Archives for January 2013

Fury on the Fulham Road

Thu, Jan 31 2013 by Neal Hobson

Supporters of the London, England-based Chelsea Football Club are upset; incensed even. So bothered, in fact, they’ve turned to the petition process with an online effort at that asks the Club to “Ensure that [manager] Rafael Benitez is not considered beyond his interim title.”

In November of 2012, the Chelsea executives appointed Rafael Benitez, a Spaniard coach who had once managed Liverpool Football Club and Inter Milan as the interim manager of Chelsea after the sacking of fan-favorite Roberto DiMatteo.

Maryland’s largest-circulation newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, came out against new legislation being proposed by Democrats to make it more difficult for citizens to refer legislative enactments to a vote of the people. The paper editorialized against one proposal to more than triple the number of signatures required from the current 3% of votes cast for governor in the previous election (55,736 voter signatures) to 5% of registered voters (184,726 signatures). Other proposed changes include outlawing paying circulators based on their productivity and reducing the amount of time for citizens to gather all these signatures on petitions.

Laurie Grooman of Newberg, Oregon has “Seen the Elephant,” so to speak, when it comes to being a paid signature gatherer for Voice of the Electorate.  Arrested 3 times in 2012 after refusing to stop signature collecting in public places, Grooman is now filing suit against the city of Hillsboro for her arrest in May of that year. At that public event held at a recreational complex, other advocates were present to witness her arrest while petitioning for Oregon’s Ballot Measure 84.

“It’s a blatant civil rights violation,” Grooman’s attorney Ross A. Day says. “What she was doing was engaging in protected speech.”

Two statewide elected officials seem at odds over the petition process in Missouri. Jason Kander, the Show-Me State’s new Secretary of State, just implemented an online program that displays initiative proposals as soon as they are filed, allowing the public a five-day comment period before the secretary of state and the state auditor must complete their ballot summary and fiscal statement, respectively.

In the past, initiative proposals were not posted on the secretary of state’s website until after a ballot summary and fiscal note were written, so citizens had no comment period at this stage in the process.

Yesterday, the Washington Secretary of State’s office reported that Initiative 517 had passed the obstacle of signature validation on the 346,906 signatures submitted on petitions. The measure was certified as having 272,425 valid voter signatures after the state performed a check on a random sampling of 3% of the signatures. More than 78.5% of the signatures in the sample were verified giving the initiative a cushion of more than 30,000 valid signatures over the legal requirement.

The Idaho Legislature seems to be following the Maryland Legislature’s lead with the same knee-jerk reaction, seeking to legislatively block future referendums after several appeared on the ballot last November. The key difference is that Maryland voters approved the legislature’s enactments in three referendums last November, while Idaho voters reversed the legislature for the first time since the 1930s, overturning three laws concerning education policy.

California’s League of Women Voters is hosting an event to discuss possible reforms of the state’s initiative and referendum process this Friday, Jan. 25, at a library in Carlsbad, California. The League’s longstanding opposition to the initiative process seems to be expressed in the title, “Do We Have to Take This Much Initiative?”

The Washington State group, Voters Want More Choices, has set up a website to promote Initiative 517. The site,, carries the tagline, “I-517 puts the citizen back in the citizens’ initiative,” and features various resources, such a video of a recent TV interview and story on the measure.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas Miller say they are overwhelmed by voter referendums “every time someone doesn’t like one” of their decisions. These powerful politicians don’t make idle complaints; they’re threatening new legislation to make signature gathering for a referendum, or what is often called a “People’s Veto,” much more difficult.

The governor argues that the petition process has “probably been made a little too easy.”

The Washington Retail Association recently expressed misgivings about the protections for petitioning found in Initiative 517. Last year, the group of retailers praised the initiative process based on their strong support for I-1185, which required a vote of the people or a two-thirds legislative majority for any tax increase, but on the heels of activists turning in nearly 350,000 signatures last week to put the initiative reform measure on this November’s ballot, the WRA argues that allowing petitioners to gather signatures outside their establishments may be going too far.

One of the proponents of Washington State’s Initiative 517 and retired president of Citizen Solutions, Eddie Agazarm, drafted a letter which can serve to answer opponents to portions of I-517’s protections. It follows:

Eddie Agazarm, co-sponsor of Initiative 517 which puts the citizen back in the citizens’ initiative.

A group of Republican Party notables has filed an initiative seeking to change the way Utah political parties nominate their candidates. The initiative would allow candidates to put their names on primary election ballots by either winning a vote at a party convention or by petitioning their way onto the ballot, but would mandate that a party’s nominee be chosen at the primary election.