 3 2
Total 100 72 28

2008 initiatives and referenda

In addition to the 61 initiatives & referenda on the November ballot, voters had already voted on nine initiatives in pre-November elections. Eight of those nine initiatives failed, for a win/loss ratio of 11% in pre-November voting.

In comparison to prior years:

Ballot measures by topic

Abortion, stem cells, suicide (5)

Three ballot measures to restrict abortion were on the November 4 ballot; all of them failed.

They were Proposition 4 in California, the Colorado Definition of Person Initiative in Colorado and the South Dakota Abortion Ban Initiative in South Dakota. (Two other efforts, the Montana Right to Life Initiative and the Missouri Prevention of Coerced and Unsafe Abortions Act, did not collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.)[1]

In Michigan, voters approved the Stem Cell Initiative which allows embryos produced in fertility clinics that would otherwise be discarded to be donated for research purposes and also allows researchers to create embryonic stem cell cultures to study disease.

In Washington, voters approved I-1000, the aid-in-dying measure (referred to by supporters as Death with Dignity and opponents as the Assisted Suicide initiative.)[2]

Affirmative action (2)

Nebraska Initiative 424 passed with 58% of the vote, and the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative was narrowly defeated, with 49% of the vote.

Going into 2008, the objective of Ward Connerly, the main organizer of these bans on governmentally-sponsored affirmative action, was to have a Super Tuesday for Equal Rights, with similar ballot initiatives on the ballot in five states. In the end, the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, Missouri Civil Rights Initiative and Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative did not make the ballot.

In Colorado, opponents of these efforts filed signatures in early August for Initiative 82, in what has been described as a trojan horse initiative. On September 3, it was announced that Initiative 82 fell short of Colorado's signature requirement and would not appear on the ballot.[3]

See also:

Animals and hunting (4)

The November ballot included two animal welfare initiatives, both of which passed easily.

California Proposition 2, a bid to prohibit some animal confinement practices in California, passed with 63.2% of the vote. The Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act -- which will eliminate dog racing for money by 2010 -- passed with 56% of the vote.[4]

In Oklahoma, the state legislature referred Question 742 to the ballot, a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution giving Oklahomans "the right to hunt, trap, fish and take game and fish." Question 742 passed with 80.05% of the vote.

The August 26 statewide ballot in Alaska included an initiative, the Wolf and Bear Protection Act, to impose some restrictions on aerial shooting of Alaskan wildlife. It was defeated with 44% of the vote. Gov. Sarah Palin came under some criticism for a state-funded voter education pamphlet about hunting practices in Alaska distributed throughout the state in the weeks prior to the election.

In North Dakota, the Captive Hunting Petition narrowly failed to qualify for the ballot and in Idaho, the Wolf Regulation Initiative also failed to make the ballot.

Bond issues (16)

By year's end, voters in nine states had voted on sixteen different statewide measures authorizing the issuance of government bonds to pay for programs of various kinds. The total amounts to $18.51 billion. The biggest ticket item is Prop 1A in California; the least expensive is Montana LR-118 which asks for $6 million for the Montana university system. Of the sixteen measures, fourteen were legislatively referred to the ballot, and two (both in California) are initiatives.

Campaign contributions (2)

Colorado Amendment 54, which would restrict groups that receive government contracts over $100,000 from making certain types of campaign contributions, narrowly passed with 51% of the vote.

A similar measure in South Dakota, Initiated Measure 10 was defeated with 35.3% of the vote.

A similar measure, the Anti-Corruption Act, is qualified for the 2010 ballot in Alaska.

Casinos (11)

The bottom line on the year for gambling-related ballot measures is that voters in five states (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maryland and Missouri) liberalized rules on gambling or increased the availability of casinos or number of slot machines in their state, while voters in three states (Alaska, Maine and Ohio) declined to increase the availability of gambling venues or to liberalize rules regarding gambling.

Six casino measures appeared on the November 4 ballot:

Of the six casino measures, two were for state statutes, while four proposed constitutional amendments. Five of the six were initiatives; one, in Maryland, was a legislative referral.

Five gaming ballot measures, the four tribal gaming compacts in California and the Alaska Gaming Commission have already been put to statewide votes.

Con-Cons (3)

Voters in three states, Connecticut, Hawaii and Illinois, voted on the question of whether they'd like their state to hold a constitutional convention.

The three ballot questions about constitutional conventions were automatic ballot referrals. All three measures were resoundingly defeated, with Illinois at 33%, Hawaii at 35% and Connecticut at 41%. Each of the constitutional convention questions had a common foe, the National Education Association with its National Education Association Ballot Fund.

