Citizen Blog

Even opponents of Initiative 517 in Washington state have largely conceded that the ballot measure’s provisions to allow citizens more time to gather signatures on petitions and also to allow a public vote on any issue garnering the requisite number of voter signatures make good sense.

Still, opponents argue that, “Under I-517, it would be easier and cheaper for [Tim] Eyman to qualify future initiatives to the ballot…” Mr. Eyman is well known – loved and hated – for his work placing initiatives on the ballot to limit taxes and hold government accountable. But what opponents don’t mention is that Eyman has been very successful under the current rules. What I-517 will do is make it easier for everyone else.

For the first time, Citizens in Charge has sent an Initiative & Referendum Pledge to all candidates running for the legislature and for governor in this year’s Virginia elections.  The pledge asks candidates to support initiative and referendum through a constitutional amendment that if proposed by legislators and passed by voters would make the Old Dominion the 27th state where citizens have the right to initiate or refer laws to the ballot by petition.

Last Friday, Ohio’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a non-partisan legal foundation, filed a federal court challenge against Senate Bill 47, which reinstitutes a residency requirement (struck down previously in federal court) and also reduces the time petitioners have to gather signatures. The law, passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor John Kasich, went into effect in June.

It is more or less a given that state legislators don’t like it when the public interferes with “their” lawmaking. This is even more so for legislators in California, where citizens of the Golden State have enjoyed the right to initiate and refer laws since 1911.

Three times in recent years, California legislators have passed facially unconstitutional, thinly-veiled machete attacks on citizen initiative and referendum rights, only to be dis-armed by Governor Jerry Brown’s veto pen.

Initiative 517, the “Protect the Initiative Act,” appears to be gaining traction among likely voters, with the most recent polling showing the ballot measure currently ahead by 36 points. According to the non-partisan Elway Poll, published on September 10, the initiative enjoys 58 percent support against only 22 percent in opposition.

Voters in Arizona will get a chance to ratify or block a piece of legislation passed in the waning days of the last legislative session.  More than 146,000 signatures were turned in for verification to the Secretary of State, of which, 86,405 need to be validated.

The bill has provisions which drastically alter election laws in the Grand Canyon State.  These provisions include limiting who is able to turn in an early ballot at a polling place and making requirements regarding the ability to propose laws through the initiative process much more onerous.

“The initiative process is designed to allow voters to consider an issue in a democratic fashion,’ said Kari Nienstedt, state director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Gun-rights advocates were victorious last night in Colorado, as State Senate President John Morse and fellow senator Angela Giron were both ousted in their respective recall elections.  The recalls were historic, as no state-level officials had ever been recalled in the Centennial State, though numerous local officials have been.

In the election for Morse, the results were very close, 51-49 percent – a difference of less than 800 votes.  Giron’s recall was more one-sided, with a 12 percent point margin totaling over 4,000 votes. The voter turnout was much higher in Giron’s district.

Today is Election Day in Colorado for the recall of state senators John Morse and Angela Giron, the first recalls of state (as opposed to local) elected officials in Colordao history.

The recalls began after Senate President Morse and Sen. Giron backed legislation tightening gun control earlier this year. Tens of thousands of citizens in their respective districts signed petitions to trigger today’s elections, which have become something of a referendum on gun issues with possible national ramifications.

Read more here:

Denver Post: Historic election Tuesday over gun control votes

An initiative which would raise the minimum wage in the area of SeaTac, Washington’s international airport has been halted, at least temporarily, by the courts. Judge Andrea Darvas ruled that 61 signatures, the latest in a great number of signatures which were eliminated in the verification process, were also invalid due to duplicate signatures.

Advocates of the initiative originally had 2,506 signatures that were turned in in June. Normally, this would be more than sufficient to qualify the initiative. However more than 800 signatures were invalidated, and thus left a narrow margin of 43 signatures which were then cut down again by Judge Darvas’ decision, leaving the campaign 18 short.

After a legislative session in which legislators passed several statutes and constitutional amendments designed to restrict citizen use of initiative and referendum, North Dakota citizens are taking the first steps to place a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would protect the initiative process from legislative assaults. 

The effort, led by Dustin Gawrylow and a group called “Protect ND,” seeks to amend Article III of the constitution to block any future legislative tampering with the initiative and referendum rights of North Dakota voters.

September 10 will be an historic day in Colorado.  For the first time in The Centennial State’s history, elected officials at the state level – specifically, two state senators – will be subjected to a recall election, after citizens conducted a successful petition effort.

Colorado has seen many local officials face recalls, both at the city and county level, but never a state official until this year’s recall efforts against State Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Senator Angela Giron of Pueblo – both Democrats – for their support of three gun control bills passed in this year’s legislative session.

Efforts to halt a proposed light rail system via the initiative in Vancouver, Washington, have been thwarted by the city, and now the city’s actions have been upheld in court. Superior Court Judge John Nichols’ ruled the City of Vancouver could lawfully block the initiative from the ballot because the proposed measure’s attempt to restrict the city from following the mandates of a state light rail project went “beyond the initiative power.”

“Stated another way,” Judge Nichols wrote in his opinion, “the people cannot deprive the city legislative authority of the power to do what the constitution and/or a state statute specifically permit it to do.”

Nebraska petition laws are again being challenged in federal court by Citizen Kent Bernbeck, who claims the current system is unconstitutional.  The two legal provisions being contested are: (1) the state’s county-based distribution requirement, which is in the state constitution, and (2) a state statute that forbids compensating paid circulators on a per-signature basis.

“He is bringing this challenge to guarantee all Nebraskans can participate in this core democratic process,” David Domina, Bernbeck’s attorney, told reporters. “A process so important that the founders of our nation called out the right as fundamental and to be preserved without intrusion.”

A recent Gallup Poll shows that most Americans favor national referendums on key issues.  The poll, conducted July 6-7, tested 3 political issues first promoted by Doctor George Gallup in a 1978 Reader’s Digest article.

More than two-thirds of Americans, 68% of respondents, favored a proposal to “Require a nationwide popular vote on any issue if enough voters signed a petition to request a vote on the issue.”

Smaller majorities favored Gallup’s other ideas: shortening the presidential campaigns to five weeks (61%) and a single national presidential primary day, instead of individual state primaries on various dates (58%).

Legislators in California are not fond of citizen initiatives and referendums, especially the Democrats who enjoy supermajorities in both legislative chambers. But a recent San Diego Union Tribune editorial puts the blame on “State labor unions,” who it accuses of “once again trying to twist California’s century-old initiative process to work in their favor” by pushing legislation to unconstitutionally block paid signature collectors.