As it stood before this last election, any tax increase on the ballot (except for those in general elections in even-numbered years) required a majority of registered voters to participate and a majority of those voters to vote “yes” for it to pass. (An exception was made for general elections, probably because they usually generated enough voter turnout already.)
The upside to this was that an activist minority couldn’t sneak a tax increase through in a less-well-publicized election; a majority of voters had to take an interest one way or another for a tax increase to make it. Of course, this also meant that tax increases sometimes failed if enough attention wasn’t called to a cause. (Some people seemed to think this was a Bad Thing™.)
I’m hugely disappointed that Measure 56 passed. I felt that it offered the voters important protections against a tyranny of the minority, and that it worked as it was intended to work. I can only hope that someone will see the light on this issue and realize that the voters made a mistake here.
Side note: I also think that the wording of the measure was designed to confuse. By saying, “Amends Constitution: Provides that May and November property tax elections are decided by majority of voters voting”, and not mentioning the existing system until page 2 or 3, the ballot measure title is deliberately obfuscating the current system, implying that a majority of votes didn’t already make the decisions (which they did.) I’m convinced that this wording was a contributing factor to the success of the ballot.