Today, Common Cause released a new report on more than two dozen ballot initiatives and state constitutional amendments to strengthen, and in some cases undercut, democracy that will be decided by voters at the state and local level in November. “Democracy on the Ballot” traces the growing momentum behind citizen-driven pro-democracy reforms in recent years and examines initiatives and amendments on ballots in the 2018 general election from Florida to California and from North Dakota to New Mexico and urges support or opposition to each.
The ballot measures included in the report are predominantly designed to reduce the undue influence of money in politics, strengthen ethics laws, reform redistricting, or improve access to voting. In several instances however, Common Cause is urging opposition to ballot measures that would undermine clean elections, give legislators more control over election administration and judicial appointments, and enact measures that would restrict voting rights.
“Voters are taking matters into their own hands to pass democracy reforms at the state and local level because they are tired of waiting in vain for their elected representatives to act,” said Elena Nunez, Common Cause Director of State Operations & Ballot Measure Strategies. “When elected officials in Washington, DC or Pierre, South Dakota ignore or even defy the the will of the people, the people are taking matters into their own hands to hold their elected officials accountable.”
The report notes that already in 2018, primary voters have passed sweeping reforms in three states by margins ranging from comfortable to overwhelming. In Ohio, 75% of voters approved a congressional redistricting reform measure, 54% of Maine voters passed a measure to protect the state’s ranked-choice voting system, and in Tempe, Arizona, 91% of voters approved a local ordinance to require disclosure of secret money spent in elections.
These historic citizen-driven victories in 2018 follow more than a dozen pro-democracy reforms passed by voters in 2016. Those voter-passed reforms ranged from automatic voter registration in Alaska and ethics reform in Rhode Island and from instituting contribution limits in Missouri to creating citizen-funded election programs in Howard County, Maryland, and Berkeley, California.
“In 2016 we saw a historic slate of citizen-driven pro-democracy reforms passed across the country on Election Day and that momentum has continued to build with still more passed by voters during the 2018 primary season,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause President. “November 6th is poised to be another momentous day for citizen reformers from coast to coast. Americans overwhelmingly support the passage of meaningful democratic reforms, but their elected representatives have proven unwilling or unable to pass them, so citizens are turning the tables with ballot initiatives.”
In November, ethics and accountability measures will be on the ballot for voters in Florida, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Long Beach, California. Money and politics reform initiatives will go to a statewide vote in Massachusetts, as well as to voters in Baltimore, Denver, New York City, and Phoenix. Voters will also be facing attempts in Arizona to undermine the state’s Clean Election Act and an effort in Colorado to inject even more money into the political system by quintupling the state’s contributions limits in some races.
Redistricting and representation reforms will be voted on in Colorado, Michigan, and the California cities of Long Beach and Santa Barbara. Proposed reforms to voting and elections will be decided on by voters in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, and Nevada while measure to suppress the vote and increase legislative control of elections and judicial appointments will be on the ballot in Arkansas and North Carolina.
The report also notes that ballot initiatives for the 2019 and 2020 elections are already gaining momentum, including measure that would create small-dollar-donor public financing of elections measures in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Austin, Texas, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
To read the full report, click here.