Writing:Ballot measure overview articles

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So far, Ballotpedia has three types of overview articles about ballot propositions:

  • One year/one state overview articles like: Ohio 2008 ballot measures. These articles are an overview of the ballot measures in one state in one year.
  • One year/all states overview articles like: 2008 ballot measures. These articles are an overview of all the ballot measures in all states in one year.
  • One topic/all years/all states articles like: Alcohol ballot measures. These articles are an overview of ballot measures in any year and in any state that are related to a particular theme or topic.

One year/one state overviews

A one year/one state overview should include:

  • An introductory sentence or two that quickly gives the reader the basic facts. For example, "Three ballot measures were on the November 4, 2008 ballot in Massachusetts. Two succeeded, one failed."
  • A chart that shows all the ballot measures that were on the ballot in that state, that year.
  • You might consider a second chart that shows the ballot measures that tried, but did not succeed, at making the ballot. Doing this creates an important historical record. For example, it is historically important to know which ballot initiatives filed signatures but did not make the 2008 ballot in Arizona.
  • External links, such as links to any voter's guides compiled about the ballot measures, links to relevant election department information about the ballot measures, and so on.
  • It is also helpful to include a section that tells the reader how this year's ballot measures in this state fit into the overall picture of ballot measures in that state. Here's an example of that.

Future election

If you're working on a list of ballot measures for a state and year where the election has not yet been held--for example, Maine 2009 ballot measures -- for highly reliable research about what might be on the ballot in that state and in that year, go to State ballot measure websites to find a link to the election authority in the state you're working on that captures that information.

However, you'll sometimes run across a situation where a newspaper talks about a forthcoming or potential ballot initiative that hasn't been listed on an official government website. This can happen when:

  • A state legislature is debating about and voting on whether to refer a particular question to the ballot. Not until both houses of the state legislature have agreed to do this, and the governor has signed it, will this ballot measure ordinarily appear anywhere on an official election website in that state. But, it would still be worthwhile to start writing an article about it.
  • An organization or individiual has announced that they're thinking about collecting signatures for such-and-such a ballot initiative. This can also be worth starting an article about.

Past election

If the election has already been held, it's much easier to do your research.

  1. Go to state ballot measure websites for the elections website for your state. In some states, the election department has a list of all initiatives that have ever been on that state's ballot. (Wyoming and Washington, for example.) In most states, the election department does not provide a list of all the ballot propositions that have ever been on that state's ballot, but does provide information for the years since the election department started posting election information online. That can go back to 1998 or 2000 or 2002...it depends on the state.
  2. The Initiative & Referendum Institute publishes a list for each of the 24 states that have initiative & referendum of their ballot initiatives from the time the process was begun in that state, up through the year 2000. This list, however, generally does not include other statewide ballot propositions, such as veto referendum or legislative referrals.
  3. Project Vote Smart. This site has information about ballot measures back to 1998.
  4. Try to find a copy of your state's Blue Book; it might have information about all ballot measures (not just initiatives) going back in history.

Information to capture

What you'll want to know about any ballot measure is:

  1. What was it called? Here, you want at a minimum its official ballot proposition name or number.
  2. Did the ballot question have a nickname or a name by which it was popularly known?
  3. What day, month and year was it on the ballot. (Several states hold ballot proposition elections in months other than November).
  4. Type of ballot measure. Was it proposed by the legislature? Proposed through initiative? Or other? If it passes, would it be a new constitutional amendment or a statute?
  5. Subject of the ballot measure. For example: Administration of Government, Taxes or Judicial reform.
  6. Description: This is an 8-10 word description. Keep it short while not misstating the purpose or intention of the measure.
  7. Status: Some possibilities here are "Legislature considering", "Petition drive underway", "Ballot language filed", "Signatures filed, awaiting certification", "Certified for ballot", "Lawsuit pending", "Withdrawn", "Insufficient signatures", "State house approved, senate rejected."
  8. Outcome. Was the measure defeated or approved?

Preferred format for chart

Here's an example of a chart that shows the preferred format for a state/year article where the election has taken place. If the election had not yet taken place, the fifth column would be titled "Status" rather than "Outcome".

Type Title Subject Description Result
CISS Income Tax Repeal, Question 1 Taxes Repeal state income tax Defeatedd
CISS Sensible Marijuana Initiative, Question 2 Marijuana policy Decriminalize small amounts of marijuana Approveda
CISS Greyhound Protection, Question 3 Animal rights Prohibit (professional) dog racing Approveda

Chart style guide

Main article: Ballotpedia:Visual style guide

Ballot measure charts should be standardized to look like the one in the section just above. Here are some hints for how to do that:

State template

For every state, there is a state template. It is always just the name of the state surrounded on both sides by two curly brackets, or braces, like this:

  • {{alaska}}
  • {{alabama}}
  • {{arkansas}}
  • Etc.

Your one state/one year overview article should include that state's template at the bottom of the page. Here's an example. You apply the template by typing it on the part of the page where you wish it to appear.

Categorizing the article

It's important to put the right category tag at the end of your article. The established categorization procedure for one year/one state ballot measure overview articles is to put them in a category that looks like this:

  • [[Category:Alaska 2008 ballot measures]]
  • [[Category:Connecticut 2002 ballot measures]]
  • [[Category:Massachusetts 1998 ballot measures]]
  • [[Category:California 1914 ballot measures]]
  • Etc.

One year/all states

See also: Ballotpedia:WikiProject State Ballot Measures/Years

These articles are an overview of all the ballot measures in all states in one year. Here are some examples:

The format used in the 2008 ballot measures article is the preferred format. Most of the older articles need to be re-worked or expanded to meet that standard.


The article should be categorized as Category:2008 ballot measures, Category:2007 ballot measures, etc. Those categories, in turn, should be placed (if they aren't already) as subcategories of Category:Ballot measures.

One subject/all years/all states

See also: Ballotpedia:WikiProject State Ballot Measures/Years

All of these articles about ballot measure topics need significant additional work to be useful to readers.

Examples of some of the articles:

One state/all years

See also: Ballotpedia:WikiProject State Ballot Measures/States

Incomplete lists

If you are working on a list of all ballot measures for a year, or all ballot measures for a state, and the list is incomplete, please insert {{Incomplete}}, as displayed above, in the upper right-hand of the article. In order to do that, type:

BallotMeasureFinal badge.png

This page is part of WikiProject State Ballot Measures, a WikiProject including articles about:

To participate: join (or just read up) at the project page

Ballotpedia's Ballot Measures project is managed by Brittany Clingen.

If you have any questions or comments please e-mail brittany.clingen@ballotpedia.org.