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?

On November 13, an injunction was issued in Ohio’s Southern District Court for the case of Citizens in Charge, Inc. et al. v. Husted, which challenges Ohio’s residency requirement laws.  This decision enjoins the state from enforcing the provisions of Senate Bill 47, which places restrictions on petition circulators in violation of their Constitutional 1st Amendment rights.

The decision, made by Judge Watson of the Columbus division of the Southern District of Ohio, indicated that the law violated political speech protected by the First Amendment.

(Lake Ridge, VA) – Paul Jacob, president of Citizens in Charge, a national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, applauded yesterday’s federal court ruling striking down Nebraska’s restriction on non-resident petition circulators in the case Citizens in Charge v. Gale.

In a decision released late yesterday, Federal Judge Joseph Bataillon struck down Nebraska’s initiative law requiring petition circulators to be residents of the state, declaring the statutory provision “unconstitutional” as a violation of the First Amendment rights of Nebraskans.

The decision was a surprise to many observers. Although in recent years residency laws have been struck down unanimously by three separate federal circuit courts (Sixth, Ninth and Tenth), there is an Eight Circuit case from a decade ago (Initiative & Referendum Institute v. Jaeger), which upheld a North Dakota residency law. When plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction in this case, Judge Bataillon denied it and signaled that the Jaeger case would be controlling.

[From The Missouri Record]

Established politicians have a vested interest in opposing the right of the people to pass laws through the petition process.  Missouri is no different. As Citizens in Charge wrote in 2010:

Federal District Court Judge Philip Brimmer has put another nail in the coffin of the Colorado General Assembly’s attempt to silence the state’s voters. Back in June the judge issued a preliminary injunction against part of HB 1326 - which passed overwhelmingly in 2009 - that restricted how ballot initiative campaigns could pay their workers. Last week he followed with another order saying Colorado couldn’t prevent campaigns from using petition circulators from other states.

After a hearing last week in Omaha, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon denied a request from the state chapter of the Libertarian Party to block enforcement of Nebraska’s ban on people from other states helping collect signatures on a petition. Relying on the flawed 2001 decision by the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in IRI v.

Nebraska’s Secretary of State says he has “every confidence” that the state’s requirement that people who collect signatures on a petition live in the state will be upheld in federal court. The only problem is, residency requirements have been ruled unconstitutional at least eleven times since 1997. Only once, in North Dakota, did a court uphold a residency requirement, and later courts criticized that ruling as improperly decided. In light of this, one really has to wonder where the secretary’s confidence comes from.

Nebraska resident Kent Bernbeck has filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on paying campaign workers who circulate petitions by the signature and requirement that petition circulators be over the age of 18.

United States District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell has made Michigan the ninth state to see a requirement that campaign workers who circulate petitions be residents of the state struck down. In 2008 federal appeals courts struck down residency requirements in Ohio, Arizona and Oklahoma. Residency requirements of some kind have previously been ruled unconstitutional in California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York.

The Arizona Legislature worked throught the night last and adjourned at 7:30 this morning. Before they left, and in the middle of the night, they passed Senate Bill 1091 to close off the ballot initiative process and make it harder for citizens to have a say in their government.