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October 28, 2008

California: initiative would shift to redistricting commission

The New York Times reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has spent more than $2 million from his campaign coffers to support a ballot proposition that could profoundly alter the composition, and perhaps the governing style, of the California Legislature. ...

Under the proposal, the responsibility for drawing the new boundaries for legislative districts — in both the Senate and the Assembly — would shift from the Legislature to a new 14-member commission comprising five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters who would draw new maps every 10 years, corresponding with the census cycle.

California’s legislative districts, which resemble little oil spills when viewed on a map, are heavily gerrymandered. Not one of the 120 seats changed party hands in the last two elections, held two and four years ago.

The initiative, which was largely written by Common Cause and the AARP, is supported by Mr. Schwarzenegger, various former state officials and the League of Women Voters. -- Plan on California Ballot for New Districting Panel -

August 20, 2008

Michigan: court may rule today on "Reform Michigan Government Now" initiative

A Detroit News report begins: A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals could decide as early as today whether a far-reaching constitutional amendment that impacts all three branches of government should be allowed to appear on the November ballot.

The judges heard testimony Tuesday on a challenge brought by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and others, asking the court to declare the Reform Michigan Government Now proposal ineligible for the ballot because of the sweeping changes its passage would usher in.

Court watchers expect the appellate panel -- Judges Bill Schuette, William Whitbeck and Patrick Meter -- to announce a decision before 10 a.m. Thursday, when the Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet to decide whether the plan should be placed before voters. -- Judges to rule on state reform

August 7, 2008

Florida: supporters of planning initiative sue to get on ballot

A News4Jax report begins: Supporters of a proposed Florida consitutional amendment requiring voters to approve changes in local growth management plans told a federal judge Wednesday that a host of discrepancies and problems improperly blocked the measure from the November ballot.

Among problems described in testimony before U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra were mistakes in double-counting invalid voter petitions, widely disparate standards used by the state's 67 election supervisors and suspiciously high rejection patterns in some counties. ...

Herrin said also between 7,000 and 10,000 signed voter petitions the group submitted were not accounted for at several county election supervisor offices. ...

Florida Hometown Democracy wants Marra to order the measure placed on this year's ballot and to strike down the Feb. 1 signature deadline, which was enshrined in the Florida Constitution in 2004 by the state's voters. The group contends the new deadline violates the U.S. Constitution in a number of ways, including free speech and voting rights guarantees. -- Judge Hears Florida Planning Amendment Challenge - Jacksonville News Story - WJXT Jacksonville

August 5, 2008

California: AG says Prop 8 will not void current same-sex marriages

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: If voters approve a November ballot measure banning same-sex marriages in California, thousands of gay and lesbian weddings conducted since the state Supreme Court legalized the unions on May 15 will probably remain valid, Attorney General Jerry Brown said Monday.

The potential effect of Proposition 8 on existing same-sex marriages is already being debated among legal scholars and opposing sides in the Nov. 4 ballot measure campaign. Brown's position is significant because his office will represent the state in lawsuits over Prop. 8's validity and meaning if it passes.

The measure would amend the state Constitution to declare that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." It would overturn the court's ruling that the previous ban on same-sex marriage - established by statutes rather than a constitutional amendment - discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and violated the right to marry one's chosen partner.

The measure does not state explicitly that it would nullify same-sex marriages performed before Nov. 4. But in their ballot arguments, supporters of Prop. 8 declare it would invalidate all such marriages "regardless of when or where performed" - an interpretation that would apply to existing as well as future marriages. -- Prop. 8 not retroactive, Jerry Brown says

Hat-tip to How Appealing for the link.

August 3, 2008

California: suit asks that parts of ballot statement be removed on anti-abortion initiative

The Los Angeles Times reports: Backers of a ballot measure that would require parents to be notified before an abortion is performed on a minor acknowledged Friday that the 15-year-old on which "Sarah s Law" is based had a child and was in a common-law marriage before she died of complications from an abortion in 1994.

Proponents of the measure recently submitted an argument for the state voter guide saying the death of "Sarah" might have been prevented but her parents were not told she had had an abortion and so did not know the reason for her failing health. The proposal Proposition 4 will appear on California s statewide ballot in November.

In court papers filed in her home state of Texas after her death, the man with whom she lived declared himself her common-law husband in an effort to secure custody of the child. Texas recognizes common-law marriage and does not view a married 15-year-old as a minor, according to an attorney for Planned Parenthood.

A lawsuit co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood Affiliates and filed Friday in Sacramento County Superior Court asks the secretary of state to remove the girl's story and other information it deemed misleading, including any reference to "Sarah's Law," from the material submitted for the official voter guide. -- 'Sarah's Law' would not have applied to 'Sarah,' acknowledge backers of the abortion-notification measure - Los Angeles Times

Hat-tip to How Appealing for the link.

July 30, 2008

California: AG Brown and ballot-initiative sponsors fight over name

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Attorney General Jerry Brown is trying to stack the deck against a November ballot measure barring same-sex marriage by declaring in his formal ballot description that it "eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry," sponsors of the initiative charged in a lawsuit Tuesday.

Backers of Proposition 8 argued that they are not trying to eliminate anyone's rights but are simply seeking to restore the definition of marriage that existed in California before May 15, when the state Supreme Court struck down the law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Brown, whose office prepares the title and summary of each measure on the state ballot, chose wording for both that is "inherently argumentative and highly likely to create prejudice" against Prop. 8, attorney Andrew Pugno said in the suit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court.

The suit asks a judge to order a different title, such as "Limit on Marriage," the wording in the initiative petitions that 1.2 million registered voters signed to place the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. Pugno said the judge could also delete Brown's heading and use the measure's brief text as its title: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." -- Prop. 8 backers sue to change ballot wording

July 17, 2008

California: Supreme Court leaves "Marriage Protection Act" on fall ballot

The Los Angeles Times reports: A voter initiative to reinstate a ban on same-sex marriage will remain on the November ballot, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously Wednesday.

The court issued a brief order rejecting arguments that the initiative, Proposition 8, was an illegal constitutional revision and that voters had been misled when they signed petitions to put it on the ballot. The decision, reached in closed session during the court's weekly conference, cleared the way for what some observers expect to be a close vote on the marriage measure. ...

If approved by voters, Proposition 8, called the "California Marriage Protection Act," would add a provision to the state Constitution that says, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." -- Bid to ban gay marriage will stay on ballot, California Supreme Court rules - Los Angeles Times

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: The lawsuit against Prop. 8 argued that the one-sentence initiative was actually a broad attack on basic rights recognized by the court - a measure that would simultaneously deprive one group of fundamental freedoms by majority vote and strip the courts of their ability to enforce constitutional guarantees.

Although its backers call it a constitutional amendment, Prop. 8 is actually a constitutional revision, the suit contended. A revision must be submitted to the voters by a two-thirds majority of the state Legislature.

The last time the court accepted such an argument was in 1990, when it overturned part of a voter-approved constitutional amendment on crime. In that case, the justices said a provision requiring state judges to follow federal interpretations of defendants' rights was a broad attack on judicial authority and a "fundamental change in our ... governmental plan."

Lawyers for the Prop. 8 backers argued that an amendment to restore the state's previous definition of marriage would leave courts with "full authority to continue protecting the rights of minorities." They said equally far-reaching changes in California law - for example, the restoration of the death penalty in 1972 and the overhaul of the tax system under Proposition 13 in 1978 - were accomplished by initiative. -- Challenge tossed, gay marriage ban on ballot

July 13, 2008

Arizona: supporters sue over initiative's description on ballot

Capitol Media Services reports: Backers of a plan to hike state sales taxes for the next 30 years filed suit Friday because they don t like the description to be given to voters about the ballot measure at least in part because it spells out the size of the proposed increase.

The lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court specifically objects to the Legislative Council describing the proposed levy "a 17.8 percent tax increase." That according to attorneys for the group pushing the initiative is "misleading."

But during the hearing of the council earlier this week Stan Barnes who lobbies for road-tax supporters conceded the number is in fact "deadly accurate." What he wanted however was to describe the increase only as one penny on every dollar spent. ...

The actual language of every ballot measure is sent to the home of each registered voter. But given the complexity of many of the proposals - this one alone is 15 pages - state law requires the Legislative Council, made up of lawmakers from both parties, to craft "an impartial analysis" of each one.

In this case, the majority of council members voted to say that approval of this initiative - dubbed "Transportation and Infrastructure Moving Arizona's Economy" - would increase the state sales tax from 5.6 cents on every dollar to 6.6 cents, a 17.8 percent increase beginning in 2010. -- Backers of tax hike want ballot wording changed | Arizona Politics |

June 24, 2008

Florida: AG criticizes redistricting initiative

Legal Newsline reports: Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has voiced concern over a proposed constitutional amendment that would change how lawmakers draw legislative boundaries.

In a letter to the state Supreme Court, the Republican attorney general said Friday that a proposed ballot summary fails to adequately explain the proposal would require that congressional districts be comprised of contiguous territory.

That, he said, would outlaw the multi-member districts that are currently allowed. ...

The ballot initiative is being pushed by, which is co-chaired by former Democratic Gov. Bob Graham and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

The group is essentially seeking to place on the 2010 ballot a constitutional ban against gerrymandering, where legislative boundaries are drawn to give political advantage to one party over another. -- LegalNewsline | McCollum criticizes redistricting proposal

June 21, 2008

California: groups challenge anti-same-sex marriage initiative

AP reports: Gay rights advocates asked California s highest court Friday to keep off the November ballot a citizens initiative that would again ban same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for Equality California filed a petition arguing that the proposed amendment to the California Constitution should be invalidated because its impact was not made clear to the millions of voters who signed petitions to qualify the measure before the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions. ...

