Earlier this week, legal briefs were filed by all parties after a Nov. 14-15 hearing regarding the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction against Arkansas’s new, draconian anti-petition law, Act 1413, which passed the legislature earlier this year as emergency legislation.
The lawsuit, Spencer v. Martin, was brought by the ACLU of Arkansas and the Public Law Center on behalf of plaintiffs Paul Spencer, a leader of Regnat Populus, and Neal Sealy, executive director of Arkansas Community Organizations. The suit was filed against the defendant, the Arkansas Secretary of State (acting in an official capacity), with the state’s Attorney General having intervened into the case on the side of the defendant.
Last week, Citizens in Charge President Paul Jacob testified as an expert witness in a two-day hearing before Circuit Court Judge Mary McGowan, who is being asked to issue a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of Act 1413, pending a trial on whether the statute, passed earlier this year by legislators, violates the political rights of Arkansans under the Arkansas and the U.S. Constitutions.
On November 13, an injunction was issued in Ohio’s Southern District Court for the case of Citizens in Charge, Inc. et al. v. Husted, which challenges Ohio’s residency requirement laws. This decision enjoins the state from enforcing the provisions of Senate Bill 47, which places restrictions on petition circulators in violation of their Constitutional 1st Amendment rights.
The decision, made by Judge Watson of the Columbus division of the Southern District of Ohio, indicated that the law violated political speech protected by the First Amendment.
San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Steven Greenhut wrote at Reason.com last week that “Californians will need to pay close attention” to proposed reforms of the state’s initiative process, arguing that, “Unfortunately, some recent initiative reforms have been more about self-interest — about rigging the football game, if you will — than about helping the public have a more fair and informed political debate.”
Noting that Californians have enjoyed the power of the initiative for 102 years, Greenhut explained that even though some questionable special interests have “proposed” some questionable initiatives for their own benefit, the initiative process in the Golden State remains a critical check by the people on their legislature.
An initiative petition to allow for initiative petitions?
“We’re out to get our rights, we’re out for our town to be a good city again,” says Electra, Texas, citizen and activist Sue Howell. She has circulated petitions to amend the city charter to establish a process by which citizens can petition to put ballot initiatives before city voters and to recall elected officials when needed.
Much to our disappointment, and that of the 381,688 Evergreen State citizens who voted for it, Initiative 517 was defeated in yesterday’s election. Unofficial returns show 40 percent in favor of the measure and 60 percent opposed.
Filed by Tim Eyman after the state supreme court ruled that cities using red light cameras were not subject to voter initiatives to block their use, I-517 would have guaranteed a vote on all qualified initiatives, provided protection from harassment and intimidation to petition signers and circulators, and given petition drives more time.
The folks over at Ballotpedia, Planet Earth’s No. 1 wiki on election-related matters, have released a list of the “5 Most Notable Ballot Measures” in tomorrow’s election. Here are the five:
Amendment 66 (Colorado) - Tax Increase for Education
Initiative 522 (Washington) - Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Measure
The National Taxpayers Union released their “2013 General Election Ballot Guide: A Taxpayer’s Perspective” this week. The guide features a state-by-state run-down of “measures, propositions, initiatives, referenda, proposals, and amendments … listed by state with subheadings for statewide, countywide, and local issues.”
One noteworthy endorsement is of Washington state’s Initiative 517, or the “Protect the Initiative Act.” NTU gives I-517 a positive rating for its provisions which bolster the initiative process.
In next week’s election for governor, Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis has signed our Initiative & Referendum Pledge to support bringing a statewide process of initiative and referendum to Virginia. Neither Democratic Party candidate Terry McAuliffe, nor Republican Party candidate Ken Cuccinelli has signed the pledge.
“I have a lot more faith in the people of Virginia than in politicians,” Sarvis wrote, in returning his signed pledge. “Initiative and referendum would enable voters to decide on many needed reforms to our government.”
Democrat McAuliffe and Republican Cuccinelli offered no response after numerous requests for them to sign the I&R Pledge and/or supply a statement of their position on the issue.
Now, finally, a story in the Seattle Times reports the latest Elway Poll results for Initiative 517. Unlike the 40 point closing from YES to NO on I-522, I-517 showed only a nine-point tightening from last month’s results. The Elway Poll was conducted Oct. 13-15, before any TV or radio advertising by the NO side, and found 52 percent support against only 25 percent opposition, and 23 percent undecided.
But the Seattle Times story spun the Elway Poll by combining it with a Moore Information survey, conducted Oct. 23-25, reporting that, “Two recent polls indicate Tim Eyman’s initiative on initiatives, I-517, is losing ground.”
With the November 5th election just one week away, opponents of Initiative 517 in Washington are spending more than $600,000 on radio and TV ads twisting the provisions of the “Protect the Initiative Act.” The money against I-517 has come exclusively from corporate interests such as Safeway, Kroger and the Washington Retail Association – each chipping in $100,000 to oppose 517.
Even the Washington State Hospital Association has come out against 517, feverishly claiming that the law would allow petitioners to collect signatures outside of hospitals, even though they already currently have the right to do so. (For obvious reasons, hospitals are not good places to petition.)
A referendum petition concerning Arizona’s House Bill 2305 has qualified for a place on the state’s November 2014 ballot, with more than 100,000 valid signatures submitted to meet the 86,405 voter signature requirement. By qualifying for the ballot, the referendum now blocks all the provisions of HB 2305 from going into effect, pending the result of the referendum vote in the 2014 election.
Thus, the partisan bill’s many election-related provisions will not affect the outcome of next fall’s election, nor the petition process leading up to it, because HB 2305 is simply not yet law.
With less than two weeks before the Nov. 5 election and early voting already well underway, the No on I-517 PAC has gone up with a statewide television advertising campaign. While it is not clear precisely how much is being spent on the TV buy, the No on I-517 group has raised over $500,000 with almost all the funding coming from four sources: Washington Retail Association ($105,000), Kroger, Inc. ($103,000), Safeway, Inc. ($103,000) and the Washington Food Industry Association ($80,000).
In an op-ed posted to his personal Facebook page, the sponsor of Washington’s Initiative 522 regarding genetically modified food, Chris McManus spoke out strongly in favor of Initiative 517 also on the state’s Nov. 5, 2013 ballot.
McManus was especially enamored with the provisions of I-517 that provide protection from intimidation for petitioners and potential signers. He cited an incident where verbal abuse was spouted at petitioners and, despite a police report being filed, nothing was done by authorities to punish the individuals instigating the harassment.
The president of a Washington state property rights group endorsed a YES vote on the pro-initiative Initiative 517 and called charges from opponents that the measure violates the property rights of businesses: “bogus.”
Citizens Alliance for Property Rights President Preston Drew, in a letter to the Snoqualmie Valley Record, wrote: