State ballot measures attracted $945 million during the 2022 election cycle. Sixty-two measures in states across the country covered topics such as abortion, cannabis use and online sports betting. Voters approved 64.5% of those measures, and some of the ballot measures with the biggest financial backers failed.
The two most expensive ballot measures came out of California, which voted against two sports betting initiatives. Groups supporting and opposing Proposition 27 to legalize online mobile and sports betting raised over $406.9 million, making it the most expensive ballot measure campaign in the state’s history. Groups raised more than $237 million to oppose the measure, while only $169 million was raised in support.
The proposition was opposed by groups funded by California Indian tribes and tribal organizations, which were supporting Proposition 26, another ballot measure that would have legalized sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos but was ultimately unsuccessful.
Proposition 26 was the second most expensive measure, at over $163.2 million. Groups supporting the measure raised $120 million, while those opposing it raised only $42 million. The committee supporting this measure — Yes on 26, No on 27 — also opposed the failed Proposition 27.
Several top donors to ballot measure committees during the 2022 election cycle were Native American tribes.
The top donor to ballot measure committees this election cycle was the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, a tribe of Serrano people living in San Bernardino County, Calif., that owns and operates Yaamava’ Resort and Casino. The tribe gave $103 million to groups spending to influence the two measures, including $150,000 to a committee that both supported Proposition 26 and opposed Proposition 27. The rest of the money went to a committee opposing Proposition 27.
Another top donor was the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, a tribe in Sonoma County, donated $35 million to two ballot measure committees, including $30 million to a committee that supported Proposition 26 and opposed Proposition 27. The tribe also contributed $5 million to the Yes on Proposition One committee.
Lyft was the third biggest ballot measure contributor during the 2022 election cycle, giving $45.2 million to a committee in support of California’s Proposition 30, which ultimately failed. The ballot measure would have levied a tax on income above $2 million to fund zero-emission infrastructure.
The rideshare company also spent big during the 2020 election cycle in support of Proposition 22, a ballot measure that classified app-based drivers as independent contractors rather than employees or agents at those companies in 2020. Rideshare and delivery companies including Uber, DoorDash and Lyft contributed over $205 million to the “Yes on 22” committee, and California voters approved the measure.
Sports betting surpassed Proposition 22 as the costliest ballot measure campaign in California’s reported history.
Kidney dialysis, marijuana legalization among most expensive measures
California also had the third most expensive ballot measure during this cycle. Proposition 29, which ultimately failed, would have required that dialysis clinics have at least one physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant while patients are being treated. Opponents raised $86 million, including a $52.7 million contribution from kidney dialysis service provider DaVita, the 2022 cycle’s second biggest ballot measure committee donor. Groups supporting the measure raised $16 million.
The proposition also would have required that patients are not discriminated against by dialysis clinics based on the source of payment for the care.
Abortion rights were also on the ballot in six states. Three of the ballot measures — in Michigan, California and Vermont — aimed to protect the right to abortion following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned nationwide abortion rights under Roe v. Wade and shifted the issue to the states. All three measures passed.
Ballot measures to roll back abortion rights in Kentucky, Kansas and Montana all failed.
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Kentucky’s “trigger law” on abortion went into effect, essentially banning abortion with the exception of when the health of the pregnant person was threatened. Amendment Two, which would have added that “nothing in the Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion,” failed.
Supporters of California’s Proposition One, the Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment, raised $15 million.The amendment prohibiting the state from interfering with an individual’s right to reproductive freedom, which includes a right to abortion and to contraceptives, ultimately passed.
Michigan’s Proposition Three, which provides for a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom, was among the most expensive this cycle with a total of over $46.3 million raised. It was approved by 56% of those who voted.
Reproductive Freedom For All, which supporters created to promote the proposition, raised $46.1 million. The group’s site includes a list of endorsements, including an open letter signed by over 1,500 healthcare professionals in Michigan.
Voters in five states also voted on the legalization of marijuana use.
Ballot measures to legalize marijuana passed in Maryland and Missouri but failed in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Missouri’s Amendment Three — which amended the state’s constitution to legalize the purchase, possession, consumption, use, delivery, manufacture and sale of marijuana for those over 21 — passed with 53% voter support. The amendment also allows individuals with certain marijuana related offenses to petition for release from prison or parole and have their record expunged.
Groups spent $3.7 million supporting the amendment, with most of that coming from Legal Missouri 2022.
Maryland’s Question Four, which amended the state’s constitution to legalize marijuana for individual’s 21 and older beginning next July, passed with 67% of the vote. The measure also directs the state legislature to pass laws to regulate and tax marijuana
The only group that spent money to support the Maryland ballot measure, MD Can 2022 Inc., raised $412,888. The group’s “Vote Yes On 4” campaign was chaired by former National Football League player Eugene Monroe.
Money-in-Politics Reporter Taylor Giorno contributed to this report.