Is November's a Historic Ballot?

At first glance, California's November ballot looks normal. And long. A presidential race and a U.S. Senate contest, 80 assembly races, 20 senate races, all the Congressional seats, local races, and 11 ballot measures.

But Leslie Graves of, a resource for all those who follow elections and especially ballot measure elections in the U.S., says via email that this election may be historic in one way: what's not on the ballot.

Specifically, what's not in the slate of ballot measures -- a measure referred to the ballot by a legislative body.

For what Graves says is, according to her records, the first time, Californians face a slate of measures in a regularly scheduled election that all were placed on via signatures: 10 initiatives and one referendum. This became true when the legislature removed their own water bond from the ballot last week -- and pushed it back to 2014.

Graves found that California previously had three years with only citizen-qualified measures -- 2005, 1973 and 1939 -- but those were all special elections. Looking back through the list of regularly scheduled elections shows no other elections like this one.

What does this mean? It says less about the initiative process than the difficulty of getting the two-thirds vote necessary to put new constitutional amendments or bonds -- the most common form of legislative measure -- on the ballot. Gridlock, and the broken governing system, make it likely that we haven't seen the last signatures-only ballot. 

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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