Ballotpedia's Regional Breakdown: Southwest ballot measures

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October 7, 2010

Regional Breakdown of 2010 ballot measures: Southwest
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By Leslie Graves, Bailey Ludlam, Johanna Herman and Al Ortiz

SOUTHWEST REGION, United States: Ballotpedia starts week two of the Regional Breakdown by shifting gears to the Southwest part of the United States, where issues such as marijuana and health care are slated to appear in more than one state in the region. The Southwest boasts a heavy dose of statewide ballot questions, as four out of the nine states have at least nine ballot questions slated for their respective general election ballots in November. Local measures in the region are plentiful as well, particularly in the states of Arizona, California and Colorado. The states that Ballotpedia has included in the Southwest region are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah.

Below is a breakdown of how many statewide measures are on the ballot in the Southwest and how that compares to 2008, followed by summaries of each state. The information was compiled by Ballotpedia's analysis of the 2010 ballot measures.


State Number of measures in 2008 Number of measures in 2010 Change between the two years
Arizona 8 11 + 3
California 21 14 -7
Colorado 14 9 -5
Hawaii 2 2 0
Kansas 0 2 +2
Nevada 4 4 0
New Mexico 9 9 0
Oklahoma 4 11 +7
Utah 5 4 -1
Totals: 67 66 -1

Magnifying the states


As one of the states with at at least nine ballot measures on the general election ballot, Arizona voters will have a full plate, with measure issues ranging from marijuana to affirmative action to health care. On May 18, 2010, a special election was held for Proposition 100, which raised the state sales tax from 5.6 cents on the dollar to 6.6 cents after it was approved 64.3% to 35.7%. The measure was met with controversy in the state, with supporters and opponents strongly voicing their opinions, although supporters had the strong advantage in campaign financing.


For the November election, voters will get to decide on 10 ballot measures, with the topic of health care being the first proposition placed in front of them. Proposition 106 asks voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to bar any mandates, rules or regulations that would force state residents to participate in a health-care system. Supporters have already launched their campaign advertisements on television, while opponents have voiced their opinions on the Arizona Secretary of State's Publicity Pamphlet.

Another measure stirring up debate is Proposition 107, which would ban affirmative action programs in the state that are administered by statewide or local units of government. Steve Montenegro, the only Hispanic Republican in the Arizona Legislature, sponsored the amendment, arguing, "I’m appalled that my government thinks of me as a subclass." Opponents of the measure include the League of Women Voters of Arizona, American Association of University Women Arizona, Arizona Education Association, Greater Phoenix Urban League and the Arizona Public Health Association.

Proposition 203 is the only citizen initiative on the ballot, and would ask voters to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. On April 14, 2010, petition organizers turned in about 250,000 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State, significantly more than the 153,364 required in order to placed on the ballot.

As with Proposition 100, two measures were placed on the ballot specifically to deal with the budget problems the state is facing. Proposition 301 and Proposition 302 would sweep funds out of a land-conservation and childhood development program and place those monies into the general fund. Interestingly enough, both of those measures presumed voter approval of Proposition 100, as Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer stated that Proposition 100 was not a cure-all for Arizona, and further steps need to be taken to balance the budget.


Nine propositions are on California's fall ballot, and all of them are initiated measures. This is in addition to five statewide propositions on the state's June ballot.

Two of this year's most nationally prominent ballot questions are on the California ballot: Proposition 19, to legalize marijuana, and Proposition 23, to postpone implementation of the state's 2006 global warming law.


There's also a ballot battle in California between two competing redistricting measures, Prop 20 and Prop 27. Each measure includes a "poison pill" provision so that if both pass, the proposition with the lower number of votes will not go into effect.

Also of note is Proposition 24. This would repeal several corporate tax breaks and a number of entertainment and tech companies are donating significantly to the "no" campaign, including Disney, Fox, Time Warner, CBS and Genentech.

California is one of three states where it takes a supermajority vote in the state legislature to pass a budget. Proposition 25 aims to change that to a simple majority. Labor unions support Prop 25 and business groups oppose it.

The state legislature had referred a measure to the ballot for an $11 billion water bond but based on the mood of the electorate, made the decision in August to postpone that vote until February 2012.