Rather than effecting no change in existing California law, the proposed initiative would dramatically change existing law by taking that fundamental right away and inscribing discrimination based on a suspect classification into our state Constitution.

The petition also claims the so-called California Marriage Protection Act should be disqualified because it would revise, rather than amend, the state Constitution by altering its fundamental guarantee of equality for all - in essence writing a law the state high court has already found unconstitutional into the constitution. -- Gay rights advocates seek to stop marriage measure -

Hat-tip to TalkLeft for the link.

March 7, 2008

Independent redistricting initiative getting GOP dollars

Inside Bay Area reports: In a display of bipartisan unity, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Controller Steve Westly, a Democrat, went from table to table at a local restaurant this week, beseeching diners to sign a petition supporting a new redistricting initiative.

But where it counts — in campaign contributions — there is a more partisan tinge to the ballot drive than the image promoted by backers. Republicans, who would love to cut into the Democratic stranglehold on the Legislature, have been far more enthusiastic donors than Democrats.

Nearly all of the $542,500 raised so far by California Voters First has come from donors who typically give to Republican candidates and GOP causes, according to campaign finance reports.

"If they don't fix that, they're in trouble," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at Sacramento State University who has served on the Voices of Reform board advocating redistricting reform. "If Democrats don't start contributing, people will say, 'Who's this helping and whose ox is being gored?'" -- Push to redistrict remains partisan - Inside Bay Area

November 23, 2007

California: Rudy's backers are running the electoral vote petition drive

TPM Muckracker reports: Who is Paul Singer? He and Rudy Giuliani would prefer you not think too much about it.

Singer, who founded the multibillion dollar hedge fund Elliott Associates, has raised $200,000 for Giuliani. He flies Giuliani around in his jet.

And, as of September, his $175,000 contribution was the sole backing for the Republican scheme to split up California's electoral votes. Instead of all the electoral votes in the country's most populous state going to the state's winner (almost surely the Democrat), the ballot initiative would throw the loser (the Republican) his percentage, potentially swinging the election. ...

Singer tells the Times that made the contribution because he "believes in proportional voting in the Electoral College." As the Times notes, Singer was also a donor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. Presumably that was just because he believes in the truth. -- TPMmuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Giuliani's California Schemin' Money Man

October 24, 2007

California: Goo-goos propose another independent redistricting commission

The Los Angeles Times reports: The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, California Common Cause and AARP proposed an initiative Tuesday that would change the way the state's legislative districts are drawn, taking the politically sensitive matter away from lawmakers.

Leaders of the organizations, saying they are frustrated with the political gridlock on redistricting, filed the proposed measure with the state attorney general as the first step toward putting it on the November 2008 ballot; coalition organizers said they hoped to collect 1 million signatures if the Legislature does not agree to submit the measure to voters. ...

If approved by voters, the measure would create a 14-person redistricting commission made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four others. The commissioners would be chosen through a public application process created by the state auditor. The review panel will narrow the pool of contenders to 60. After that, the four top legislative leaders would cut the pool to 36. Eight commissioners would be selected by random drawing from the 36 candidates, and those eight would select the other six commission members. ...

"Incumbent residences may not be considered; districts may not be drawn to protect incumbents," according to the ballot measure. The final map would not go into effect unless approved by at least three Democrats, three Republicans and three other commissioners. -- Groups propose redistricting plan for state lawmakers - Los Angeles Times

Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link to this story. Rick thinks this has a chance of being adopted. But I wonder if there will be a real change in the arrangement and balance of the districts if there has to be a tri-partisan agreement on the plan.

September 28, 2007

California: GOP gives up on initiative to change electoral vote

The Los Angeles Times reports: Plagued by a lack of money, supporters of a statewide initiative drive to change the way California's 55 electoral votes are apportioned, first revealed here by Top of the Ticket in July, are pulling the plug on that effort.

In an exclusive report to appear on this website late tonight and in Friday's print editions, The Times' Dan Morain reports that the proposal to change the winner-take-all electoral vote allocation to one by congressional district is virtually dead with the resignation of key supporters, internal disputes and a lack of funds.

The reality is hundreds of thousands of signatures must be gathered by the end of November to get the measure on the June 2008 ballot. -- Los Angeles Times: Top of the Ticket: Politics, coast to coast, with the L.A. Times

August 18, 2007

California; GOP trying to grab a chunk of Golden State's electoral votes

Hendrick Hertzberg writes in the New Yorker: Two weeks ago, one of the most important Republican lawyers in Sacramento quietly filed a ballot initiative that would end the practice of granting all fifty-five of California’s electoral votes to the statewide winner. Instead, it would award two of them to the statewide winner and the rest, one by one, to the winner in each congressional district. Nineteen of the fifty-three districts are represented by Republicans, but Bush carried twenty-two districts in 2004. The bottom line is that the initiative, if passed, would spot the Republican ticket something in the neighborhood of twenty electoral votes—votes that it wouldn’t get under the rules prevailing in every other sizable state in the Union. ...

Nominally, the sponsor of No. 07-0032 is Californians for Equal Representation. But that’s just a letterhead—there’s no such organization. Its address is the office suite of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, the law firm for the California Republican Party, and its covering letter is signed by Thomas W. Hiltachk, the firm’s managing partner and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s personal lawyer for election matters. ...

“Equal Representation” sounds good, too. And the winner-take-all rule, which is in force in all but two states, does seem unfair on the face of it. (The two are Maine and Nebraska, which use congressional-district allocation. But they are so small—only five districts between them—and so homogeneous that neither has ever split its electoral votes.) It would be obviously unjust for a state to give all its legislative seats to the party that gets the most votes statewide. So why should Party A get a hundred per cent of that state’s electoral votes if forty per cent of its voters support Party B? No wonder Democrats and Republicans alike initially react to this proposal in a strongly positive way. To most people, the electoral-college status quo feels intuitively wrong. So does war. But that doesn’t make unilateral disarmament a no-brainer. -- Votescam

June 23, 2007

Scotland: SNP will start petition campaign for independence referendum

The Scotsman reports: SNP activists want to by-pass parliament on the issue of independence by starting a massive petition to force MSPs to agree to a referendum, it emerged last night.

The SNP National Council is expected to approve a plan today which would give the go-ahead for a nationwide campaign.

Activists believe the parliament would be left with no choice but to accept the referendum plan if the petition was signed by 100,000 people or more.

The SNP government is committed to introducing a bill paving the way for a referendum but it does not have the support of enough MSPs from other parties to secure its passage through parliament. -- The Scotsman - Politics - SNP to seek 100,000 signatures in push for independence referendum

June 13, 2007

Arizona: Petition circulators accused of misleading signers

Capitol Media Services reports: Some people circulating petitions to change the redistricting process are misleading people into believing they are signing papers to lower gasoline prices, Secretary of State Jan Brewer said Monday.

"We have received maybe four or five people calling, claiming they were misled by the petition circulators," Brewer said, noting even one of her sons told her he was tricked into signing one of the petitions.

Brewer said she advised Ken Clark of the incidents and wants him, as organizer of the campaign, to put a stop to it.

Clark said Monday nothing illegal is being done.

He said two employees of a petition-circulating company used the ruse of asking people if they were interested in halting skyrocketing gasoline prices to get them to stop and talk. But Clark said after the would-be signers stopped, the circulators explained they had petitions to alter constitutional requirements about how congressional and legislative districts are drawn. -- Petitioners accused of misleading signers

May 30, 2007

Alaska: clean election initiative meets first goal

The Anchorage Daily News reports: Advocates of keeping special interests out of politics are asking the state to consider a citizens' ballot initiative to launch what are known as "clean election" campaigns.

The concept involves doing away with most private donations for state election campaigns and replacing them with money from a special state fund.

Sponsors of the initiative said Friday they had collected enough initial signatures to qualify for a review of their application by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell.

If approved, the initiative backers would then need to collect 23,800 more signatures statewide to put the idea on the 2008 ballot.

If voters approve it, the initiative would create a system in which candidates could forgo private campaign contributions for public funding. Money for the clean elections fund would be provided by a three-cent tax per barrel of oil produced in Alaska, according to the initiative's proposal. -- Proposed initiative targets 'clean election' campaigns

March 28, 2007

Ohio: "Liberal group challenges backers of 2004 gay marriage amendment"

AP Wire | 03/28/2007 | Liberal group challenges backers of 2004 gay marriage amendment

A liberal advocacy group asked the state's elections chief Wednesday to investigate whether backers of a 2004 gay marriage ban properly reported all the money they received and spent during the campaign.

Citizens for Community Values, the Cincinnati-based group behind the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, immediately dismissed the claims by as unfounded.

The constitutional amendment the group backed, which passed overwhelmingly, was credited with turning out Christian conservative voters who tipped the state's presidential results to President Bush.

In a letter to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, ProgressOhio executive director Brian Rothenberg said the numbers didn't add up in a review the group conducted of campaign finance reports for various entities linked to the 2004 marriage campaign.

March 22, 2007

Arizona: petition drive starts to amend Independent Redistricting Commission law

Capitol Media Services reports: Some former state lawmakers and their allies want voters to revamp a 7-year-old law on how congressional and legislative districts are drawn in hopes of creating some more competition at the general election ballot box.

