Ballot Initiatives

Your elected officials may not always move quickly to expand afterschool in your state or community. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to go directly to voters to get new programs started and existing programs expanded. Some states allow ballot initiatives on questions of program creation and funding.

Putting forth a ballot initiative is like running a political campaign, and it requires time, money and volunteers. The National Women’s Law Center brief on ballot initiatives gives a comprehensive discussion of the pros and cons of this strategy. To learn about the laws governing ballot initiatives in your state, visit the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center’s website. Look for their map of ballot initiative requirements, which provides information on filing deadlines, the number of signatures required and other details for the states.

One can also promote a local ballot measure that can support afterschool through a local tax levy. The story of Seattle’s Family and Education Levy is a good case study of what a community can do. This initiative, first passed in 1990 and renewed in 1997 and 2004, has been a source of funding for early childcare, out-of-school time and youth development programs. Voters must continually approve the funding because of a seven-year sunset clause, and advocates must undertake the effort to maintain the program and influence decisions for future programming. See a PowerPoint presentation on the measure.

California’s Proposition 49 is the most well-known ballot initiative supporting expansion of afterschool programs. For more information, read “Winning Combinations: The Passage of Proposition 49.” This paper offers a look at the factors leading up to California’s Proposition 49 and the key elements to the initiative’s success.

A ballot initiative is a complex challenge. Do not undertake such an approach without a clear understanding of what a campaign would require and your chances of winning. It is important to do polling of likely voters early in the process. If confused or undecided, voters will tend to vote “no” on a measure, so it is likely that support for a measure will decline as the campaign progresses. Some campaign advisors suggest that if you do not start with 60% of the likely voters supporting your measure, then you should not take an idea to the ballot.