Jonathan Varner, Author at JVA Campaigns


Jonathan Varner, President

Jonathan Varner has been helping people influence voters, constituents, legislators, and stakeholders for over two decades. In 2007, he founded the company that would become JVA Campaigns, which has now worked in virtually every part of the country.

As our firm’s president, Jonathan is the de facto strategic director for all major client engagements. Regarded as one of the top strategists in the field, Jonathan was named one of Campaigns & Elections Magazine’s national "Influencers 500” in 2013, as well as one of Ohio’s five most influential Democratic consultants. Under his creative guidance, JVA Campaigns has won more than forty “Pollie” awards from the American Association of Political Consultants for advertising work in mail, digital, print, and radio.

Ballot Issues: Setting Your Campaign Up for Success

Ballot Issues: Setting Your Campaign Up for Success

Across the nation, we are seeing legislative changes being made to ballot initiatives and the ballot access process, creating a higher threshold of support for measures to pass or remain in effect. Already in 2022, three states are adding these kinds of stipulations. The ability for citizens to put ballot issues in front of voters is an important act of direct democracy, and strategists will need to be proactive in their planning and execution of campaigns to successfully gain ballot access.

An already complex process, you must first determine which ballot issue types are allowed in your state and which type will be the best path to accomplishing your goals. Among the most common are referendums, voter-initiated statutes, legislatively referred statutes, and constitutional amendments. Topics can range anywhere from local tax levies, new city development, to statewide issues such as cannabis legalization.

Historically, there have been 736 ballot issues across the U.S. since 2000. Of those 736, only 45% have successfully passed.

As ballot access becomes more restricted, it’s important to understand the options as you consider what type of battle you might be facing. To start, here are a few items to consider:

  • Initial Planning: What is the electoral environment? Who are your advocates, and who are your enemies? How will you develop your win strategy, and then how will you target the right people with your message?
  • Building Your Campaign: How should you communicate with your audience? Who can help you and how? What does your timeline look like?
  • Utilizing Best Practices: Do you have a written campaign plan? Do you have a clear message and defined audience? How are you maintaining accountability?

At JVA, we’ve had experience with all types of ballot-issue battles. Over the coming weeks, we’ll dive into each of these considerations and explore what it takes to be part of the 45% of winning ballot-issue campaigns.