CFTE offers a variety of resources to help your community put a transit measure on the ballot and run a successful campaign. Please let us know if there are specific resources you are looking for. Please submit the form below to request resources.
Where and How to Start
Before you can stand up your campaign, you need to understand the needs, interests and concerns of your entire community. It is crucial to understand the history and context in which voters and the wider community will consider your initiative before you start your campaign.
Building a Public Transit Community Movement
Successful transportation initiatives are not developed in a vacuum. It is important to involve the public, including diverse stakeholder groups, early and often before developing the actual initiative proposal. Ensuring voters and affected communities have a stake early in the process will build a strong and broad base of support instrumental to passing your ballot measure and protecting it after you’ve won.
Designing Your Ballot
Before sitting down to plan your initiative campaign, it is important to think through and decide the type of funding, the scope, the timing of your initiative and any unique characteristics of your community.
Legal Considerations and Campaign Administration
There are several key legal and administrative issues to consider during the initial planning phases of your transit initiative, including the type of measure, the language, regulatory considerations, ballot certification and the organizational structure of your campaign.
Once you have your campaign structure in place, it will be time to gather the other resources you will need to build a successful campaign: research (including polling); a strategic plan; fundraising and budgeting; and building community support.
Getting the Word Out – Marketing and Communications Strategies that Work
Once you have your information, your strategic plan, funds and people in place, it is time to start getting the word out. Elections are about contrasts, choices and change. When voters are deciding whether to vote yes or no on an initiative, they want to know why. Your job is to create and define the contrast between the two choices.
Your Field Plan – Reaching Out to the Community
The primary purpose of your filed operation is to reach as many voters as possible by building relationships with different communities to deliver your campaign’s message through person-to-person communications by volunteers and supporters.
Responding to Critics
Knowing who your critics are and the things they will say and do to defeat your ballot measure is crucial to winning funding for public transit. Find out who to look for and what you can expect. Forewarned is forearmed.
Election Day (And Beyond!)
What’s your plan for Election and day and after? Your Election Day strategy should identify specific activities and roles and responsibilities for all campaign leaders, staff, and volunteers. The work doesn’t stop when the polls close. Make sure you’re ready for an absentee ballot vote count, recounts and public response, win or lose.
Make sure timing is appropriate to have a local election.
- Specific Plan
Have a specific plan in place and be prepared to handle the upcoming election.
- Simple Issue
Make sure the issue is a simple issue, not too complicated to comprehend.
Identify a champion or someone local in charge of the campaign voters can connect with.
- Clear Benefits
Make sure there are clear benefits to the voters. “What’s in it for them?” Clearly answer this question.
- Public Involvement
It’s essential that there is a public involvement plan that is strategic and inclusive.
- Listen to Community
Keep your eyes and ears open throughout the election process. Be prepared to answer the concerns of the community quickly.
- Regional Balance
Your plan should include a regional balance of transportation options.
Your plan should be responsible and show accountability. No “blank check” proposals.
- Creative Solutions
Be creative in deciding the proposal you plan to put before voters. Ensure that you have considered all options.
- Adequate Funding
Make sure your proposal will provide adequate funding for your project or your proposal.
What are Ballot Measures?
In most communities, transit advocates have the power on Election Day to do more than select candidates for elected office. Citizens can enact legislation, fund projects or approve amendments using citizen initiated ballot measures. In twenty-four states and the District of Columbia, citizens have the right to adopt laws and amend state constitutions by placing legislation directly on the ballot for approval or rejection. Additionally, most localities allow some form of initiative either at the town, city or county level.
“I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but the people…” –Thomas Jefferson
Quick Facts About Ballot Measures:
- Nearly 90 percent of American cities, towns and municipalities offer some form of referendum or initiative procedure.
- No national initiative or referendum process exists in the United States.
- Ballot measure campaigns tend to increase voter turn out in mid-term elections, but not in presidential election years.
- No state limits financial contributions to ballot measure campaigns.
- 60% of all initiative activity has taken place in just six states (Arizona, California, Colorado, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington), even though 24 states have the statewide initiative process.
Five Basic Types of Ballot Measures:
Any issue on a ballot other than a candidate for office. Initiatives and referendums are two types of ballot measures.
Initiatives are when citizens collect signatures on a petition in order to place questions on the ballot for adoption or rejection by the voting public. If a specified number of voters sign a petition in favor of an idea, the proposal goes either to the voters or to a lawmaking body, which are then required to vote on the issue. Anyone may put together an initiative campaign. Initiatives often ask advisory questions, propose memorials, outline potential statutes or amend a state constitution.
This is a proposal that has been “referred” to the ballot by a state legislature. Legislative referendums usually create laws, amend the state constitution or refer bond questions. All states allow the legislative referendum process.
Referendum (or Popular Referendum):
A referendum is when citizens collect signatures on a petition in order to bring about a public vote on specific legislation that was enacted by their legislature. A constitutional referendum asks voters to approve or reject an amendment to the state constitution. Many cities and states also allow statutory referendums, in which citizens vote on laws passed by the legislature or proposed by an initiative.
A recall is a ballot measure initiated by citizens to remove an elected official from office.
COVID-19 Campaign Toolkit
As COVID-19 sweeps across the country, public transit advocates face challenges by the dozen. Ridership is plummeting but public transit is still vital for so many essential services, like medical professionals, utility workers, and grocery store employees.
Right now, America is exposed, vulnerable, and scared and, especially in urban areas, we are focused on individual health and wellbeing. As communicators, it’s as important as ever to be empathetic and understand the mindset of our audience.
This toolkit was designed to help public transit advocates and communicators, from agency communicators to grassroots advocates, strike the right tone and hit the right messages when advocating for ballot measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.