Democracy on the Ballot: The Fate of 2022 Voting-Related Ballot Initiatives

by Voting Rights Lab

November 29, 2022

You’ve heard it before: democracy was on the ballot during the 2022 midterm elections. Considerable attention was directed toward races for governor, secretary of state, and attorney general given the role each may play in election administration or oversight – rightly so with a number of candidates continuing to advance the baseless conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen (The Washington Post is tracking the results of those races here).

But that’s far from the whole story.

Also before voters were more than a dozen ballot measures that would change how elections are run in states all across the country. Both citizen-led initiative petitions and legislative referrals populated statewide ballots in 2022, some paving the way for improved election processes and strengthening voter access, some enacting new restrictions that could harm voters and the initiative petition process itself.

All will see changes to election laws ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Some may set the stage for legislative action in just a few short months.

Two citizen-led initiatives to enhance voter access saw resounding success in Michigan and Connecticut this year. In Michigan, Proposal 2 passed with an impressive 60 percent of the vote. The ‘Promote the Vote’ petition will see sweeping changes to strengthen election administration and expand access for voters across the state, with provisions to institute at least nine days of early in-person voting, permit voters to choose between a valid ID or a sworn affidavit when casting a ballot, guarantee prepaid return postage for absentee ballots, improve the availability of ballot drop boxes, and more. Connecticut voters approved their state’s Question 1 with more than 60 percent of the vote themselves, paving the way for state lawmakers to provide for in-person early voting. Today, Connecticut is one of just four states that does not offer any form of early voting to all registered voters, and all signs suggest state lawmakers will work quickly to approve a new system in 2023.

Voter ID was on the ballot in two states this election. Arizona voters rejected a measure to make their state’s voter ID law stricter. Proposition 309, would have restricted access by eliminating options to vote in person without photo ID, as well as by requiring voters to include a specific ID number, their date of birth and their signature on a mail ballot. Nebraska voters, on the other hand, approved a measure to require voters to show photo ID when casting a ballot in-person when they approved Initiative 432.

The Arizona ballot also included three propositions that would change the initiative process itself. While voters rejected Proposition 128, which would have allowed the legislature to overturn voter initiatives entirely if any provision in the proposal was found to be illegal, they approved Propositions 129 and 132 in a move that will  limit future ballot initiatives to a single subject and raise the threshold for any ballot measure that would raise taxes or impose a fee from a simple majority to 60 percent. Meanwhile, Arkansas voters strongly rejected the legislatively-referred Issue 2, which would have raised the threshold to 60 percent to pass new constitutional amendments and citizen-led initiated petitions.

Voters in Nevada narrowly approved Question 3, which will, if approved by voters again in 2024, amend the state constitution to establish ranked choice voting and open primaries. Ohio voters agreed to amend the state’s constitution to prohibit municipalities from allowing residents who are not U.S. citizens from voting in local elections when they approved Issue 2. Louisiana will vote on a similar provision  during the state’s December 10 election.

Many of these initiatives require implementing language from the state legislatures, and updates will be made to the State Voting Rights Tracker during this year’s legislative sessions.