Citizen initiatives: Success and failure in 2010

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October 14, 2010

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By Bailey Ludlam and Al Ortiz

Ballotpedia's analysis of ballot measures in 2010 continued this week with a closer look at the initiative activity across all of the 26 initiative and referendum states in the country. Analysis included a look at how many initiatives were proposed, how many failed to make the ballot, the percentage of filed initiatives in each state that landed on the ballot and why certain initiatives failed in their efforts. Information was compiled from public resources such as Secretary of State, Elections Division and Attorney General websites. The analysis reflects the information given by those official government resources; discrepancies that may be found in some information are a result of incomplete data provided to the public.

After breaking down the filed initiatives in each state, it was concluded that an estimated total of 606 initiatives were filed in 2010, with only 51 proposals successfully qualifying for a statewide ballot. Overall, only an estimated 8.42 percent of filed initiatives gained ballot access this year.

# of initiatives proposed # initiatives certified in 2010  % certified
Totals: 606 51 8.42%

Ballotpedia also calculated the number of proposed initiatives per state and the number/percentage of successfully certified initiatives for 2010 ballots. Oklahoma had the highest percentage qualify at 50 percent of initiatives making the ballot, however, that number reflects one of two total initiatives filed. Second was South Dakota at 40 percent, followed by Maine (33%) and Alaska (25%).

Of the 26 states that offer initiative and referendum, only Wyoming and Maryland had no proposals for 2010. On the other side, at 98 initiatives, Colorado had the highest number of proposals. California followed in a close second with 96 initiatives. Oregon and Washington took third and fourth place with 83 and 77 proposals.

In terms of failed initiatives, Colorado led the pack again with the highest number of failed initiatives. In total, 459 initiatives made an effort to qualify for the 2010 ballot but either missed petition requirements after meeting state deadlines or missed the deadline completely for 2010.

A more thorough analysis of initiative activity in 2010 revealed that 22 (3.6%) of the 2010 proposals announced that they are redirecting their efforts towards future ballots - 2011 and 2012. Some states allow for a rolling petition deadline which allows for initiatives filed in 2010 to redirect efforts to qualify for the 2011 or 2012 ballot. These states include: Alaska, California, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, and Utah.

According to Ballopedia's chart of initiative activity, some initiatives ended their efforts early and withdrew their proposals; other initiatives simply expired prior to the deadline. This resulted in a total of 50 initiatives that were taken out of the running for 2010 ballots. Washington had the highest number (18) in this category.

Lawsuits were certainly the point of discussion this year. However, the analysis revealed that an estimated 25 (4.1%) initiatives faced legal challenges during the petition process. The majority of those challenges occurred in the state of Missouri (9). Legal challenges after certification were not included in the analysis.

Other states that saw challenges prior or during petition deadlines include: Colorado, Florida, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington.

In the final aspect of initiative activity analysis, it was found that a total of ten states have zero initiatives on the 2010 ballot. Those states were Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

An analysis of the 2010 ballot measures, will be ongoing in the weeks leading up to the election, will include dissections of different topics relating to 2010 proposals.

See also

2010 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2010 Scorecard
AnalysisIssues on ballot