Unlike most states this year, Colorado’s ballot is heavy with citizen initiatives. A grand total of nine measures are scheduled to appear on the November 2, 2010 general election ballot. Of those nine, three were legislatively referred and six were proposed by citizens. Seven of those nine measures propose amending the state constitution.

Causing the greatest amount of controversy and discussion is a trio of spending-related measures: Proposition 101, Amendment 60 and 61. Specifically, Proposition 101 would make amendments to current vehicle, income and telecommunications taxes and fees. Amend. 60 proposes limiting how property taxes are raised and reversing recent tax laws which increased taxes. Amend. 61 calls for prohibiting borrowing by state or local government and require voter approval for future loans. According to the most recent polls, all three measures have strong opposition numbers.

Supporters argue that the three measures will force government to operate more efficiently and cut bloated spending. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the measures would devastate the state and “halt the pro-business environment.”

Among the many of measures, voters will not only address fiscal issues but also questions about abortion, health care, law enforcement and administrative issues.



Hawaii’s ballot is slim but that should come as no surprise to state voters. In the last decade, voters have seen an average of 3.5 measures with the highest number (5) in 2006. This year the state legislature referred two constitutional amendments. The Hawaii Tax Rebates Amendment calls for giving the legislature discretion to issue rebates when the state runs a surplus and redirect funds to a reserve fund. The current state constitution requires that excess funds be returned to taxpayers.

In contrast to the fiscal issue, a second amendment calls for amending the state constitution to provide that the governor be allowed to nominate, with the consent of the Senate, and appoint members of the Board of Education. Additionally, the measure would allow for a period of transition from the election to appointed board.



As in Hawaii, Kansas will only see 2 statewide ballot questions on the general election ballot. This will be the first time since 2005 that Kansans will get to decide on ballot measures, when in that year, they approved a marriage amendment that defined marriage as only between one man and one woman in the state. Ballot measures have been scarce in Kansas the past ten years, as before 2005, the last ballot measures seen on the ballot were in 2000.

This year, however, voters will decide the fate of "the right to bear arms." Question 1 will ask voters to change the state constitution to allow the right to bear arms for lawful purposes. State Senators Mike Petersen and Tim Huelskamp were the sponsors of the proposal.

Question 2 will ask voters to eliminate "a mental illness" as a voting disqualification.



This year voters will cast their ballots on only four statewide ballot questions. An estimated eleven citizen initiatives were proposed for the 2010 ballot however, none qualified for the ballot. At least three of the eleven initially proposed initiatives announced that they planned to file for the 2012 ballot. In 2010, however, voters will voice their opinions about judicial reform, eminent domain and taxes. All four certified measures were legislatively-referred.

Question 1 and Question 2 both relate to judicial reform. Question 1 calls for establishing a judicial selection panel and system for the appointment of Supreme Court justices and District Court judges. Question 2 on the other hand would establish an intermediate appellate court.

The remaining two questions relate to taxes and eminent domain. Question 3 proposes allowing lawmakers to make certain tax changes without going to a vote of the people, while Question 4 would prohibit the taking of private property if it is to be transferred to a private party.

New Mexico

As in 2008, the New Mexico ballot will be filled with nine ballot measures. Five of those measures are legislatively-referred constitutional amendments and four are legislatively-referred state statutes.

New Mexico

Two of the amendments on the ballot deal with veterans in the state, as Amendment 1, if approved, would allow resident tuition eligibility to be granted to veterans of U.S. armed forces in the New Mexico's higher education institutions. Amendment 4 would exempt veterans' organizations from property taxes. The organizations, according to the proposal, would have to be chartered by the United States Congress, and would have be used only for veterans and their families.

The subject of term limits will also be on the ballot, as Amendment 2 would extend term limits to the state's county officials. Under the proposal, also known as Senate Joint Resolution 5, county officials could not run for office right away after completion of a second term.

The four bond issues that will be found on the ballot deal with general obligation bonds. Those bonds would be used for senior citizen facilities, library acquisitions and capital improvements at public libraries, public school facility improvements acquisitions and capital improvements at institutions of higher education.