The effort to approve the Connecticut Constitutional Convention Question took on socially conservative tones after the Connecticut Supreme Court's October 2008 ruling in Kerrigan & Mock v. Connecticut Dept. of Public Health, which said that same-sex marriage is a constitutionally-protected right in the state.

Energy policy (3)

Missouri Proposition C is the only one of three energy-policy ballot measures to succeed in 2008. It earned 66% of the vote.

California Proposition 7 and California Proposition 10 went down to defeat, Prop. 7 with 35% of the vote and Prop. 10 with 40%. What happened? Marty Wilson, who managed the pro-Proposition 10 campaign, said their polls showed voter concern over cost. Prop. 7, which started out in the polls with 63% in favor, was opposed by many environmentalist groups as well as at least 46 newspaper editorial boards.[5],[6]

English/Immigration (3)

Oregon Ballot Measure 58 failed; it would have limited the use of foreign language instruction in public schools to a maximum of two years. 43.68% voted in favor.[7]

Missouri Constitutional Amendment 1, to establish English as the official language for all government meetings where public business is discussed or decided or where public policy is formulated, passed overwhelmingly, with 86.3% in favor.[8]

Arizona Proposition 202 failed with 40.9%. Had it passed, it would have mandated that citizen complaints against businesses regarding allegations of hiring undocumented workers be signed and dated instead of being anonymous. Proposition 202 also targeted the cash labor market. Prop. 202's most vocal opponents were groups who said the measure did not do enough to, in their view, crack down on employers using labor from illegal workers.

Health care (4)

In Arizona, Proposition 101 would have prohibited laws that restrict a person's choice of private health care systems or private plans or otherwise interfere with person's or entity's right to pay directly for lawful medical services. It lost narrowly, with 49.8% of the vote.

In Missouri, Proposition B, a SEIU-backed plan to establish a commission to "ensure the availability of home care services to the elderly under the Medicaid program by recruiting, training, and stabilizing the home care workforce", passed with 75.3% of the vote.

In Montana, I-155 passed with 70%. It establishes a children's health insurance coverage plan for all uninsured children in the state of Montana by December 31, 2009.[9]

In North Dakota, the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Program Petition passed with 53.94%. It establish a tobacco prevention and control advisory committee; this will be funded by some of the proceeds from a legal settlement against tobacco companies.

I-1029 in Washington passed with 72.56%. This is a SEIU-backed proposal to require people who work with the elderly and disabled to get more training and be certified.

On and off: In Colorado, Amendment 56 to require every employer that employs twenty or more employees in the state of Colorado to provide major medical health care coverage for its employees was pulled from the ballot by its sponsors on October 2. Proponents of a similar measure in Ohio, the Healthy Families Act, had withdrawn their measure from consideration after collecting more than 240,000 signatures.

Initiative rights (3)

Colorado Referendum O proposed making it harder for citizens to place constitutional amendments on the Colorado ballot for voter approval, but easier to call a vote on state statutes. It was defeated.[10]

Ohio Issue 1 was approved. It changes the deadline for submitting initiative petitions in the state, moving the deadline backward from its current 90 days before the election to 125 days before the election. The last few months of the 2008 petition drive season in Ohio in 2008 may have created additional support for Issue 1 as uncertainty lingered into October over exactly what would be on the ballot.[11]

In Wyoming, Amendment B passed. It imposes a tougher distribution requirement for future Wyoming initiatives. (The last time a citizen initiative qualified for the ballot in Wyoming was 1996.)

Law enforcement (3)

California Proposition 6 was defeated. It imposed additional penalties on crimes. California Proposition 9, or "Marsy's Law", was approved. It gives enforceable rights to the families of crime victims.

Oregon Ballot Measure 61, placed on the ballot by initiative, was defeated with 48.9% of the vote. It would have created mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain theft, identity theft, forgery, drug, and burglary crimes. A competing measure, Oregon Ballot Measure 57, placed on the ballot by the state legislature, was approved with 61.39% of the vote. It increases term of imprisonment for persons convicted of specified drug and property crimes under certain circumstances.

Colorado Amendment 53, which would have made business executives criminally responsible for violations of law by their companies, with withdrawn from the ballot as part of a larger deal between unions and businesses.

Marijuana (3)

2008 saw three statewide measures with an impact on how use of marijuana is treated in the criminal justice system are California Proposition 5, the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative and the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care Initiative.[12]

Prop 5 lost in California, while the measures in Massachusetts and Michigan passed handily.