But the head of the Arizona Republican Party said it's simply an effort by a well-heeled Democrat to get more members of that party elected.

An initiative drive formally launched Wednesday would revamp the Independent Redistricting Commission which actually draws the lines every decade, adding four new members. That change will ensure there are people from more parts of the state.

But the real change would be to require that the commission pay more attention to creating "competitive" districts -- those where the Democratic and Republican candidates have relatively equal chances of getting elected. -- More 'competitive' districts wanted in revamp of law | ®

January 19, 2007

California: Monterey activists circulated petitions in English, not Spanish

The Monterey County Herald reports: Slow-growth advocates on Thursday trumpeted the first victory in their effort to head off enactment of the Monterey County general plan update.

In 10 days, the backers of a referendum challenging the county's new general plan have gathered more than 9,000 signatures, enough to qualify under election law. They said they plan to gather at least 15,000 signatures before submitting them to the county elections department Feb. 1. ...

Despite a lawsuit by Latino voting rights advocates challenging the circulation of earlier English-only petitions, the latest petition was not translated into Spanish. Fitz said he is convinced the latest petition is on solid legal ground, citing a recent court decision that he said protected privately circulated petitions from a translation requirement.

He added that petitioners were prepared to assemble a Spanish-language petition, but county officials said they couldn't translate the hulking general plan update documents into Spanish until the end of March. Mitchell added that some of the signature gatherers are Spanish speakers and were able to explain the issue to non-English speakers. -- Monterey County Herald | 01/19/2007 | Petition drive going strong

January 4, 2007

Massachusetts: legislature gives first approval to anti-gay marriage amendment

Reuters reports: Massachusetts lawmakers approved a measure on Tuesday that could give voters a chance next year to ban gay marriage in the only U.S. state where it is legal and overturn a historic ruling by the state's highest court. ...

With hundreds of protesters on both sides of the emotionally charged issue chanting slogans outside the gold-domed Statehouse, 61 lawmakers voted to advance the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage -- more than enough needed under state law for such initiatives. ...

If it clears another legislative test expected by early next year, Massachusetts residents will vote on it in 2008. ...

Although a majority in the Democratic-controlled state legislature voted against it, the measure needed only 50 votes to pass. It also was backed by 170,000 Massachusetts voters who signed a petition along with social conservatives including Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, a probable White House contender. -- Massachusetts lawmakers approve gay marriage vote | Politics News |

November 9, 2006

California: federal court blocks enforcement of sex-offender initiative

The Los Angeles Times reports: Hours after California voters approved a ballot measure authorizing a crackdown on sex offenders, a federal judge Wednesday blocked enforcement of a controversial provision limiting where ex-offenders may live.

The order by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco means that implementation of a key portion of Proposition 83, which captured 70% of the vote, will be on hold until its constitutionality is resolved by the courts. A hearing is scheduled later this month.

The initiative prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. In a lawsuit Wednesday, attorneys said that constitutes a new penalty imposed on ex-convicts years after they have been punished for their crime. The measure also is unconstitutional on due process grounds, the lawyers argue, because it would force offenders from their homes without notice. ...

In granting the temporary restraining order, the judge said "John Doe" has been "a law-abiding and productive member of his community" since his conviction and would suffer "irreparable harm" if forced to comply with Proposition 83. His lawyers, Illston said, probably will prevail in challenging the initiative as unconstitutional. -- U.S. judge blocks portion of new sex offender measure - Los Angeles Times

November 8, 2006

Colorado and South Dakota: anti-judiciary initiatives defeated

The ABA Journal reports: In the nation’s marquee battle over judicial independence, South Dakota voters rejected the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law, aka “JAIL 4 Judges”—which would have created a constitutional amendment abolishing judicial immunity—by a resounding 90-10 margin.

Jesse Rutledge, who monitors judicial elections and judicial independence issues for the Washington, D.C.-based Justice At Stake Campaign, characterized the vote as “a devastating defeat.” ...

In Colorado, voters responded to a full-court press by the bar, business groups and current and former governors against Amendment 40, which would have imposed term limits on appellate court judges. About 57 percent of voters opposed the amendment. -- ABA Journal

November 6, 2006

South Dakota: the man behind Amendment E

CNN reports: Ron Branson's crusade is launched daily from his garage in a nondescript house in California's San Fernando Valley.

Branson, his wife, Barbie, and attorney Gary Zerman, have waged a years-long, low-budget fight against judges and -- Branson says -- "a judicial system that just doesn't work."

Branson's weapons are his computer, where he publicizes his crusade through his Web site, and the ballot box. His idea for a "judicial accountability" initiative will be voted on Tuesday in South Dakota.

Known as Amendment E, the measure would create a special grand jury to indict state judges if there are allegations they have violated their duties. It also would strip them of their immunity from civil lawsuits. Civil and criminal sanctions could follow.

It is believed to be the first proposal of its kind in the United States and is among several judicial initiatives on ballots around the country next week. -- State ballot measures challenge judges' power -

October 29, 2006

Ohio: Dems using minimum wage initiative to mobilize their voters

The Washington Post reports: On a recent Saturday afternoon, a team of canvassers armed with handheld digital devices spread out across the city. Their aim was to urge residents to support a ballot initiative requiring an increase in Ohio's minimum wage.

But one beneficiary could be someone hoping for a new job that pays a good bit better than minimum wage: Rep. Sherrod Brown (D), who is running to unseat Sen. Mike DeWine (R), the two-term incumbent, on Nov. 7. ...

n 2004, Republicans in Ohio and elsewhere tended to benefit from ballot initiatives. Measures to ban same-sex marriage, for example, passed easily. In the process, some election analysts said, the measures revved the conservative base to help Republican candidates from President Bush on down.

In 2006, Democrats are hoping to prove that ballot politics can work in the other direction. Measures to increase the minimum wage are before voters in six states. Four of those, Arizona, Ohio, Missouri and Montana, feature close Senate races with a GOP incumbent. In Missouri, moreover, a measure backing stem cell research is ahead in the polls -- which Democrats say could lift their candidate. -- This Time, Ballot Issues Could Rally Liberal Base -

October 27, 2006

Arizona: Pro-Prop 207 group asks for documents to show cities are opposing Prop 207

The Arizona Republic reports: The executive director of the pro-Proposition 207 campaign has hit 316 Arizona government agencies with massive requests for public records, digging for e-mails from public employees and elected officials opposing the Nov. 7 ballot measure.

Lori Klein insists that public officials are campaigning against her property-rights initiative, and she wants to prove they are doing it on public time.

But the request is so broad, and potentially affects so many documents, that Peoria City Attorney Steve Kemp estimated it could take as much as eight years to sift through all the information. ...

Proposition 207 would forbid municipalities from taking private property through eminent domain for another private development.

The more substantial provision in Proposition 207 would require local governments to compensate property owners if a government action, such as a zoning change or enactment of an environmental or other land-use law, makes the property's value drop. -- Group says towns are undermining Proposition 207

October 20, 2006

Oregon: supreme court upholds 2000 initiative on police seizures of property

The Salem Statesman Journal reports: A divided Oregon Supreme Court decided Thursday to uphold restrictions that voters approved on police seizures of property and cash connected with illegal activity.

Voters barred police agencies from using civil lawsuits to seize and sell property unless it was tied to a criminal conviction of the property owner. The measure also directed proceeds from such sales to drug treatment rather than police operations. ...

A legal challenge was filed in 2001 by the Lincoln Interagency Narcotics Team. Marion County Judge Pamela Abernethy upheld the measure in 2001, but a divided Oregon Court of Appeals overturned it in 2003. The high court, by a 4-3 vote, upheld Abernethy. ...

A court decided that the 2000 measure did not violate the constitutional ban on multiple amendments contained in a single measure unless the changes are "closely related." The court struck down four other voter-approved measures in the past eight years, based on the ban. -- State Government -

September 18, 2006

California: Prop. 89 looks to Arizona for "clean elections" idea

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Six years into its brave new world of publicly financed campaigns, Arizona's "clean money" elections system already is creaking with signs of age.

Backers of California's Proposition 89, which would provide $200 million a year for public financing of California candidates, point to the success of the Arizona system as an example of what could happen in California. But many of the political pros who work every day with the system have curbed their enthusiasm.

"On the whole, it has opened up the political process to a new pool of candidates,'' said Michael Frias, campaign director for the Arizona Democratic Party. "But we need to look and see where it can be improved.''

Some Republican leaders have harsher feelings about Arizona's public financing system.

"There are a lot of good things California and other states could pull from Arizona, but this isn't one of them,'' said Glenn Hamer, executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. -- The 'clean' campaign finance idea grows / Arizona experience mixed as California considers Prop. 89

September 16, 2006

Florida: Sarasota county to decide on electronic voting machines

The Ledger reports: Voters in this Southwest Florida county [Sarasota] will be able to decide in November whether to continue using computerized voting booths or go back to paper ballots, a circuit judge ruled.

County attorneys argued a proposed ballot initiative asking voters to choose between the county's current electronic voting and the old paper system was unconstitutional. But Circuit Judge Robert B. Bennett Jr. ruled Wednesday that the initiative was legal. -- Voters Will Choose Voting Technology |

September 13, 2006

Michigan: 6th Circuit refuses stay on anti-affirmative action initiative

AP reports: A federal appeals court declined Monday to block an anti-affirmative action proposal from appearing on the Michigan ballot, saying the plaintiffs failed to show they are likely to win their case against the measure's backers.

