United States

Citizen initiative activity and petition success rates from 2010 through 2018

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As of July 1, 882 ballot initiatives and veto referendums were filed with state officials for circulation during the 2020 election cycle. Initiatives and referendums have been filed in 23 of the 26 states with a statewide process. Washington, Colorado, and Missouri had the highest numbers of filings at 229, 193, and 151, respectively. California has the next highest with 46.

Twenty-four ballot initiatives and five veto referendums – 29 total citizen-initiated measures – have been certified to appear on 2020 ballots. Proponents of 19 other citizen-initiated measures submitted signatures, which must now be verified by state officials.

From 2010 through 2018, an average of 761 initiatives and veto referendums were filed for even-numbered election years. An average of 59 initiatives were certified during those cycles, which amounted to an average petition success rate of 7.8%. In 2016 and 2018, there were over 50% more initiatives and veto referendums filed – 1,069 and 947 – as the median of 616 since 2010. There were 76 – which was a decade high – and 68 certified citizen-initiated measures in those years respectively.

Missouri, Washington, and Colorado featured the highest average initiative filings from 2010 through 2018 with 185, 129, and 103, respectively, and average success rates of 1.7%, 3.6%, and 4.9%. California had an average of 95 initiative filings and an 11% success rate.

Among states with a statewide ballot initiative process, the following states had the highest average success rates for ballot measure petitions from 2010 through 2018:

  • North Dakota – 50% and an average of eight filings per cycle.
  • South Dakota – 45% and an average of eight filings per cycle.
  • Alaska – 38% and an average of five filings per cycle.
  • Maine – 35% and an average of 6 filings per cycle.

The following six states featured the largest number of statewide initiatives and veto referendums on the ballot. They are listed with the average success rates of petitions and the average number of filings per cycle from 2010 through 2018:

  • Oregon – 9% and an average of 63 filings
  • California – 11% and an average of 95 filings
  • North Dakota – 50% and an average of eight filings
  • Colorado – 5% and an average of 103 filings
  • Washington – 4% and an average of 129 filings
  • Arizona – 6% and an average of 27 filings
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