Continued analysis of ballot measures reveals emphasis on spending issues

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September 24, 2010

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By Al Ortiz (Updated November 1, 2010)

Ballotpedia's analysis of ballot measures in 2010 continues this week with a shift in topic. Last week, Ballotpedia compared citizen initiatives and legislative referrals in 2010 to 2008 and calculated totals for both years. This week, the issues of the certified 2010 ballot measures were broken down and were compared to 2008.

All 184 certified measures for the 2010 ballot were categorized with at least one issue category. It must be noted that some measures fell into more than one issue category, thus the number of measures in the 2010 issue analysis chart do not add up to 184. Also, both legislative referrals and citizen initiatives were included in the analysis of the issues.

The analysis concluded that a total of 5 issues were by far the most popular among 2010 ballot measures. Those issues included:taxes, administration of government, elections and campaigns, bond issues and state budgets.

In five of the most popular categories listed, taxes ranked as the most popular issue with a total of 39 measures. When compared to 2008, taxes were 2nd to administration of government. The top five issues and the number of measures under that category are shown in the chart below:

Top 5 Issues # measures per issue
Taxes 39
Administration of government 25
Bond issues 21
Elections and campaigns 15
State budgets 15

The biggest decline of measures in an issue category, when comparing 2008 to 2010, was in administration of government, which saw a decline of 9 measures from 34 in 2008 to 25 in 2010. Also, the biggest increase from 2008 to 2010 was in both state budgets and taxes, with a rise of 13 measures in each category.

In total, 2010 saw a decrease in social issues like immigration and gambling. Considering that some of those social issues have been on statewide ballots on a consistent basis, this development is notable.

In 2008, California's Proposition 8, which was under the marriage category, was one of the hot topics of that year's general election. The issue carried over to the next year in 2009, when Maine's Question 1 appeared on the ballot. The measure was an attempt to overturn "An Act to Promote Marriage Equality and Affirm Religious Freedom."This act (Public Law Chapter 82, of the 124th Maine Legislature) authorized same-sex marriage in Maine. The question was approved by voters.

Marijuana was also touched upon in 2008, with three marijuana measures appearing on the ballot in three states. In 2010, four marijuana measures are on four statewide ballots. One of those measures, Arizona's medical marijuana question, will allow voters to decide if residents in the state with specific medical conditions can be treated with certain amounts of marijuana for personal use. According to the provisions of the initiative, the Arizona Department of Health Services would be put in charge of regulating the sale and use of medical marijuana.

However, in light of the United State's current recession, economic issues are at the center of most statewide discussions. This trend is highlighted in this year's ballot measures. To break it down even further, the majority of tax and spending related questions ask voters one of three things: to raise revenue; provide tax exemptions; and require a 2/3 vote from the legislature prior to imposing new taxes.

Like 2010, 2008 saw a relatively low total number of certified measures compared to a decade average of 220. A total of 174 measures were certified in 2008, while 184 are certified for 2010.

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