Opponents of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative had asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an injunction to keep the measure off the Nov. 7 ballot while it appeals a decision by U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow, who dismissed their claims under the Voting Rights Act and ruled that the proposal could go forward. ...

By Any Means Necessary, a pro-affirmative action group, appealed Tarnow's ruling to the Ohio-based 6th Circuit and asked for an injunction.

In Monday's order from the 6th Circuit, judges Alan E. Norris, R. Guy Cole Jr. and Deborah L. Cook said the plaintiffs "failed to demonstrate sufficient likelihood of success on the merits of their claims" for an injunction to be granted. -- South Bend Tribune

September 5, 2006

Michigan: BAMN will appeal loss on anti-affirmative action initiative

AP reports: A group opposing a November ballot initiative that would end some affirmative action programs in Michigan has begun the process of filing its latest legal appeal.

By Any Means Necessary, a pro-affirmative action group, said it notified the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday that it will contest a ruling made by U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow earlier this week. Legal briefs outlining the appeal likely will be filed next week.

The appeal aimed at keeping the proposal off the ballot was expected.

The ballot proposal, backed by the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, would ban the use of race and gender preferences in public university admissions and government hiring. -- South Bend Tribune

August 30, 2006

Michigan: judge says lying does not violate law and leave anti-affirmative action measure on ballot

The Detroit News reports: A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to have a referendum on affirmative action removed from the November ballot, despite finding that backers of the ballot proposal used widespread and systematic fraud in collecting petition signatures.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow ruled the fraud did not violate the racial discrimination sections of the U.S. Voting Rights Act because it was directed at both blacks and whites.

"The court must conclude that the defendants' action, though unprincipled, did not violate the act," Tarnow said in his ruling. ...

"The court finds that MCRI and its circulators engage in a pattern of voter fraud by deceiving voters into believing that the petition supported affirmative action," Tarnow said in his ruling. -- Race issue remains on ballot - 08/30/06 - The Detroit News Online

August 21, 2006

Arizona: judge allows Prop. 207 on the ballot even though part of it is unconstitutional

Capitol Media Services reports: A judge refused Friday to block Arizonans from voting on a measure designed to restrict the ability of government to take private property.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Paul McMurdie conceded that a portion of Proposition 207 may be constitutionally flawed. That's because it does not provide funds for the state to use if any new land-use regulations diminish the value of someone's property.

McMurdie said the rest of the measure appears, at least on its face, to be legal. He said voters should not be precluded from approving those provisions because one part of the initiative could be legally defective.

In fact, McMurdie said, if that section is unconstitutional there already is a legal remedy: It simply becomes unenforceable, leaving the rest of the measure intact -- if voters approve it in November.

Friday's ruling is a defeat for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, which had sought to prevent a vote. Lisa Hauser, the league's attorney, said the decision will be appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court. -- Prop 207 OK'd for ballot | ®

August 19, 2006

APSA paper: "I Don't "No": Empirical Evidence of the Confused Voter in Initiative Elections"

Binder, Mike. "I Don't "No": Empirical Evidence of the Confused Voter in Initiative Elections"

Abstract: Confused voters vote ‘no’ on initiatives. While this is apparently common knowledge, as evidenced by its regular assertions in the literature (Hyink 1969, Magleby 1984, Bowler and Donovan 1998, Higley and McAllister 2002, Goldsmith 2004) and routine anecdotal quotes by campaign consultants (Magleby and Patterson 1998), there is scant empirical evidence of this claim and relatively flimsy theoretical explanations for this supposed phenomena (Lowenstein 1982). Though a number theories suggest how and why voters become confused, the resulting ‘no’ votes that are assumed to occur have not been empirically verified.

This paper begins to assess these claims. These initial findings suggest that the current conventional wisdom may not be wholly correct. First, if confusion is conceptualized broadly, the conventional wisdom about confused voters being more likely to vote ‘no’ on initiatives appears to be incorrect. In comparison to other levels of information and policy preferences, broadly conceived confused voters seem to respond to the choices presented to them similar to everybody else. However, certain forms of confusion, under certain circumstances can have a meaningful impact on individual decision making. Therefore, the second, and perhaps more important finding of this analysis is that confusion needs to be looked at in all of its forms. Confusion is not simply one state of mind that results in consistent outcomes. The next section discusses current theories of confusion and voting. The second section describes how these concepts are measured, followed by a description of the research design and data collection techniques. The final sections discuss the results and suggest potential avenues for future research. --
Download file

Michigan: federal judge hears challenge to anti-affirmative action initiative

The Detroit News: A federal judge on Friday promised a speedy decision on whether to remove from Michigan's November ballot an initiative to ban affirmative action.

Lawyers in a lawsuit over the ballot measure, called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, made their final arguments Friday and await a ruling from U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow.

By Any Means Necessary, a group opposing the initiative, says the question should be removed from the ballot because proponents fraudulently obtained petition signatures by telling African-Americans and others the measure was designed to protect affirmative action.

Organizers of the ballot proposal deny they engaged in fraud when they circulated a petition that is required to get a question put on the ballot. Removing the referendum issue would deny Michigan citizens the right to vote on the issue, their lawyers told Tarnow. -- Judge vows quick decision on ballot issue - 08/19/06 - The Detroit News Online

August 17, 2006

"Mass Support for Redistricting Reform"

Dan Smith emailed this paper to me. Here is a bit of it:

Mass Support for Redistricting Reform: Partisanship and Representational Winners and Losers by
Caroline J. Tolbert, University of Iowa; Daniel A. Smith, University of Florida; John C. Green, University of Akron

This paper examines popular support for altering electoral institutions in two bellwether American states—California and Ohio. On Tuesday, November 8, 2005, a majority of voters in each state decisively struck down statewide ballot initiatives that would have created nonpartisan redistricting commissions. ...

Riker (1962, 1986) argued that political elites act strategically, manipulating institutions for their electoral benefit. Building on the literature, we find compelling evidence that the mass public may also act strategically when making decisions about institutional change, as electoral losers are significantly more likely to support or vote for modifying electoral institutions. We find support for redistricting reform is contingent on loser status at the statewide legislative level and district level. While the findings are mixed regarding district level representation (stronger findings from Ohio), in general, we present evidence that “losers” statewide and at the district level are more likely to support efforts to create more competitive elections through redistricting reform. While it may be in the self-interest of statewide legislative losers (Democrats in Ohio and Republicans in California) to support changing the way redistricting is determined, some of these individuals (in particular, African Americans) may benefit at the district level from the current method of gerrymandering, which dampens their support for broader institutional change. Beyond defining losers by candidate preferences in the last election or perceptions of being an electoral loser, we find evidence that individuals who are electoral losers (represented by elected officials of a different political party at the statewide and district levels) are significantly more supportive of institutional change. We also find evidence that race and loser status may interact, shaping voting behavior. The analysis adds weight to a growing body of literature suggesting that strategic voting matters, especially in terms of “reforming the republic” (Donovan and Bowler 2004). As such, the research may have implications for future attempts to reform American electoral institutions in other states.

August 10, 2006

Arizona: anti-gay marriage initiative can stay on ballot, judge rules

AP reports: A judge on Thursday rejected a legal challenge to an initiative on marriage and ruled that the proposed state constitutional measure can go on Arizona's Nov. 7 general election ballot.

Judge Douglas Rayes of Maricopa County Superior Court rejected opponents' argument that the "Protect Marriage Arizona" initiative, which would appear on the ballot as Proposition 107, violated a constitutional requirement that each constitutional amendment be a separate ballot measure.

The opposition Arizona Together campaign said it will appeal Rayes' ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The measure would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman and prohibit state and local governments from providing marriage-like legal status to other relationships. -- Judge rules marriage measure can go on Ariz. ballot | ®

August 9, 2006

Florida: Jacksonville sues to prevent vote on ballot question

The Business Journal of Jacksonville reports: The city of Jacksonville filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the ballot question on a proposed charter amendment to bring Navy jets to Cecil Commerce Center.

The ballot question would ask voters whether the charter should require city officials to fulfill requirements set by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission for moving the jet base at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., to Cecil. Last week the petition to put the amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot was validated by the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office as having sufficient signatures.

City General Counsel Rick Mullaney, who had been promising for weeks to take legal action should the petition garner enough signatures to get on the ballot, said the proposed charter amendment is flawed and misleading to the point of being illegal.

He said the question, by asking whether the city charter should require the city to give the title to Cecil to the Navy, falsely implies that all of Cecil is the city's to give. -- City challenges Cecil ballot question - The Business Journal of Jacksonville:

August 6, 2006

Arizona: ruling expected this week on same-sex marriage initiative

The Arizona Republic reports: A Maricopa County Superior Court judge is expected to decide next week whether a same-sex initiative can stay on the ballot.

The Arizona Together organization filed the lawsuit, saying the initiative is unconstitutional because it violates the state's "single subject" rule by asking voters to decide on two distinct issues on the ballot. ...

The initiative would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman and would prevent any legal status similar to marriage, including civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Lawyers for the Protect Marriage Arizona initiative argued Friday that the amendment addresses a single subject and both provisions "act together." ...

Arizona Together attorneys argued that in addition to prohibiting same-sex marriages, the initiative would ban civil unions and domestic partnerships throughout the state, repealing health and other benefits established in Tucson, Pima County and Phoenix and Tempe, among other places. -- Same-sex ballot ruling due soon

July 31, 2006

"Bench-Crawling Brawl"

Bert Brandenburg writes in Slate: A lot of state judges will be staying up election night this November, and not just because many of them will be on the ballot. One of the most overlooked political stories of 2006 is a cluster of state ballot initiatives designed to hobble courts. Their backers seek the aura of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But the measures look more like On the Waterfront: They point toward a political intimidation racket benefiting special interests that want courts to deliver results, not justice.

