In the top 100 cities by population, more than 565 ballot measures were on the November 3 ballot and more than 900 were voted on in large municipalities throughout this year.
Bonds, taxes go big: Local bond and tax measures were big issues across the country and California had a bumper crop — 96 of the 900+ local measures in the top 100 cities this year were California cities voting on parcel taxes.
Too complex for voters? As ballots get longer, some question whether complex titles and summaries are serving voters – or their communities – well. Measure AA in Alameda, which appeared on the November 3 ballot, highlights the challenges. The official text:
“Shall the measure amending the City Charter to clarify the prohibition against members of the City Council interfering with City Manager’s duties, authorize the City Attorney to prosecute State law misdemeanors, and amend outdated provisions, including utilizing gender neutral language, be adopted? Such amendments will be accomplished by amending Charter Sections 2-9, 2-16, 7-3, 8-2, 10-2, 10-3, 10-4, 10-4.1, and deleting Sections 2-15, 22-7, 22-8, as set forth in City Council Resolution No. 15673.”
Confused? You’re not alone. Although stats on local ballot measures aren’t available, statewide measures are written at an average grade level of 17 – equivalent to the first year of grad school.
It’s possible – and important – to make ballot measures understandable. A housing bond referendum in Charlotte, North Carolina shows how it can be done, with official text saying the measure authorized, “ $50 million in bonds plus interest to pay the capital costs of housing projects for the benefit of persons of low income, or moderate income, or low and moderate income, including construction of infrastructure improvements related thereto and the acquisition of land and rights-of-way required therefor, and providing that additional taxes may be levied in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds be approved.”
Minneapolis takes on more than police reform: Minneapolis, the epicenter for political issues this summer after the killing of George Floyd, passed Minneapolis Question 1 with 75 percent of the vote (using unofficial vote totals).
The measure amends the city charter and establishes local elections to be held in 2021 and 2023, “to allow ward and park district boundaries to be modified after the legislature has been redistricted to establish City precinct boundaries; to provide that an election for a Council Member office required by Minnesota law in a year ending in 2 or 3 after a redistricting shall be for a single 2-year term; and to clarify that a regular election means a regular general election.” (Official text of the measure.)
Next installment: Drugs, COVID-19 and policing initiatives around the country.