Washington, DC — The Fairness Project is actively tracking attacks on the ballot measure process as part of its work to defend direct democracy. This year, numerous state legislatures have advanced bills to further restrict voters’ agency to pass laws at the ballot box, with some being referred to voters for the 2024 election. See below for additional context on legislation proposed this year to further restrict the ballot measure process.


Legislators referred an initiative to the November 2024 ballot that would further restrict the ballot measure process in Arizona, increasing the amount of signatures needed to qualify a measure, requiring signatures from 10% of qualified voters in each legislative district to qualify citizen-initiated statutes for the ballot, and would require signatures from 15% of qualified voters in each legislative district to qualify citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. Legislators also proposed giving the attorney general greater oversight over the ballot measure qualification process, but it has not passed yet. The session will end on May 31.


After significant pushback, extremist Missouri legislators failed to pass their proposed attack on the ballot measure process. The proposed amendment, SJR74, would have required citizen-initiated ballot measures to pass by a majority of voters statewide as well as a majority of congressional districts —  meaning that a minority would be able to veto the will of the majority. It also included misleading provisions intended to trick voters, such as requiring citizenship to vote, which is already the law. The session ended on May 17.


In 2021, the Mississippi Supreme Court invalidated the state’s entire ballot measure process on a technicality after voters used it to pass Initiative 65, a medical cannabis legalization measure. A new process cannot be reinstated without action from the state legislature, and for the past two sessions in a row, legislators have failed to reinstate the process for citizen-initiated ballot measures. Missisippians remain in limbo without the right to pass their own legislation at the ballot box. The session ended on May 14.


Nebraska’s legislature this year proposed multiple bills to further restrict the ballot measure process, including prohibiting paying petition circulators based on the number of signatures and prohibiting certain contributions to ballot question committees. These proposals came as organizers worked to qualify an active ballot measure campaign to secure abortion rights in Nebraska, which is currently under a 12-week abortion ban.  The session ended on April 18.

North Dakota

In the 2023 legislative session, state legislators in North Dakota referred a measure to the ballot in 2024 that would make ballot measures substantially more difficult to qualify and pass. The proposal would increase the signature requirement for constitutional amendments from 4% of the population to 5%; and require proposed constitutional amendments to pass twice, both on a primary and general election ballot.


Legislators in Oklahoma passed a bill to impose a stricter verification process on ballot measure signatures — requiring 4 out of 5 personal information data points match registration records instead of 3 — and instate a fee of at least $750 for citizens to file petitions. It would lengthen the period during which ballot measure petitions can be challenged. It was signed by the governor on April 23. The session will end on May 31.


Legislators in Utah tried this year to destroy majority rule for ballot measures in the state, similar to those proposed in Ohio, South Dakota, and Arkansas. While the bill was defeated in this session, it is expected to reappear in future sessions. The session ended on March 1.

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