In Colorado, there's a push for retroactive term limits for appellate judges. The measure would write pink slips for 12 judges in the near future and clear off most of the Supreme Court in just a couple of years. In Montana, where every judge already runs for office, Constitutional Initiative 98 would create a new layer of recall elections to oust judges over specific decisions. An Oregon measure seeks to throw out justices from Portland by creating geographical districts for the Supreme Court. And in South Dakota, a "J.A.I.L. 4 Judges" initiative would amend the state constitution to create a fourth branch of government: a special grand jury to sue judges and others for their decisions. -- Judges need to join the fight to save the courts. By Bert Brandenburg

July 25, 2006

Missouri: court upholds rejection of initiative petitions

AP reports: A group backing ballot measures to restrict government spending and eminent domain suffered a double loss Monday as a judge ruled the initiative petitions were illegally disorganized.

The rulings by Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan upheld Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's decision to reject the petitions, which were targeted for the Nov. 7 ballot.

Besides citing the organizational problems, Callahan also upheld Carnahan's rejection of the eminent domain petition because its signatures were gathered on pages bearing a previously invalidated financial summary.

Both amendments were sponsored by a group called Missourians in Charge, which turned in hundreds of thousands of petition signatures in May just minutes before the deadline. The group plans to appeal both of Callahan's decisions, said leader Patrick Tuohey of Kansas City. -- | Local News

July 13, 2006

Arizona: group sues to block anti-gay-marriage initiative

The Arizona Republic reports: Opponents of a same-sex marriage ban initiative filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court on Wednesday, saying the initiative is unconstitutional.

Representatives of Arizona Together argue that the initiative asks voters to decide on two separate issues that should be decided with separate votes: same-sex marriages and civil unions.

"Voters have the right to assess one issue at a time and may support one issue without supporting the other," said Lisa Hauser, co-counsel for Arizona Together.

Protect Marriage Arizona, the group proposing the same-sex marriage ban, said they believe the amendment addresses a single subject and therefore is constitutional. -- Opponents of marriage initiative sue

July 8, 2006

Arizona: petition for anti-gay marriage intiative challenged

The East Valley Tribune reports: Supporters of a measure outlawing same-sex marriage ran into a fight almost immediately after they turned in a petition Thursday to put the issue on November’s ballot.

Officials at the Arizona Together Coalition, who oppose the measure, promised a legal battle to block it. They said it won’t get to voters this fall because it violates state laws limiting constitutional amendments to a single issue.

Protect Arizona Marriages initiative would change the state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. It also would restrict local governments from offering employees domestic partnership benefits normally reserved for married couples.

Lisa Hauser, an attorney hired to fight the measure, said it violates rules designed to ensure that voters who want one provision are not forced to accept another. -- Gay-union ban up for a fight |

June 12, 2006

Colorado: proposed initiative cannot appear on ballot

AP reports: The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that a proposal to deny most state services to illegal immigrants cannot appear on the November ballot.

The proposed constitutional amendment, promoted by Defend Colorado Now, violates a state constitutional requirement that initiatives deal with only one subject, the court said in a 5-2 opinion. -- Colorado Supreme Court rules measure to deny services to illegals cannot be on ballot

The opinion is here.

June 2, 2006

Montana: deception charged on ballot petitions

The Helena Independent Record reports: A number of voters in Helena say signature gatherers trying to get a measure on the November ballot have tried to dupe them into signing two other ballot petitions.

Political Practices Commissioner Gordon Higgins said his office has spoken to several voters who complained about the signature-gatherers' methods, and the secretary of state's office also has received complaints.

But Trevis Butcher, campaign coordinator for a group pushing all three measures, said he thinks the complaints are unfounded. He said he contacted the signature-gathering coordinator in Helena and was assured that no deceptive practices are being used. ...

Helena resident Libbi Lovshin told Lee Newspapers that when she agreed to sign a property rights ballot measure petition Thursday outside a grocery store, the signature-gatherer said the measure required three separate signings.

But when Lovshin looked closely at the other documents she was told to sign, she saw they were separate petitions for two ballot measures she did not support: One to cap state spending and another to make it easier to recall judges. -- IR // News // Signature gatherers accused of deception

May 23, 2006

Colorado: initiative to term-limit judges is on the ballot

AP reports: A proposed constitutional amendment to impose 12-year term limits on judges of Colorado's two highest courts cleared a key hurdle Monday as the state Supreme Court said the ballot language is not misleading, as critics have said.

The ruling means voters will decide on the measure in November if backers gather the nearly 68,000 valid signatures of registered voters required. ...

The proposal would replace the current system of retention for justices and appeals court judges. Under existing law, they serve a provisional two-year term after they are appointed by the governor. After that, appeals court judges can stand for retention every eight years, and Supreme Court justices can stand for retention every 10 years. Retention questions are presented to voters on the general election ballot.

Opponents argued the proposal's language was misleading because it failed to fully explain certain provisions, including that term limits would be applied to current justices and appeals court judges, converting their terms to four years; and that it implied the initiative imposes new terms of office, not that it changes existing terms. -- - Court Upholds Language In Term-Limits Initiative

Michigan: Civil Rights Commission holds hearings on fraud in initiative petitions

The Detroit News reports: The Michigan Civil Rights Commission will hold its fourth and final hearing in Grand Rapids tonight on claims that people were duped into signing petitions demanding a statewide vote on affirmative action.

The controversial measure, which will be on the November ballot, would ban the use of race as a factor in determining university admissions and government hiring. It's a white-hot political issue in an already contentious election year.

The commission is investigating whether petition signers were misled about the nature of the ballot question by petition circulators. The commission is also hearing from petition circulators, some of whom claim they misled petition signers because they were not told the measure would ban affirmative action programs in Michigan, said Harold Core, spokesman for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

Turnout at the three other hearings -- held in Detroit, Lansing and Flint -- was so large that there wasn't time for every person to address the commission, he said. Another couple hundred people submitted written reports, he said. -- Group hears stories of fraud in affirmative action ballot bid - 05/22/06 - The Detroit News

April 18, 2006

Alabama: some passed, and some did not

The Birmingham News reports on the just-ended Legislative session: Here's a look at some of the higher-profile bills the Legislature passed or killed this spring. ...

Passed, awaiting governor's signature:

Presidential primary: Move Alabama's presidential primary from June to February starting in 2008. ...

Killed : ...

Term limits: Would have banned legislators from serving more than 12 years in the Senate and 12 years in the House of Representatives.

PAC transfers: Would have banned political action committees from transferring money among themselves, which can hide a candidate's sources of money.

Constitution: Would have let state voters decide whether to call a convention of elected delegates who could have proposed a new state constitution. ...

Citizen initiatives: Would have let citizens propose amendments to the state constitution and propose regular laws, which voters could have approved or rejected without the Legislature's approval. -- Bills passed or killed

April 9, 2006

Arizona: initiative proposes a lottery for those who vote

Lottery Post reports: Cast a vote, win a million.

If an Arizona man has his way, every person who votes in his state will automatically have his or her name entered in a in draw to win $1 million. Mark Osterloh, an Arizona physician and attorney, is proposing a state law that would act as an incentive to increase voter turnout.

The long-time advocate of electoral policy reform says the idea is a variation on a highly successful law in Australia, under which citizens who fail to vote are fined.

Such a penalty would be unconstitutional in the United States, since freedom of speech includes the freedom not to speak. But Osterloh believes his incentive-based system could be just as effective. -- Lottery Post: Arizona man proposes lottery to increase voter turnout

March 23, 2006

Florida: state supreme court okays marriage initiative, strikes redistricting initiative

AP reports: A proposed state constitutional amendment that would have stripped lawmakers of their power to redraw legislative and congressional districts was knocked off the ballot Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court.

In a separate ruling, the high court unanimously approved putting on the 2008 ballot another citizen initiative that would put a ban on same-sex marriages in the Florida Constitution. Sponsors had hoped to send it to voters this year but failed to get enough petition signatures.

The justices ruled in a 6-1 opinion that the redistricting proposal failed to meet requirements to address only a single subject and have clear and unambiguous language.

The citizen initiative would have set up a 15-member commission to handle redistricting every 10 years. Sponsors had collected the 611,009 signatures needed to put the amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot. -- AP Wire | 03/23/2006 | High court kills redistricting amendment, OKs gay marriage one

The advisory opinions may be seen here: marriage amendment; independent redistricting commission.

March 16, 2006

South Dakota: Wisconsin group files to begin initiative on abortion law

The Argus Leader reports: An out-of-state group that opposes South Dakota's ban of most abortions filed paperwork Tuesday to begin collecting signatures for a referendum vote.

If 16,728 signatures are collected by mid-June, South Dakotans would vote Nov. 7 to approve or reject the state abortion law.

The paperwork filed Tuesday lists the sponsor of the petition drive as Noah Beck Hahn-Walter of Basic-Abortion-Rights Network of Waukesha, Wis. ...

Secretary of State Chris Nelson said there's nothing in South Dakota law that prevents an out-of-state group from beginning the petition drive. -- Argus Leader - News

February 23, 2006

Massachusetts: group pushes for public funding of legislative elections

The Tewksbury Advocate reports: Mass Voters for Fair Elections, a new grassroots organization, is announcing a push for public campaign financing for legislative elections in Massachusetts. The proposed law would allow candidates for the House and Senate to earn $3 of public matching funds for every dollar they raise privately so long as they agree to reasonable contribution and spending limits.

