Across the country, voters will finish casting ballots tomorrow in a mid-term election that features 146 statewide issues. This is the lowest number of statewide ballot measures since 1988, but it also marks the lowest number of citizen-initiated ballot questions since 1974. Of the 146 issues, only 35 were brought to voters by successful citizen petition efforts, the remaining 111 were referred by state legislatures.
North Dakotans will decide 8 ballot issues this November, the most the Roughrider State has seen since 1989, when the state legislature referred 8 measures, which all went down to defeat. This November, 4 of the measures were referred by the legislature and 4 others put on the ballot through citizen petitions. Another legislatively referred measure was voted on in June.
The state has a long history of placing multiple measures on the ballot, with voters casting votes on 470 ballot issues in North Dakota’s history (both citizen-initiated and legislature-referred). The record for the most measures on the ballot came in 1938, with 13 separate measures.
Gathering 155,000 signatures in 90 days on a petition is a tough ask, even for the most seasoned petitioners. In Oklahoma this is the reality, with only 3 of more than 24 statewide initiatives since 1998 making it to the ballot.
On Sunday, the state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman, published an editorial entitled, “Oklahoma initiative petition process needs to change,” which called the state’s petition requirement “too steep.” The paper added, “Lawmakers should study this issue and come up with a lower threshold, one that doesn’t open the ballot to silliness but does give everyday citizens a reasonable chance to possibly effect change.”
In the last week, calls for citizens to have the right to initiative and referendum have been heard loud and clear in New Jersey and South Carolina.
In tackling the issue of marijuana legalization, New Jersey Star Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine longs for a way voters can decide, writing “if only we had I&R here in New Jersey.”
He’s not sure Colorado voters got it right in legalizing pot, but notes, “Polls show Coloradans are evenly divided on legalization - as are New Jersey voters. The difference is that there they can gather signatures to reverse it if they so desire. Here we’re stuck with whatever the politicians hand us.”
Last weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1253, the so-called “Ballot Measure Transparency Act,” into law.
Sponsored by Sen. Darrell Steinberg, the legislation requires the Secretary of State to post the top 10 donors to committees supporting or opposing ballot measures on the Internet, gives proponents 30 additional days to gather signatures (from the current 150 days to 180 days), provides a 30-day public comment period after which proponents can make changes to their initiative proposal without having to re-start the process, and also allows proponents to withdraw their initiative should they reach some compromise with the legislature.
It seems for now, California will have to stay as a singular state.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper’s multi-million dollar “Six Californias” initiative failed to gather enough valid signatures, according to the California Secretary of State. The initiative would have begun the process to create six separate states out of California, giving 38 million Californians new, smaller state governments and economies.
Draper contests the findings of the Secretary of State, however.
“Six Californias collected more than enough signatures to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot and we are confident that a full check of the signatures would confirm that fact,” said Draper in a statement.
On Monday, six additional initiative petitions were submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State for signature validation.
However, four of those petitions are already being withdrawn after Governor John Hickenlooper and US Congressman Jared Polis, supporting of two measures “to restrict oil and gas operations,” reached an agreement with supporters of two industry-backed measures. The agreement means that all four initiatives concerning regulation of the oil and natural gas industries will not go on the ballot.
Michigan’s State Board of Canvassers voted not to certify an initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage for placement on this November’s election ballot.
The group Raise Michigan turned in 318,425 signatures on petitions, needing 258,088 to be verified as those of registered voters in the Wolverine State. The group just edged over that goal under the scrutiny of the Secretary of State’s office with 259,756 verified signatures, just 1,578 more than necessary.
Even after the petition submission deadline dates for many states have passed, efforts are underway to collect signatures for the 2015 ballot and beyond. In Ohio, a green energy initiative was given the go-ahead to begin gathering signatures to place a series of clean energy proposals on the ballot in 2015.
Now that the Ohio Ballot Board has approved the language, the group Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future needs to collect at least 385,000 verified voter signatures in the Buckeye State to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot next year. The proposed amendment would spend $1.3 billion each year improving infrastructure and developing clean energy sources such as geothermal and solar.
For citizens of the Natural State, a natural medicine won’t appear on the ballot this November. Arkansans for Compassionate Care decided not to turn in signatures for a proposed medical marijuana ballot measure as it had not collected enough by yesterday’s deadline. The group announced gathering just over 50,000 signatures, but needed 62,507 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. Campaign director Melissa Fults said the group would try again for the 2016 election.
An initiative campaign in Oregon to legalize recreational marijuana has submitted what they believe to be sufficient signatures to qualify for a place on November’s ballot. Proponents of the initiative, a group called New Approach Oregon submitted 145,710 signatures, which is well above the 87,213 verified signatures required.
“We’ve verified many of the signatures ourselves and we will indeed qualify for the ballot,” New Approach Oregon spokesman Anthony Johnson told reporters.
If passed, the initiative would legalize recreational marijuana for those over 21 and allow the state Liquor Control Commission to regulate retailers, processors and growers of the drug.
In Nevada, the deadline for collecting signatures has come and gone, with no citizen-initiated measures able to qualify for this November’s ballot. Petitions were circulated on two conservative-backed measures, but both failed to collect the 101,000 required signatures. One measure would have required voters to present a photo ID at the polls and the other would have blocked state government from setting up a state exchange as part of the national Affordable Care Act.
No citizen-initiated measures have qualified for the Nevada ballot since 2006.
Measure 1, a constitutional amendment that moves the initiative petition deadline up 30 days – to just before the North Dakota state fair, so that initiative sponsors lose that very important meeting place for gathering signatures – passed narrowly yesterday in a very low turnout primary election.
State legislators introduced the amendment as HCR 3034 and passed it at the request of long-serving Secretary of State Al Jaeger, who argued his office needed more time to review petitions and that more time was also necessary to accommodate legal challenges to ballot measures.
On tomorrow’s statewide primary ballot in North Dakota is Measure 1, a constitutional amendment that would cut 30 days from the signature gathering period, by making the petition deadline 120 days prior to the general election, rather than the current 90 days.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger brought the measure to the legislature in 2013, and a bipartisan majority of legislators jumped at the idea, with 64 percent of Senators and 85 percent in the House voting to put Measure 1 on the ballot. Jaeger argued the measure will “safeguard the credibility of the petition process.”
The chairman of MDPetitions.com, Maryland Delegate Neil Parrott, announced that his most recent petition effort, a referendum on the so-called “Bathroom Bill,” fell short of its signature collection goal.
The petition needed to collect 18,579 signatures from registered state voters by May 31 and a total of 55,736 by June 30. But only 17,575 signatures had been collected by supporters of the referendum by the deadline.