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News about: elections, politicians and candidates at all levels of government: elections, congress, state executive officials, state legislatures, recall elections, ballot measures and school boards. You can find a full list of projects here.

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Ballot Law Update: 2014 Year in Review

By Josh Altic

This edition of the Ballot Law Update features a year-end summary of legislation proposed in 2014 concerning laws governing the powers of initiative, referendum and recall. Of the 113 bills Ballotpedia tracked, 13 were approved in 5 states, while three were carried over to next year, and 97 were defeated. Some bills were introduced to establish or strengthen the powers of initiative, referendum and recall, while many others sought to restrict, direct, limit or decrease direct democracy.

This report also highlights some 2014 lawsuits that could have an impact on ballot law and lists all court cases filed against 2014 statewide ballot measures and select local measures.


Expensive ballot measures were a boon for advertisers in 2014

By Ryan Byrne

2014 ballot measures
Contributions, along with organizational prowess, provide the fuel that ballot measure campaigns run on. Ballot measure campaigns received more than a total of $458,551,690 in 2014. Stockpiling unspent contributions doesn’t serve a purpose for these campaigns, who, unlike politicians, won’t likely be up for reelection in the near future. Contributions are expended, and a number of advertising and political consulting firms see a boom in revenue.

In 2014, 36 companies and one political organization made over $1 million in revenue from statewide ballot measure campaigns. The majority of these companies, about 68 percent of them, were employed to craft advertisements, purchase commercial and ad spots in the media or both. Greenstripe Media, an advertising firm based in California, made $38,950,000 from working for the Proposition 46 opposition campaign alone. That's 67 percent of all the money the anti-Proposition 46 campaign received. GCW Media Services, also headquartered in California, received $30,530,296 from Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs, the campaign organization that successfully fought and defeated Proposition 45. Not surprisingly, Propositions 45 and 46 were the most expensive ballot measures of 2014. While Greenstripe Media and GCW Media Services were the top two earners of 2014, Target Enterprises, LLC, earning $27,444,723, had a much farther reach, organizing media placements for five campaigns in Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon. PCI Consultants, Inc., famous for organizing initiative petition drives, was the largest non-advertising recipient of expenditures. The company received $8,625,466 for helping eight measures in four states get on ballots. The California Republican Party was the one non-business to receive over $1 million from ballot measure campaigns, acquiring $2,897,000 in donations from the campaigns against Propositions 45 and 46 in California. Together the top 37 companies and organizations received $243,273,627, meaning a little over half, or approximately 53 percent, of all contributions to ballot measure campaigns ended up in their hands at the end of the 2014 campaign season.

You can access an overview of statewide ballot measure campaigns' expenditures here.

Big spending leads to big win for Pace in Austin ISD runoffs

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By Lauren Dixon

The top vote-getters in Austin Independent School District's November election proved victorious once again in the runoff election for three seats. The Texas district was the only one to hold a runoff on December 16, 2014. In November, the candidates in Austin ISD were unable to garner the 50 percent plus one majority in their general election races necessary to win the trio of seats outright. All of the winners who will be welcomed to the board are newcomers, since the incumbents holding the Districts 1, 6 and At-large Position 9 seats did not seek re-election.

In the District 1 race, University of Texas professor Edmund T. Gordon triumphed over minister David Thompson. He garnered 10 percent more of the vote in the runoff election. In November, he led Thompson by about six percent.

Campaign consultant and activist Paul Saldaña narrowly edged out former Austin ISD educator Kate Mason-Murphy to take the District 6 seat. The race was also close in November, in which just one percent of the vote separated Saldaña and Mason-Murphy.

The At-large Position 9 seat went in favor of local business owner Kendall Pace, who came out ahead of educator Hillary Procknow. Pace was the biggest spender in the November elections, raising over $43,000 during her campaign. The unofficial vote totals show Pace defeating Procknow by over 30 percent.

All elected members will officially take office in early January 2015.


The Tuesday Count: Dust continues to settle after 2014 election

Edited by Brittany Clingen

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In Oregon and Washington D.C., the dust is still settling from the results of the 2014 election. Meanwhile, Phoenix is the latest locale to discuss potentially featuring a repeat topic on an upcoming ballot. Supporters are seeking to land pension reform on the ballot for the third time in as many years.

Oregon GMO measure officially defeated after recount, lawsuit:
After a record-breaking campaign, a painstaking recount and a lawsuit, Oregon's Measure 92 has been officially declared defeated. The measure, which sought to mandate the labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), set a new record for the most money raised by one side of a ballot measure campaign, with the opposing side raising over $20 million. It also became the most expensive measure in the history of the state, surpassing a defeated 2007 measure's record of $16 million by bringing in more than $32.1 million from support and opposition groups.[1][2]

Because the measure was defeated by a mere 809 votes on election day, a recount was held, as the margin of defeat was less than the 0.2 percent threshold that automatically triggers a recount under Oregon law.[3] As the recount neared its conclusion, it became clear that the margin of defeat was not going to change significantly. Supporters of the measure subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging the method used by elections officials to ensure signatures on ballot measure envelopes were not fraudulent. The lawsuit attempted to force officials to count 4,600 ballots that were disqualified because "signatures on the vote-by-mail envelopes didn’t match those on registration cards." The lawsuit also sought to prevent the certification of the election results.[4] A judge decided not to halt the recount, and supporters ultimately conceded defeat. It marked the fourth time in three years that a GMO labeling measure was defeated at the ballot box, with similar measures receiving a thumbs-down from voters in California, Washington and Colorado.[5][6]

California signature requirement threshold plummets:
Ballot measure experts speculate that California's 2016 ballot may have even more initiatives than usual due to the newly established and remarkably low signature requirements. In California, a state notorious for its robust ballots, the number of signatures needed to qualify a measure for the ballot is based on the total number of votes cast for the office of Governor. For initiated constitutional amendments, petitioners must collect signatures equal to 8 percent of the most recent gubernatorial vote. To place a statute or veto referendum on the ballot, signatures equal to 5 percent of this vote are required. Due to the especially low voter turnout - only 42.2 percent of registered voters cast ballots during the 2014 general election - the signature thresholds for ballot measures will be lower than they have been in the past several years. For example, in 2012 and 2014, a minimum of 504,760 valid signatures were required to land initiated state statutes on the ballot. That number will drop to just 370,000 for the next few years.[7][8]


Salaries for state executive officials hold steady in 2014

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By Nick Katers

Ten governors earned higher salaries in 2014 than 2013, according to a Ballotpedia analysis of the 2014 Book of the States produced by the Council of State Governments. Improved salaries split evenly between the two major parties with five Democratic governors and five Republican governors receiving raises.

These governors were among the 45 governors, lieutenant governors, attorneys general and secretaries of state to receive pay raises in 2014. This total equaled 23.8 percent of the 189 officeholders in these four positions. Eight officeholders (4.2 percent) received lower salaries in 2014 while salaries held steady for the remaining 136 officials (72 percent).[9] Republican officeholders received the majority of raises in 2014, with 29 GOP executives earning higher pay compared to 16 Democratic executives.

Salary changes for the top four state executive offices followed a similar pattern in 2013. Forty-two executive officials (22.2 percent) received higher salaries in 2013 compared to 2012 while eight officials (4.2 percent) received lower salaries. There were 139 executive officials (73.6 percent) who experienced no changes in their salaries from 2012 to 2013.[10]

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