Proponents of the “Yes for Independent Maps” initiative campaign in Illinois were dealt a blow last week when election authorities found over half the signatures checked as part of a random sample were invalid. Officials within the initiative campaign attacked the random sample process, contending there are more than enough valid signatures to put the measure on the ballot in November.
“We believe that the state ran a rushed, uneven, and back-room signature validation process, and that’s the reason for the unacceptable validity rate,” said Campaign Manager Michael Kolenc.
In a “Frank-tastic” op-ed appearing today at AL.com, Alabama initiative rights activist Frank Dillman calls for the adoption of statewide initiative and referendum for the citizens of the Yellowhammer state.
“Citizens in 26 states and thousands of cities have a greater voice than Alabamians,” argues Dillman, “because our legislative process permits trumping 9-5 working voices with well-funded special interest groups.”
Dillman is the creator of Let Bama Vote, a group dedicated to convincing legislators to propose a constitutional amendment establishing a system whereby citizens can initiate ballot measures or refer acts of the legislature to a public vote. Their website is LetBamaVote.org.
In recent weeks, both Illinois and Missouri have seen their signature-submission deadline pass with less than a handful of initiative petitions crossing the finish in time.
On the first of May, Illinois term limits supporters submitted nearly 600,000 signatures. Days later, a measure to reform the redistricting process turned in over 500,000 signatures. Both measures are likely to qualify, as the requirement for a spot on this November’s ballot is only 298,399 valid signatures.
On May 4, Missourians submitted two petitions: one measure would provide six weeks of early voting in the Show-Me State and the other would tie teacher retention and pay to student performance, as measured by standardized testing.
In his latest book, “Unstoppable,” consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader lauds Citizens in Charge as a “convergent group” bringing people together from across the political spectrum.
In the book, Nader presents 25 reform ideas that cannot be stopped, one of which is to “spread the initiative, referendum and recall to every state and municipality.”
Urging “liberals and conservatives” to “look straight at the reforms that are needed to give more choices for the voters in a competitive democracy,” Nader writes that “Citizens in Charge” is “already at work on this objective.”
It all happened in a single day. Substitute language was stuffed into House Bill 5152 to effectively repeal Michigan’s requirement that those who circulate initiative and referendum petitions be residents of the state. Later that same day, HB-5152 passed the House and then the state Senate, too.
It’s now Public Act No. 94.
What possessed Michigan legislators to act so deliberately to rectify a law long at odds with the First amendment rights of citizens to petition their government?
Late Wednesday, the hard work of Colorado’s broad, diverse, left-right, pro-initiative & referendum coalition paid off. With an awakened public communicating with legislators, the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee unanimously defeated Rep. Lois Court’s House Concurrent Resolution 2 on a bipartisan 5-0 vote.
HCR 2 sought to double the number of signatures citizens would be required to collect on petitions and to additionally mandate that petitions qualify in all seven congressional districts. The constitutional amendment is now effectively dead for this session, after having just passed the House by a large margin.
Colorado’s leading opponent of citizen control of government, Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver), is at it again. Court is seeking to amend the state’s constitution to ratchet-up the requirements for citizen-initiated petitions — something she has attempted repeatedly during her tenure in the legislature.
Rep. Court’s House Concurrent Resolution 2 would fully double the minimum signature threshold for initiative constitutional amendments, from the current 86,104 to a whopping 172,208. The amendment would also impose a new distribution requirement, mandating that a minimum number of valid signatures be gathered from each of the state’s seven congressional districts to qualify a petition.
Arkansas Circuit Court Judge Mary McGowan issued a final judgment striking down a myriad of provisions in Act 1413 as unconstitutional violations of the rights of Arkansas citizens to petition their government. Her decision, a major victory for petition rights, will likely now be appealed by the Arkansas Attorney General.
Two organizations, Judicial Watch and Allied Educational Foundation, have filed an amicus curiae brief in the federal lawsuit, Citizens in Charge v. Husted, which seeks a permanent injunction against an Ohio law that bans the recruitment of out-of-state petitioners to collect signatures for ballot initiatives.
“This Ohio law unlawfully limits the right of the people to govern themselves through the initiative process,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Ohio’s law intrudes on a fundamental right not often emphasized by politicians – the citizens’ right to place additional checks on the power of their elected representatives.”
Yesterday, Circuit Court Judge Mary McGowan issued an 11-page decision declaring Act 1413’s restrictions on initiative and referendum petitions to be unconstitutional and enjoining Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin from enforcing the 19-page law’s new “crushing” rules on paid and volunteer signature canvassers.
Act 1413 (Senate Bill 821) was passed at the behest of the state’s current duopoly gaming interests, who presumably wanted to foil any future attempts through ballot measures to permit competition. The law was offered officially as a way to fight fraud in the petition process, after a spate of allegations of fraud and forgery in several 2012 measures.
Yesterday, the Nevada Supreme Court heard oral arguments in People’s Legislature, et al, vs. Miller, a challenge to Nevada’s single-subject rule brought by attorney and activist Kermitt Waters. Waters is also a member of Citizens in Charge Foundation’s board of directors.
Nevada’s state constitution expressly limits legislative statutes to a single subject. Waters’ lawsuit argues that the legislation imposing the single-subject rule on citizen initiatives itself contained numerous subjects in violation of the constitution – and is, therefore, unconstitutional and should be declared null and void.
That would strike down the single-subject rule as applied to citizen initiatives.
Citizens of Sacramento, California, won’t get a vote on the city’s decision to use $258 million from taxpayers to fund the construction of a new arena for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley found the petitions forms contained too many errors, which violated state election laws.
In addition, Judge Frawley indicated he believed the proposed ballot measure would have violated the city’s charter, by inhibiting the council’s ability to manage the city’s finances.
Today, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan filed suit in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of Citizens in Charge and others to overturn the state’s residency requirement as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment rights of Michigan citizens and also a violation of the right of non-residents to be treated equally in employment opportunities in the state.
The lawsuit also seeks either a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of Michigan’s residency law while its ultimate fate is being fully determined in this court proceeding.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved circulation of an initiative constitutional amendment to ease rules for petitioning in Michigan. The sponsors of the proposal, a group called Put the Citizens in Charge, have until July 7 to collect 322,000 valid signatures in order for the measure to appear on the ballot this November.
Reducing costs is at the heart of the issue.
“One of the biggest complaints people have about the initiative process is you have to have a lot of money involved,” Scott Tillman of Put the Citizens in Charge told Gongwer News Service.
The proposal also would allow the signatures of more voters to count on petitions, signatures that otherwise might be eliminated due to trivial errors.
Shirley Concolino, Sacramento’s City Clerk, announced last Friday that she was disqualifying the petition filed with her office containing more than 40,000 signatures to put a proposed new arena for the Sacramento Kings to a public vote this June. The arena is to be partially funded through a taxpayer subsidy, which the group known as STOP (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork) opposes and seeks to petition to the ballot.
ABC News 10 reports that the city clerk invalidated petitions based on various “election code violations,” though mostly technical mistakes, including a missing notice of intent on some petitions and faulty dates on others.