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What's At Stake: Overview | Governor | Senate | House | Ballot Measures | State Legislatures

What's At Stake: Ballot Measures

Voters could see a record number of ballot measures on election day 1998. The issues are diverse. Should all of the measures actually qualify for the November 3, 1998 ballot, they would include the following issues: campaign finance reform, civil rights, abortion rights, homosexual rights, gambling, guns, drugs, term limits, crime, education and tax reform.

The first real battles of ballot-measure strength in the 1998 election were tested in the June 2 California primary. Voters said no to mandatory bilingual education and defeated a proposal to institute "paycheck protection," which would have called for written permission for labor unions to use money from dues toward political campaigns.

Ballot measures can take various forms, from initiatives to constitutional amendments, bond issues or referendums. The first state to adopt the initiative was South Dakota in 1898. Many states followed during the early 1900s. Florida adopted the process in 1972. Mississippi just added the right to its state constitution in 1992.

Twenty-four states allow direct initiatives (citizens putting measures directly on the ballot), indirect initiatives (first going through a state's legislature before being put onto the ballot), or both. Most other states call for their state legislatures to put ballot measures before a public vote before they are enacted.

Since California passed Proposition 13, a property tax-cutting initiative, in 1978, the use of the ballot measure has become increasingly popular, especially in states in the west.

Ballot measures to watch: details on total number and those to watch in each state.

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