A local campaign that drew national attention was Mendocino County Measure B, which passed on June 3, 2008, repealing the county's previously very generous provisions about marijuana farming. The losing side tried, unsuccessfully, to get a related measure on the November ballot to re-gain some lost ground.

Marriage (4)

Voters in four states voted on marriage. In three states, bans on same-sex marriage were approved: Arizona Proposition 102 with 56.4%, California Proposition 8 with 52.2% and the Florida Marriage Amendment with 62.1%. Two of those measures (California and Florida) were initiatives; the Arizona measure was a referral.

In Arkansas, an initiative to prevent unmarried couples from adopting was approved with 57% of the vote.

The Ninth Circuit's August 15 ruling in Lemons v. Bradbury meant that Oregon Ballot Measure 303 did not appear on the November ballot in Oregon.

Payday lending (2)

The payday lending industry had a tough year at the ballot box, losing measures in Arizona and Ohio.

Arizona Proposition 200 came up short with 40.5% of the vote after its proponents spent close to $9 million.

After the Ohio State Legislature passed a law earlier in 2008 cracking down on payday lending, payday lenders went to work to force that law to a veto referendum by collecting signatures to put Issue 5, the Payday Loan Referendum on the ballot. However, only 37% of Ohioans agreed with the idea of overturning the law, which now goes into effect. Over $15 million was spent in Ohio by the group associated with payday lenders.[13]

The payday lending industry is an $85 billion industry that provides short-term loans, which are usually secured with a check postdated to the borrower's next payday. The interest rate in the absence of regulation has typically worked out to an average of $15 per $100 borrowed on a two-week loan. The high interest rates are what has led to legislative attempts to cap those rates. In Ohio and Arizona together, the payday-lending branches outnumber Starbucks and McDonald's outlets combined.[14]


Proposition 11 in California passed with 50.8% of the vote. It puts legislative re-districting decisions in the hands of a commission rather than the state legislature.

Oregon Ballot Measure 55 was approved; it affects the operative date of redistricting.

Utah Amendment 4 was approved with 78% of the vote; it clarifies that the Legislature's division of the state into districts must occur no later than the next annual general session following results of the United States enumeration.

Taxes (24)

Tax cuts or limits

Measures on the fall ballot that would limit or cut taxes include:

Tax increases

Measures on the fall ballot that would impose new taxes or increase existing taxes include:

Voting on taxes

Voters in three states considered propositions that affect how they could vote, in the future, on tax issues.

  • Arizona Proposition 105 was defeated. It would have required a double-majority (a majority of registered voters, not just a majority of those voters casting ballots) to approve any future ballot initiatives to raise state taxes or fees or otherwise obligate government spending before such a proposal can become law.

Tax policy alterations


In Colorado, the union-business political balancing act was upset by three 2008 initiatives: Amendment 47 (colloquially known as right-to-work), Amendment 49 (prohibit public employers in Colorado from using payroll deductions to benefit private organizations, mostly unions) and Amendment 54.

Unions in Colorado were geared up in 2008 through Protect Colorado's Future to go on the offense, by qualifying Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57 for the ballot. On the last possible day for sponsors to remove their own ballot measures from the November ballot, sponsors of 53, 55, 56 and 57 pulled all four off the ballot in order to concentrate resources on defeating 47, 49 and 54. The National Education Association kicked in a last-minute $2 million to help defeat the three targets and business interests in the state also put money into the anti-47, 49, 54 pot in exchange for the removal of the Union Four.[15]

After the votes had been counted, of the three initiatives opposed by unions in Colorado, two lost and Amendment 54 won narrowly. Tom Lucero, head of the group that fought for Amendment 54, says he expects opponents of the measure to file a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.[16]

In Arizona, a union sponsored Proposition 101, which lost.

In Oregon, the union-sponsored coalition Defend Oregon successfully waged a defensive action against seven measures:

Unions were the chief sponsors of Missouri Proposition B and I-1029 in Washington, both of which passed handily.

The National Education Association opposed all three constitutional convention questions on the 2008 ballot (Connecticut, Hawaii and Illinois).

In California, the California Teachers Association gave $1,000,000 to the campaign to defeat Proposition 8.

Term limits (3)

The South Dakota state legislature wanted voters in their state to repeal term limits and to that end referred Amendment J to the November ballot. Amendment J got only 24.27% of the vote.

69% of Louisianians agreed to impose term limits on members of public boards.

On February 5, Californians rejected Prop. 93, an attempted roll-back of Prop 140 from 1990.