Currently, statewide candidates who opt in can receive $1 of public money for every dollar they raise. ...

Mass Voters has a twin-track approaching to passing the public campaign financing law: Both pushing for legislation and gearing up to place a question on the 2008 ballot. -- - Arts & Lifestyle: Voting rights group push for new law

February 10, 2006

Florida: several legislators ask Supreme Court to block proposed initiative on redistricting

AP reports: A proposed constitutional amendment that would strip state lawmakers of their power to redraw legislative and congressional districts should be kept off the ballot, lawyers for several state and federal lawmakers told the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday.

The citizen initiative would set up a 15-member commission to handle redistricting every 10 years. Sponsors have collected the 611,000 signatures needed to put the amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot if the high court approves.

The lawyers who argued against the amendment, state Rep. Dudley Goodlette and former Rep. Barry Richard, said it would violate a ballot requirement because legislative and congressional redistricting are separate matters. Ballot questions can have only one subject. -- Lawmakers Seek to Keep Redistricting Off Ballot |

February 8, 2006

Florida: Jeb disses petition-gathering groups

The Tallahassee Democrat reports: Before a crowd of business leaders Monday, Gov. Jeb Bush teed off on petition-gathering groups that have managed to get constitutional amendments before Florida voters.

The powerful Florida Chamber of Commerce plans to push lawmakers this year to make it harder for past ballot questions to pass.

Bush said he would also press for tougher restrictions on those groups in the legislative session that starts March 7.

''Democracy is imperiled a little bit when big donors that can't get their way through the traditional way of creating policy through the Florida Legislature, (and) secret donors who do not disclose who they are, come into our state from out of state to advance in many cases a left-wing political agenda,'' Bush told the crowd, ''to put things on the ballot that sound good but create long-term challenges for us.'' -- Tallahassee Democrat - - Tallahassee, FL.

California: Eureka to vote on banning outsider contributions

The Eureka Times-Standard reports: An initiative to ban contributions from out-of-town corporations to local elections has been placed on the June ballot.

The measure, with more signatures than any other ballot measure in county history, has already stirred much debate. Some believe it to be unconstitutional, while others think it's necessary to restore the public's faith in the democratic process.

Sara Senger, a McKinleyville attorney and former supervisorial candidate, said that while she strongly believes in campaign finance reform, this is the wrong way to go about it.

”This is illegal on its face,” she said. “It is discriminatory.”

The proper solution would be to limit contributions, she said.

The law may also have unintended consequences, she said, like excluding participation from groups like Sierra Club while allowing the continued participation of rich locals who may not agree with the organizers' political beliefs. -- Corporate initiative set for June ballot

January 25, 2006

Arizona: legislator proposes repeal of clean election program

AP reports: A state lawmaker has proposed a ballot measure that would repeal funding for Arizona's public financing of political campaigns, saying the system's rules are enforced unevenly and that candidates are essentially penalized for not using that money for their campaigns.

If it's approved by the Legislature, the proposal by Republican Rep. Rick Murphy of Glendale would appear on the November ballot.
Voters approved the campaign finance system in 1998. It gives participating candidates for state offices public money if they collect a certain number of contributions of at least $5. The system, which is funded mostly by traffic and criminal fine surcharges, has been used in elections in 2000, 2002 and 2004 to provide funding for participating candidates for governor and numerous other state offices.

A judge threw out an initiative in 2004 that would have asked voters to repeal the system, ruling that the initiative violated the Arizona Constitution by posing two separate questions in one measure. -- Lawmaker proposes repeal of public campaign financing system |

Michigan: ballot wording for anti-affirmative action initiative okayed

The Detroit Free Press reports: Forced to choose between the wishes of angry affirmative action supporters and a court order, a state elections panel chose the latter Friday and approved wording for a ballot proposal that would ban the use of race and gender in government hiring, contracts and university admissions.

The Board of State Canvassers, which failed to act at a chaotic session in December on the same issue, approved wording proposed by state Elections Director Christopher Thomas on a unanimous 3-0 vote with one member absent.

Backers of the proposed constitutional amendment, called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, said they were satisfied with the wording adopted by the board and looked forward to a vigorous debate between now and November.

The ballot question approved by the board will ask voters whether they wish to ban "affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment" based on race, gender, color or ethnicity.

Opponents said the inclusion of the words "preferential treatment" would unfairly influence voters. -- Rights wording OK'd for ballot

Florida: redistricting initiative has enough signatures, group claims

AP reports: A group that thinks drawing political boundaries is a job for an independent commission and not politicians said Tuesday it has enough signatures to put the issue on November's ballot.

The Committee for Fair Elections said it has turned in more than 900,000 signatures, far more than the 611,009 needed to put it on the ballot. As of Tuesday evening, elections supervisors had certified almost 580,000 signatures. The deadline for certification is Feb. 1.

The ballot question would ask voters to create a 15-member commission to draw congressional and legislative districts. Members would be selected in a nonpartisan process and would not be able to seek elected office for four years after serving. Two-thirds of commissioners would have to agree on the districts, and if they couldn't agree by a deadline, the Supreme Court would set political boundaries. -- | The Gainesville Sun | Gainesville, Fla.

December 23, 2005

Michigan: appeals court sets fast schedule for approval of ballot language for "Civil Rights Initiative"

AP reports: The Michigan Court of Appeals is trusting a state elections panel will do its duty and approve ballot language for a proposal that would ban some affirmative action programs in the state.

The Board of State Canvassers is supposed to approve statements of purpose that appear on ballot proposals to explain their intent to voters. But a group sponsoring the November 2006 ballot proposal to ban race and gender preferences in university admissions and government hiring sought to bypass the canvassers and have the appeals court directly approve its own suggested language.

The appeals court rejected the request late Thursday, saying state elections officials should follow the normal process for arriving at the proposed constitutional amendment's ballot language.

But the court is speeding up the process for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative proposal. The court order calls for state elections officials to submit proposed language by Jan. 6, and for canvassers to approve the language by Jan. 20. -- NewsFlash - Court sets timeframe for anti-affirmative action petition

December 20, 2005

Michigan: appeals court orders anti-affirmative action initiative on the ballot

AP reports: A Michigan appeals court ordered the secretary of state Tuesday to place on the November ballot a proposal that would ban some affirmative action programs.

The court went over the heads of the Board of State Canvassers, which failed last week to comply with an earlier court order to put the measure on the ballot.

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative collected about 500,000 voter signatures supporting the measure, which would ban race and gender preferences in university admissions and government hiring. -- | Affirmative Action Ban Ordered in Mich.

November 28, 2005

Oregon: initiative for campaign finance report

The Oregonian reports: After a legislative campaign scandal prompted legislators to revise Oregon's campaign finance laws this year, it's likely that voters will consider much bigger changes next year.

Petitioners for a pair of campaign finance initiatives say they have gathered about 106,000 signatures. That's more than half the number needed to place the proposals on next November's ballot, with seven months until the deadline to collect the rest.

The initiatives would dramatically alter the financing of political campaigns in Oregon, one of five states with no limits on campaign contributions. They would ban contributions by corporations and labor unions, and restrict the amounts that individuals could give to campaigns.

Thanks to a recent poll, which found that three of every four voters support limiting campaign contributions, supporters of the initiatives are optimistic that voters will approve the proposals if they appear on the ballot. -- Initiatives would alter campaign finance laws

November 13, 2005

Ohio: did support for a proposition fall from 61% to 25% in two days?

The Left Coaster asks: Did you vote on a touch-screen system last Tuesday? If so, how confident are you that your vote was registered correctly? Were you surprised at the results?

Well, if you lived in Ohio, you might have been very surprised at the results. After all, if the results are correct, people must have been spoofing the pollsters something awful.

How else to explain the fact that one of the Reform propositions regulating the amount individuals could contribute to a campaign that polls on Sunday before the election showed was supported by 61% of the people and opposed by 25% (14% undecided) failed spectacularly with 67% of the voters opposing it?

Did 67% of the voters really think that individuals should be able to contribute $10,000 to a candidate when only 2 days before the election the polls said that only 25% supported that position? Who knows? The state voted on Diebold voting systems, so there isn't any way to check. -- The Left Coaster: Tuesday's Election in Ohio: The End of Democracy?

November 10, 2005

Florida: supporters of redistricting initiative defend it in state supreme court

AP reports: A group supporting two state constitutional amendments that would eliminate the Legislature's redistricting power disputed lawmakers' claims that their proposals violate election law.

The Committee for Fair Elections gave the state Supreme Court its written responses Wednesday to arguments that the amendments' cover more than one subject and their titles and summaries are misleading. Opponents say the court should stop the amendments from being placed on next year's ballot.

"The Independent Commission Initiative does not substantially alter or perform the functions of multiple branches of government and does not cause `multiple precipitous' or `cataclysmic' changes in state government,' " the committee argued.

The committee says that the titles and summaries clearly state the chief purposes of the measures "and need not explain every detail, ramification or effect." -- AP Wire | 11/10/2005 | Supporters says redisticting initiatives don't violate state law

November 9, 2005

Ohio: redistrcting and election reforms defeated in referendum

AP reports: Voters soundly rejected four issues Tuesday that would have overhauled the way Ohio runs its elections, ending a high-pitched campaign that had hoped to capitalize on a Republican investment scandal and complaints about last year's presidential election.