One could not look at the Oklahoma ballot this November and skip over State Question 744, the most talked about measure of the eleven questions on the general election ballot. The measure is known by its supporters as the Helping Oklahoma Public Education Act. If it is approved by a majority of Oklahoma voters, it will amend the Oklahoma Constitution to require the Oklahoma State Legislature to fund public education to at least the per-pupil average of neighboring states.

Proponents have drawn a correlation between school funding and economic competition with nearby states noting that Oklahoma is last among that region. According to Walton Robinson, communications director for YES on 744, the main campaign for the passage of the measure: "While Arkansas continues increasing its commitment to children, Oklahoma has cut more than $200 million for schools. We need to vote for SQ 744 in November so that we can take control of education investment away from career politicians and bureaucrats and give it to the local parents, teachers and school board members who know what is best for their kids."


The One Oklahoma Coalition is the main campaign against SQ 744, which is made up of broad based non-partisan groups such as farmers, ranchers, businessmen and women, and public employees. Opponents argue that if the measure is passed it could be costly to the state. Governor of Oklahoma Brad Henry stated his opposition to the measure, saying, "I can tell you from experience that if State Question 744 passes, it will absolutely devastate the budget of all other critical areas of the state budget. And we can simply not allow that to happen."

In an interesting twist to the SQ 744 debate, the passage of State Question 754 would essentially shoot down 744 if the measure is enacted by voters. 754 would basically state that the Oklahoma State Legislature cannot be required to make expenditures for any function of government using a predetermined formula of any kind or by reference to the expenditure levels of any other state government or any other entity.

Health care will also be presented to state voters, as State Question 756 would allow residents to get out of any health care mandates. As a result, the proposal, if enacted, would categorize a law that would require residents, employers or health care providers to participate in any health care system unconstitutional

State Question 755 may be the most unique measure found on the November 2, 2010 ballot, as no other state in the country will see a measure dealing with the issue of the Sharia Law. The measure would require that courts rely on federal or state laws when handing down decisions concerning cases and would prohibit them from using international law or Sharia law when making rulings. Sharia Law is described as a religious code for living for the Islamic faith, similar to how the Bible is a moral standard for Christianity.



Election reform, taxes and administration of the state government – that’s what voters will be seeing this fall on their general election ballots. Despite five initiatives having filed with state officials, none were certified for this year's ballot. All four measures scheduled to appear are legislatively-referred constitutional amendments.

All four measures have been very quiet in regard to campaign activity. During the petition drive period Amendment D caused quite the stir. Amendment D proposes an independent ethics commission, similar to an initiative circulated early this year. Supporters of the initiative fell short of the 2010 signature requirement to qualify for the ballot. Proponents have instead directed their efforts toward qualifying the measure for the 2012 ballot.

Aside from being similar to Amendment D, the proposed initiative has also raised some questions about the legality and use of electronic signatures on initiative petitions.

Local measure activity

In Arizona, just six counties have local issues on their ballots with a total of 48 measures being decided. Charter Amendments, 26 in total in cdifferent cities, is by far the largest subject to be voted on this year. School bond and tax votes only number 5 measures and city taxes and bonds will be voted on in 7 different places. The rest are only on one ballot; marijuana questions, ward implementation, Navajo judge question, as well as Home Rule.

Colorado has 28 counties with local issues, which sums up to be 135 measures. The majority of those are questions about allowing Marijuana dispensaries as well as implementing taxes on Marijuana products. 29 individual marijuana measures will be on local ballots. City taxes is the next largest amount with 24 individual questions, most of them asking to raise hotel taxes in the city. There will be 11 school taxes voted on as well as 7 school bond questions. Term Limits will appear in 13 different areas to be voted on and 8 areas will have charter amendments up for vote. Local districts will have 15 different tax questions as well as 8 bond questions. One notably odd question is the UFO commission proposal to be voted on in Denver.

Nearly 300 local ballot measures are on the ballot throughout California's 58 counties. Of particular note are 10 pension reform measures and 12 local measures to tax marijuana if statewide Proposition 19 is approved by voters.

Next week's Regional Breakdown: Midwest ballot measures.
Last week's Regional Breakdown: Northwest ballot measures

See also

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