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Local ballot measures are on the rise, new report shows information scarcity

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March 11, 2013

By Josh Altic

The popularity and approval rating of local ballot measures is on the rise. Last year there were 4,650 local ballot measures proposed in the eleven states followed closely by Ballotpedia and 74% of those measures were approved by voters.[1] The availability of local ballot measure information, however, is scarce.

In cities, counties and school districts all over the country changes concerning a multitude of important issues were made directly by the voice of the people. Term limits were imposed, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were banned, pension plans were reformed and over $22 billion in school bond money was approved in just 14 states.[2] Despite this, information about how to initiate local ballot measures and records of local ballot measure elections can be hard to find.

In honor of Sunshine week, Ballotpedia published a new report on the availability of local ballot measure information on the state level. Through a combination of contacting state offices directly and researching state websites, the authors of the report compiled information regarding which states provide centralized information about the local direct democracy in its cities, counties and school districts and the comprehensiveness of the information.

Only 19 states were found to have government websites with general election databases that included information about local ballot measures. Of these state agency databases, 16% were not kept up-to-date. Several only archived election results for the most recent years or only maintained information for even numbered years. In addition, several government archives were far from complete, only covering state-conducted local ballot measure elections or the local measures that were specifically submitted by the cities or counties. Three additional states featured education department websites with databases exclusively for school bond and tax measures. This left 28 states in which no centralized government information about local ballot measures could be found.

The private sector picked up the slack a little. Non-government databases for election results and information about school bond and tax measures were found in six additional states and two more states featured archives for more general finance measures. But even with the help of private agencies, 20 states have no easily accessible local ballot measure information archives on the state level.

This leaves it largely up to individual counties to store and provide local ballot measure information. Last year, Ballotpedia writers published a report evaluating County websites and found that, out of the sample of 738 counties in the 11 states reviewed, 32% did not have local websites that displayed election information.

Below is a chart listing the 19 states that have general local ballot measure information posted on a state website. Note: States not listed below were identified as not having local measure information at the state level. Read the full report here to see which states have private organizations that track and collect information about local measures, as well as the state-by-state analysis.

States with state agency that provides local ballot measure data
States: Agency Has Ballot Text Has Election
Result Details
Link
Alabama Secretary of State Defeatedd Approveda Archive
Alaska Division of Elections Defeatedd Approveda Archive
Connecticut Secretary of State Approveda Approveda Archive
Florida Department of State Defeatedd Approveda Archive
Georgia Secretary of State Defeatedd Approveda Archive
Hawaii Office of elections Defeatedd Approveda Archive
Idaho Secretary of State Defeatedd Approveda Archive
Illinois Board of Elections Approveda Defeatedd Archive
Indiana Secretary of State Approveda Approveda Archive
Louisiana Secretary of State Defeatedd Approveda Archive
Massachusetts Department of Elections Approveda Approveda Archive
Minnesota Secretary of State Defeatedd Approveda Archive
Nevada Secretary of State Approveda Approveda Archive
North Carolina Board of Elections Defeatedd Approveda Archive
North Dakota Secretary of State Defeatedd Approveda Archive
Ohio Secretary of State Approveda Approveda Archive
Rhode Island Board of Elections Defeatedd Approveda Archive
South Carolina Election Commission Defeatedd Approveda Archive
Virginia Secretary of State Defeatedd Approveda Archive

See also

References