(In November 2007, Maine voters rejected Question 5, an attempted softening of term limits.)

Voters in some cities and counties also voted on term limits:

Voting (6)

Arkansas Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 1 removed offensive language from the constitution about who can vote.

The Connecticut Voting Age Measure, to allow state residents to vote in primaries at the age of 17, passed with 65% of the vote.

The Iowa Voting Exemptions Act was approved. It changed offensive language used to describe people who cannot legally vote.

The Maryland Early Voting Measure passed with 72% of the vote. It authorizes the state legislature to enact a process whereby voters will be able to vote in person in the two weeks preceding an election. By-and-large, state Democrats favored the measure and Republicans opposed it.

Nevada Question 1 failed. It proposed to eliminate the state's requirement that in order to be eligible to vote, a prospective voter must have resided in the state for six months.

In Oregon, Oregon Ballot Measure 65 failed. It proposed a top two system, where all candidates for an office would compete against each other regardless of party, and the two candidates with the most votes would then advance to the general election. Oregon Ballot Measure 405 was approved; it affects provisions relating to qualifications of electors for school district elections.

Pre-November elections

By the time of the November 4 elections, voters in eight states had already voted on twenty-one statewide ballot measures: Alaska, California, Florida, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon and Wisconsin--including eight legislative referrals, four veto referenda and nine initiatives. Eight of those nine initiatives failed, for a win/loss ratio of 11% thus far for 2008 initiatives.

I&R states with little or no 2008 activity

  • Six of the traditional I&R states, Idaho, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming, had no initiatives on their ballots in 2008, although some of the ballots in those states are featuring measures referred by state legislatures.
  • Expressed as a percentage, 45% of the traditional I&R states had zero or one initiatives in 2008.

State-by-state chart

If you click on the link below for the state you're interested in, you'll find an article listing all the ballot measures underway in that state. In turn, if you click on those links, you learn about each individual initiative--the ballot measure's status, funding, its full text, and who is supporting and opposing it.

See also: 2008 ballot initiatives by state for a discussion by state of initiated measures only.

State Pre-Nov. initiatives Nov. initiatives Referenda Pre-Nov. referrals[17] Nov. referrals November total 2008 total
Alabama 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 6 6 6
Alaska 2008 ballot measures 4 0 0 0 1 1 5
Arizona 2008 ballot measures 0 6 0 0 2 8 8
Arkansas 2008 ballot measures 0 2 0 0 3 5 5
California 2008 ballot propositions 5 10 4 0 2 12 21
Colorado 2008 ballot measures 0 10 0 0 4 14 14
Connecticut 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 2 2 2
Florida 2008 ballot measures 0 1 0 1 5 6 7
Georgia 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 3 3 3
Hawaii 2008 ballot measures NA NA 0 0 2 2 2
Idaho 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA NA NA NA NA
Illinois 2008 ballot measures 0 0 0 0 1 1 1
Iowa 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 1 1 1
Louisiana 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 7 7 7
Maine 2008 ballot measures 0 1 1 1 0 2 3
Maryland 2008 ballot measures NA NA 0 0 2 2 2
Massachusetts 2008 ballot measures 0 3 0 0 0 3 3
Michigan 2008 ballot measures 0 2 0 0 0 2 2
Minnesota 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 1 1 1
Missouri 2008 ballot measures 0 3 0 0 2 5 5
Montana 2008 ballot measures 0 1 0 0 2 3 3
Nebraska 2008 ballot measures 0 1 0 1 1 2 3
Nevada 2008 ballot measures 0 1 0 0 3 4 4
New Jersey 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 2 2 2
New Mexico 2008 ballot measures NA NA 0 0 9 9 9
New York 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 1 1 1
North Dakota 2008 ballot measures 0 3 0 1 1 4 5
Ohio 2008 ballot measures 0 1 1 0 3 5 5
Oklahoma 2008 ballot measures 0 0 0 0 4 4 4
Oregon 2008 ballot measures 0 8 0 3 4 12 15
Pennsylvania 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 1 1 1
Rhode Island 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 2 2 2
South Carolina 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 0 3 3 3
South Dakota 2008 ballot measures 0 3 0 0 4 7 7
Utah 2008 ballot measures 0 0 0 0 5 5 5
Washington 2008 ballot measures 0 3 0 0 0 3 3
Wisconsin 2008 ballot measures NA NA NA 1 0 0 1
Wyoming 2008 ballot measures 0 0 0 0 2 2 2
Total 9 59 4/2 8 91 153 174