The issues would have opened absentee balloting to all voters, lowered the cap on individual campaign contributions and put boards, instead of elected officials, in charge of drawing legislative and congressional districts and overseeing the state's elections.

Reform Ohio Now, a coalition of unions and other Democrat-leaning groups, wanted to wrest control of elections from state officeholders, now a virtual Republican monopoly. Republicans resisted, forming an opposition group known as Ohio First. --

California: redistricting initiative defeated

AP reports: For the fourth time in 23 years, voters refused Tuesday to strip the Legislature of the powerful job of drawing legislative and congressional districts, handing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a special election defeat on Proposition 77, a key measure in his "year of reform" agenda.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the proposal trailed 59 percent to 41 percent, failing in many conservative inland counties as well as more liberal coastal areas.

The Republican governor campaigned extensively for the ballot measure, which would have amended the state constitution to give redistricting duties to a panel of retired judges and required them to try to draw new lines in time for next year's June primary.

Lawmakers normally redraw districts every 10 years to reflect population changes uncovered by a new national census. The process can determine which party dominates the Legislature and the congressional delegation and determine the fate of individual lawmakers. -- AP Wire | 11/09/2005 | California voters reject governor's redistricting change

November 7, 2005

California: quick tip sheet on the propositions

If you need a quick review on the California initiatives on the ballot tomorrow, take a look at The Broad View: California Spotlight: November 2005 (1) and California Spotlight: November 2005 (2): Ballot Propositions #73, #78, #79.

November 2, 2005

California: FPPC chair says governor's group must choose between contributions and independent expenditures

AP reports: California's campaign watchdog agency has jumped into a court battle over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's spending in support of Proposition 77, the special election measure that would shift the power to draw legislative and congressional districts.

Liane Randolph, chairwoman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, wrote a letter Tuesday to a state appeals court saying Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team committee must designate spending for Proposition 77 as either independent expenditures or campaign contributions.

Opponents of the redistricting measure say that hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent spending by the California Recovery Team for the ballot measure can only be accurately classified as contributions that violate a voter-imposed limit of $3,300. The controversy centers around a committee headed by a Silicon Valley millionaire who also is running for insurance commissioner next year. -- FPPC chair says governor must classify Proposition 77 spending

October 31, 2005

Michigan: Court orders civil rights initiative on the ballot

AP reports: A proposal to end some affirmative action programs in Michigan should be allowed on the November 2006 ballot, the state appeals court ruled Monday.

The ruling is a victory for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which backs the proposed constitutional amendment to ban racial and gender preferences in government hiring and university admissions.

The group filed the lawsuit after the Board of State Canvassers failed to approve or reject its ballot petitions this summer.

In its ruling Monday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court said the elections board was obligated to certify the petitions. There is no dispute that the petitions are proper and that enough signatures were collected, the court said. -- Mich. Court: Proposal Should Go on Ballot

Here's the opinion.

October 22, 2005

Florida: 3 GOP representatives challenge redistricting initiative

AP reports:
Three U.S. representatives, all Cuban-American Republicans from Miami, have challenged a proposal to strip the Florida Legislature of its redistricting power and hand that job to an independent commission.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and brothers Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart filed written arguments Thursday with the Florida Supreme Court against a proposed state constitutional amendment that would create a 15-member panel to reapportion legislative and congressional districts.

They alleged it would violate the Florida Constitution's requirement that amendments deal with a single subject, arguing that congressional and legislative redistricting are separate matters.

They also contend the ballot title and summary are misleading on a variety of grounds including a failure to disclose that the governor would lose power to veto congressional redistricting plans. Legislative redistricting does not go to the governor. -- Dateline Alabama

September 30, 2005

Ohio: opponents of independent redistricting show "purple" map

The Toledo Blade reports: Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment overhauling how Ohio redraws congressional and legislative districts attempted to make their point yesterday that mixing Republican red and Democratic blue to create competitive purple on a map would have disastrous results for the state.

The Republican-dominated Ohio First Inc. said it created a congressional map by using the mathematical formula and ideals contained in Issue 4 set for the Nov. 8 ballot. Ohio First is the nonprofit organization quietly created in July to fight proposed constitutional reforms of Ohio's election system

The resulting map creates several narrow districts snaking nearly from Pennsylvania to Indiana and dividing numerous counties. -- - -

I have not been able to find the map online. If you know where to find it, email me.

September 29, 2005

California: Rose Institute study claims Prop. 77 would make more competitive districts

The Los Angeles Times reports: The number of true tossup races for the Legislature and Congress would increase sixfold in California if voters passed Proposition 77, according to a new academic study of the initiative. But redistricting experts caution against expecting a dramatic shake-up of political power.

Retired judges rather than lawmakers would draw political boundaries under Proposition 77. The new districts probably would create competition in 10 congressional districts, seven Assembly districts and eight state Senate districts, according to research released Monday by Claremont McKenna College's Rose Institute of State and Local Government. ...

That would be a major increase in competitiveness, the researchers said. At present, there are no competitive congressional districts in California, three in the Assembly and one in the state Senate. ...

By ignoring the advantages of incumbent politicians — such as name recognition among voters — the Rose Institute report probably exaggerates the number of competitive districts the judges could draw, said Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote — the Center for Voting and Democracy in Maryland.

Politicians seeking reelection can count on a roughly 7% advantage over candidates trying to break into office, he said.

"That can move a district that looks competitive on paper to being uncompetitive," said Richie.

And in at least two states that use independent commissions to draw political boundaries — Arizona and Iowa — incumbents have still been reelected easily, Richie said. In Arizona, 15 of 16 congressional races have been won by margins of 20% or more since the independent redistricting commission plan went into effect.

Changing redistricting, Richie said, "still hasn't created any nirvana of competition." -- Modest Change Seen Under Prop. 77 - Los Angeles Times

September 26, 2005

Ohio: how the redistricting proposal would work

A diary on reports: For background: the current breakdown is 12 Republicans and 6 Democrats, a 2:1 ratio that is striking because Bush defeated Kerry in Ohio by only a few percentage points. There may be a number of reasons for this: poor Democratic performance in campaigns, poor Democratic candidates...but the one the mostly Democratic reformers chose to focus on was the gerrymandering of Ohio's districts. Taking the very rough standard of a margin of victory in 2000 (no data for 2004) of 10 points or more as uncompetitive, I found 7 uncompetitive R districts, 4 uncompetitive D districts, 6 competitive lean R districts, and 1 competitive lean D district. Each of those falls along party lines except District 6, represented by Ted Strickland (D).

Such a plan would not be adopted according to the rules set out in the amendment, and a new plan would almost certainly favor Democrats. Here's why.

The amendment has a "competitiveness" requirement that has the committee assign a score to each plan, based on the following formula: # of competitive districts leaning one way balanced by competitive districts leaning the other way x 2 + # of remaining competitive districts, minus # of uncompetitive districts for one side NOT balanced by an uncompetitive district for the other side x 2. Using the numbers above (again, very rough), the current map would earn a score of 3. That won't cut it, since the committee is required to consider plans with the highest score first. I put together a really rough plan without regard to benefitting Democrats or Republicans, and my plan got a 7. So I feel confident that somebody who does have all the data and expertise could make one with an even higher score. -- ||

September 21, 2005

Florida: would it cost less to have a redistricting commission?

The Tallahassee Democrat reports: Taxpayers could save half the cost of redrawing Florida's political boundaries by taking that enormous power away from legislators and giving it to an independent commission, backers of the plan said Tuesday.

Attorney Mark Herron, a veteran elections-law lawyer and former head of the Florida Commission on Ethics, said it's impossible to know exactly how much the state spent on redistricting in 2001-02. But he told a special economic-impact task force that the current remapping process is "duplicative" as the House and Senate pass overlapping and conflicting plans for their own districts and congressional boundaries every 10 years - then cut deals to protect incumbents, divide seats between parties or open up new tracts for powerful bosses.

"There would be a cost for expenses of the commission, for commission staff, for computers," Herron said of the independent-commission plan. "But it would be approximately half of the cost now because there would not be duplication."

The House and Senate have separate reapportionment committees, each with its own staff of statisticians, demographers and legal experts. They also hire outside counsel to advise and represent the leadership during Justice Department review and in court, once legislative and congressional plans are adopted. -- Tallahassee Democrat | 09/21/2005 | Cost of redrawing boundaries panned

September 13, 2005

California: 2 campaign groups now supporting reidstricting reform

AP reports: A key supporter of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure announced plans Tuesday to form an independent, nonpartisan campaign supporting Proposition 77 - largely over fears the measure will fail if tied directly to Schwarzenegger's other Republican-backed ballot initiatives.

Bill Mundell, a Southern California businessman who donated more than $300,000 to help qualify the redistricting measure for the ballot, said his new group would operate separately from the governor's California Recovery Team in support of the initiative.

The move comes on the same day the California Recovery Team announced that Steve Poizner, a Silicon Valley billionaire and Republican candidate for Insurance Commissioner next year, will head up the Schwarzenegger-backed committee also pushing Proposition 77.

The proposition, one of three "year of reform" initiatives that Schwarzenegger helped put on the ballot for a special election Nov. 8, would strip lawmakers of their power to draw Congressional and state legislative boundaries, handing the job to a panel of retired judges. -- AP Wire | 09/13/2005 | Redistricting proponents break with governor, form own campaign

September 7, 2005

Ohio: GOP challenges ballot initiatives

Reuters reports: An appeals court in the key electoral battleground of Ohio will hear on Thursday a challenge to ballot measures that would allow voters to strip the state's elected officials of control over electoral redistricting and how elections are run.

