Newswire

Oklahomans who want to put an issue on the state ballot face a process so complicated that state officials often advise them to hire an attorney to study murky and sometimes conflicting language in the Constitution, statutes and court opinions.

If they do manage to navigate the legal hurdles, they have 90 days to collect enough voter signatures to put their proposal on the ballot. The number of signatures is so high that an expensive army of canvassers is required if the initiative drive is to be successful.

Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill June 4 that sought to clarify the process. Secretary of State Chris Benge, whose office has produced a four-page flow chart on initiative procedures, hopes a similar bill succeeds next year.

Got a ballot measure for 2016? You’re in luck.

Ballot initiatives two years from now will need about 30 percent fewer qualifying signatures than they did this year, according to the political-consulting types at Sacramento’s Redwood Pacific Public Affairs.

The reason: abysmal turnout for the Nov. 4 election. California requires valid signatures equal to 8 percent of the most recent gubernatorial vote to qualify a constitutional amendment for the ballot, 5 percent for regular laws and veto referenda.

Nebraska’s threshold for placing initiatives and referendums on the ballot violates the Firsts Amendment in giving preference to voters in rural counties, a federal judge ruled.

At issue is a stipulation in the Nebraska Constitution that requires petitioners to acquire signatures from “5 percent of the registered voters of each of two-fifths of the counties of the state.”

According to this math, an initiative or referendum petition must be circulated in at least 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

Plaintiff Kent Bernbeck, took issue with the requirement on the grounds of free speech and equal protection.

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It’s much easier to frame an election around two candidates exchanging verbal punches than it is around an issue such as increasing the minimum wage or legalizing marijuana, but much of what is up for vote during this 2014 midterm election season has as much to do with issues, as politicians.

Citizens around the United States will decide whether their states should increase early voting days, loosen or tighten gun control restrictions, and more.

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When North Dakota voters go to the polls Tuesday, they’ll find a ballot containing eight statewide measures, the most in a quarter century.

That’s the same number that was on the ballot in a special election on Dec. 5, 1989.

The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald banner headline the morning after reflected the voters’ mood:

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

That election, and perhaps that headline itself, served as an exclamation mark for North Dakota in the 1980s, a time of rapid rural depopulation and economic decline. Even then-Gov. George Sinner — father of the current U.S. House candidate of the same name — was referred to in the state Capitol and in the media and as Gov. Gloom and Doom.

Arkansas is neither vibrant New York nor sunny California. Located in the South-Mid of the United States, Arkansas’ facts are average: Inhabited by 2,949,132 people, Arkansas ranks 32nd with regards to population and 29th in geographical size. At the same time, the “Natural State” - Arkansas is called due to its enduring image - has produced extraordinary figures: Bill Clinton (born in Hope in 1946) made Arkansas famous when the Governvor was elected US President in 1993. Singer songwriter Johnny Cash and former NATO US General Wesley Clark also grew up in the state, which was inhabited by the Caddo, Osage, and Quapaw indigenous people prior to European Settlement.

When Alaskans vote next Tuesday, they’ll decide not just on a governor and a senator, but also on whether to legalize recreational marijuana use, hike the state’s minimum wage, and require the Legislature to approve any future large-scale mining in one the world’s most productive salmon fisheries.

“These are not just side dishes. They are a big part of Tuesday’s ballot,” said Alaska Democratic Party Chairman Mike Wenstrup on Monday. Not only do they represent major policy decisions, he said, but Democrats who might otherwise skip the election may turn out on these issues. And with the both the governor and Senate races so tight, “every little bit helps,” he said.

A petition circulating throughout Orem carries legal responsibilities that those signing it may not fully understand.

Just this year, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, and Rep. Jon Stanard, R-St. George, sponsored an addendum to state code concerning petitions and the people who sign them. Gov. Gary Herbert signed it into law in April.

The bill added the inclusion of a statement to a statewide or local initiative petition signature sheet stating that a signer has read and understands the law proposed by the petition. It also adds a statement to a statewide or local referendum petition signature sheet stating that a signer has read and understands the law the petition seeks to overturn. The bill also made some technical corrections.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s prisons, which were then at nearly two-hundred-per-cent capacity, were so overcrowded that detaining anyone in them was a form of cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of constitutional rights. The state legislature passed a law, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, requiring that sentences for certain low-level felonies be served in county jails rather than state prisons; today, the prisons house about a hundred and seventeen thousand inmates, down twenty per cent from this time four years ago.

In this state, more than most others, voters make big policy decisions through the ballot, like the legalization of marijuana and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

But ballot measures can be difficult to understand, and so a nonprofit organization from Oregon, called Healthy Democracy, launched a pilot project to help Colorado voters better educate themselves. A small group of Coloradans, representing the state’s voter demographics, got together to study up on one initiative, and to share findings with other voters.

Read More: Here