Late last year, the Lucy Burns Institute published a booklet entitled, “Local Ballot Initiatives,” written by Leslie Graves, president of the institute and executive director of the wiki-based website, to educate citizens on how they can use initiatives and referendums to reform their hometown governments.

Through several articles, recollections by activists (including Citizens in Charge President Paul Jacob) and real-world examples, Graves outlines how the petition process works and how it is beneficial to initiating change at the local level.

Idaho legislators, in a bid to backpedal from the thorny problems caused by passage of Senate Bill 1108, with its negative impact on the initiative and referendum petition process, have fast-tracked a new bill, Senate Bill 1191, to correct some of the vague and likely unconstitutional provisions legislators just enacted via passage of SB 1108. 

SB 1191 removes the requirement that each petition form contain only signatures from a single legislative district, opting to restore the past system whereby signatures are organized on separate sheets by county. This would eliminate extraneous paperwork and potential for errors that could lead to signatures being thrown out.

Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law Senate Bill 47 on Friday, March 22.  The law sets several new restrictions on the initiative and referendum process in the Buckeye State, most notably, adherence to a strict 100-day timetable for collecting petition signatures, whereas previously, upwards of 58 extra days of canvassing were permitted.

“The General Assembly thought it was important that the law needed to be clarified and the governor agreed with them,” said Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Kasich. However, the General Assembly did not completely agree, with Republicans primarily supporting the bill and minority Democrats dissenting unanimously.

Gov. John Kasich signed legislation Friday that would make it harder for Ohio voters to repeal laws. Now the clock is ticking for opponents who could void the controversial bill.

A provision in Senate Bill 47 would set new limits on the number of days organizers have to mount petition drives and collect enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot. Kasich’s autograph on SB 47 began a 90-day countdown for groups to stage a petition drive to shut down the legislation.

Read more from The Plain Dealer

The state Senate will vote on SB 821 today: if passed into law, this bill would create a cumbersome and expensive new government program for registration, training, and tracking citizens who are paid to circulate petitions to place initiatives and referendums on the ballot. SB 821, sponsored by state Senator Keith Ingram, would place extremely heavy burdens on Arkansas’s initiative and referendum process – indeed, the bill almost seems designed to make it difficult or impossible for citizens to run successful ballot campaigns.

You can read “How SB 821 Endangers the First Amendment,” AAI’s newest paper, here.

Laws in 2012 prompted Maryland’s first statewide ballot referendum in 20 years, allowing marriage equality, the Dream Act and congressional redistricting to be upheld by voters.

And if those who don’t agree with Maryland’s likely ban of the death penalty try to get voters to reverse it, a new bill could create obstacles for them and other citizens looking to petition state laws to ballot, lawmakers say. Legislation by Delegate Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, would demand several things from those circulating petitions to force a ballot issue.

It would require the sponsor to form a ballot issue committee, which is a campaign finance entity, for each law that is challenged.

In a hyper-partisan effort (with only one exception), Ohio’s Republican legislators have passed Senate Bill 47 through both the House and Senate, sending the legislation to make the state’s petition process much more difficult to the desk of Republican Governor John Kasich for his signature, which would make it law.

“The right to referendum is a very important check that people have to push back on abuses of this legislature,” Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) argued on the floor. “This bill is a direct attack on that sacred right. To call this bill a solution in search of a problem is being charitable.”

After passing the Senate with bipartisan opposition and only Republican support, Senate Bill 1108 passed the House State Affairs Committee in similar fashion and could soon hit the House floor.

In hearings, testimony has been bipartisan and overwhelmingly against Idaho’s SB 1108, a bill that makes qualifying an initiative or referendum much more difficult.  In addition to an already very onerous statewide signature requirement, SB 1108 would add a severe new condition that petitions also contain 6% of registered voters in at least 18 legislative districts. Adding 18 new petition drives to qualify a ballot measure would dramatically drive up costs.

Testimony so far this morning on SB 1108, the Senate-passed bill to make it tougher to qualify an initiative or referendum measure for the Idaho ballot, has been almost all against the bill. Anne Nesse of Coeur d’Alene brought a petition against the bill that she said has 580 signatures collected online from all over the state, both from rural and urban areas, and is getting 100 more signatures a day. “I have met personally with Kootenai County Republicans, who were appalled, frankly,” she said. “They were practically hugging me when I left, and I’m a Democrat.” She told the committee, “I would guess that you should check with your constituency on this.”

Maryland’s Constitution provides recourse, the referendum, to those who believe bad laws are on the books or new laws are necessary. The general idea is, let’s put it to a vote.

The process for getting a referendum question on the statewide ballot begins with gathering a certain number of signatures on a petition. Enough signatures, and the ballot question becomes one of your choices on Election Day.

But what about those signatures Who gets to sign How are the signatures to be gathered Who can gather them How many are necessary Two bills before the General Assembly address these questions. If passed, they would put up possibly insurmountable obstacles to the referendum process.

For Immediate Release:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Contact: Paul Jacob or Neal Hobson at (571) 327-0441

National Referendum Group Goes on Offense

With Targeted Mailer Against Leudtke’s Bill

(LAKE RIDGE, VA) – Citizens in Charge, a national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, has gone on offense and gone straight to the voters to protect referendum rights in Maryland with a targeted mailer against House Bill 493, naming its chief sponsor, Montgomery County Delegate Eric Leudtke.

In 2011, young Muna N’Diaye was kidnapped by her father and taken to Mali.  Her mother, Dr. Nolle Hunter, naturally wants her daughter back. To bring Muna home, Dr. Hunter has worked with the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues as well as Senator Mitch McConnell and her local congressional representative, Hal Rogers of Kentucky.

Then, Hunter went to the White House’s “We the People” petition website in an attempt to bring more attention to the situation.

Do you remember how funny it was when a jokester at the White House’s “We the People” site got more than 34,000 people to sign a petition asking the administration to build a Death Star? And did you chuckle when you saw the administration’s lighthearted and good-natured response? Hah hah hah. But wait.

The 62nd Wyoming Legislature is finished, but the contention over Senate File 104 has yet to subside.

The Wyoming Constitution Party is spearheading an initiative to repeal the bill that stripped state Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill of the majority of her power.

After canvassing the state last week, party Chairwoman Jennifer Young received enough signatures to begin petitioning for a referendum to repeal the controversial legislation. The referendum would go on the next general election ballot in 2014.

Read more: Wyoming Star Tribune

Some Arizona legislators want to provide extra time for individuals to consider a petition. But which individuals do they have in mind?

State Senator Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, thinks the courts need extra time.  With that in mind, Reagan has proposed a bill, SCR 1006, to move the filing deadline up two months. At face value, Reagan wants to ensure any contentious petition challenges have a chance to be properly looked-over by the courts.