Republican-led opponents of four proposed constitutional amendments say they should not be on Ohio's ballot on November 8 on grounds that many people who collected the 330,000 voter signatures on petitions in support of the referendum were from outside Ohio. ...

Ohio law requires those circulating petitions to be from the state so they can be subpoenaed if there are challenges, said David Hopcraft, who represents Republicans challenging the referendum.

While the courts have made exceptions for petition gatherers working for individual candidates, the same exception does not apply to petition circulators backing issue referendums, Hopcraft said. -- Ohio electoral changes challenged by Republicans

August 25, 2005

Florida: The Department of State takes the redistricting initiative off the ballot because it contains an 81-word summary rather than the 75 allowed by law

AP reports: The Department of State rescinded its approval Thursday of a ballot initiative that would change the way the state's political lines are drawn, saying it is six words too long.

The petition is one of three the Committee for Fair Elections is circulating to ask voters to create an independent redistricting panel and set standards it should follow. The group already has more than 223,000 signatures to put the items on next year's ballot.

That work may now have to be scrapped. State law requires that ballot summaries be no longer than 75 words if they are part of a petition drive. Ballot questions approved by the Legislature can be longer.

In a letter to the Committee for Fair Elections, Secretary of State Glenda Hood said her department didn't detect the problem when it reviewed and approved the language. The 81-word summary would require districts be compact and preserve communities of interest rather than favor an incumbent politician or political party. -- AP Wire | 08/25/2005 | State rescinds approval on redistricting ballot initiative

August 23, 2005

Florida: word limit may trip up redistricting initiative

The St. Petersburg Times reports: A push to strip the Legislature of its power to draw political districts and give it to an independent commission has hit a snag: One of the proposals has too many words.

Under state law, ballot language for citizen initiatives to amend Florida's Constitution can't exceed 75 words.

The petition in question, one of three the Campaign for Fair Elections is trying to get on the November 2006 ballot, has 81 words.

The measure would require that congressional or legislative districts be drawn so that they favor no one political party or candidate - a dramatic change to the status quo where legislative leaders routinely draw boundaries to benefit individual politicians. -- Tampabay: 6 words may block overhaul of redistricting

August 18, 2005

California: FEC okays congressmen's plan to raise soft money to fight Prop. 77

The Los Angeles Times reports: In a decision that could feed the political spending frenzy for the November election, the Federal Election Commission today ruled that members of Congress are free to spend without limit on California ballot measures.

The decision involved a proposed ballot measure that would change how boundaries of legislative districts are drawn, but could open spending floodgates on other ballot proposals on topics as diverse as teenage abortions and political spending by unions.

The commission ruled unanimously that federal law limiting contributions to congressmen to $5,000 does not apply to November's special state election because the balloting is entirely a state affair, with no federal candidates involved.

The FEC ruled directly on one of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's key initiatives, transferring authority for legislative redistricting from lawmakers to judges. -- FEC Allows Unlimited Fundraising Against Calif. Redistricting Plan - Los Angeles Times

August 16, 2005

California: 2 congressmen ask FEC for permission to raise soft money to oppose Prop. 77

AP reports: Two California House members from opposite parties are asking a federal elections panel for permission to raise unlimited money to oppose Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure.

Reps. Howard Berman, D-North Hollywood, and John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, are seeking an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission that would allow them to collect "soft money" from unions, corporations and other donors to support or oppose ballot measures in the Nov. 8 special election.

Both oppose Schwarzenegger's redistricting initiative. Berman's chief of staff, Gene Smith, said the request was motivated by their desire to raise money to fight it.

Schwarzenegger's campaign committee will not be bound by limits in raising money to boost the initiative. Proposition 77 would take the responsibility of drawing legislative district lines away from lawmakers and give it to a panel of retired judges. -- AP Wire | 08/16/2005 | House members seek to raise money to oppose redistricting measure

August 13, 2005

California: Supreme Court puts Prop. 77 back on the ballot, but leaves open question of legality

The Los Angeles Times reports: The California Supreme Court handed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a major victory Friday, putting back on the Nov. 8 ballot his initiative to change how legislative district lines are drawn.

The brief order, issued by a 4-2 vote, ends a monthlong legal battle between supporters of the initiative, Proposition 77, and Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer. The attorney general had won two rounds in lower courts. Those judges accepted his argument that the measure should not be voted on in November because its backers had violated election law in the way they got the measure on the ballot.

The Supreme Court overturned those lower-court decisions. But it left open the possibility that the election-law violations could still sink the ballot measure. If voters approve the measure, the justices said, they might then review the legal issues to determine if it is valid. -- Redistricting Back on Ballot - Los Angeles Times

August 9, 2005

California: court of appeals affirms order on Prop. 77

The Los Angeles Times reports: The state appeals court ruled today to keep Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting proposal off the Nov. 8 special election ballot, siding with the state attorney general and setting the stage for a quick appeal to the state Supreme Court.

In its 2-1 ruling, the three-judge panel backed Atty. Gen . Bill Lockyer, who had argued that the version of the proposition that was circulated among voters to collect signatures to place it on the ballot was different than the initiative that was given to his office, which is illegal. ...

"The petitioners could easily have avoided or discovered and corrected the problem of different versions before the circulation of the petitions," the ruling said.

Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland issued the dissenting opinion, saying that any challenges to the validity of the proposition should wait until after the election is held. -- Appeals Court Upholds Move to Strike Redistricting Proposal

August 2, 2005

California: Legislative Counsel says governor can cancel special election

AP reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has the authority to cancel the November special election and can do so anytime before voting begins, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the nonpartisan California legislative counsel.

The ruling, which was drafted at the request of state Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, came as another Democratic lawmaker announced he would introduce legislation calling on Schwarzenegger to scrap the election.

The developments were the latest in a series of skirmishes over the fate of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's embattled government reform agenda. But as Schwarzenegger expressed hope for a compromise with legislators over his ballot initiatives, his campaign team vowed to press ahead with a full-fledged campaign.

According to Deputy Legislative Counsel Christopher Dawson, the governor has the sole authority to rescind a proclamation calling for a special election. That contradicted an opinion by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, who had suggested lawmakers could approve legislation by a two-thirds vote that would call off the election. -- AP Wire | 08/02/2005 | Governor can cancel special election, legislative counsel rules

California: Gray Davis supports redistricting initiative

The L.A. Daily News reports: Facing declining popularity and increasingly heated partisan opposition, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must be thankful for the support he's received from an unlikely quarter.

Former Gov. Gray Davis, whom Schwarzenegger replaced in the 2003 recall election, said he supports the plan to reform the redistricting process, allowing a panel of judges rather than politicians to draw political boundaries.

Every elected official should have some sense of jeopardy in a November election," Davis told Sacramento radio talk-show host Eric Hogue. "They should have some obligation to the general interest and not just have to win their primaries.

"People should have the opportunity to decide whether or not they want the Legislature and the governor to continue to draft reapportionment plans or take it out of their hands." -- L.A. Daily News - News

July 26, 2005

California: appeals court stays injunction on Prop 77

AP reports: Supporters of a ballot measure aimed at redrawing congressional and legislative districts filed an appeal Monday and were granted a temporary suspension of a lower court ruling that ordered Proposition 77 off the ballot.

The measure, one of three backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the November special election, would give authority for redrawing district boundaries to a panel of retired judges. But organizers of the petition drive mistakenly used two different versions in the circulation process prompting Sacramento County Judge Gail Ohanesian to toss the measure from the ballot last week.

But Justice Coleman A. Blease, of the 3rd District Court of Appeal agreed to stay Ohanesian’s order until the case could be decided. -- Appeal Filed on Redistricting Initiative

July 21, 2005

California: redistricting initiative off the ballot

AP reports: A judge kicked Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure off the special election ballot Thursday, a crushing blow for a proposition that was held up as a centerpiece of the governor's campaign to reform state government.

The judge ruled that supporters violated California's constitution by using two versions of the initiative in the process of qualifying the measure for the ballot.

"The differences are not simply typographical errors," Judge Gail Ohanesian said. "They're not merely about the format of the measure. They are not simply technical. Instead they go to the substantive terms of the measure." ...

Attorney General Bill Lockyer asked the judge to order the measure off the ballot because its supporters used two versions - one to gather voter signatures and another version given to the attorney general. -- AP Wire | 07/21/2005 | Redistricting measure off Calif. ballot

July 12, 2005

California: Dems will join AG's suit against redistricting initiative

AP reports: The Legislature's Democratic leaders are seeking to join a lawsuit aimed at removing the redistricting initiative from the special election ballot, a direct challenge to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The measure is one of three the governor placed on the Nov. 8 ballot as part of his "year of reform" package and seeks to change how boundaries are drawn for members of the state Legislature, Congress and the state Board of Equalization.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a lawsuit last week claiming supporters of Proposition 77 violated the state Constitution by significantly changing the wording of the initiative after it was approved by state officials for circulation.

Attorney Lance Olson, representing Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, said he will file papers Wednesday asking the court to allow his clients to join with Lockyer in arguing that the measure should be removed from the ballot. -- Democratic leaders to join lawsuit over redistricting initiative

July 10, 2005

Florida: campaign to change redistricting gains

The Ledger reports: A bipartisan campaign to change the way Florida draws lines for its congressional and state legislative districts is gaining momentum, according to its supporters.

Ben Wilcox, executive director of Florida Common Cause, the citizens' lobbying group that has spearheaded the effort, reports that the Committee for Fair Elections has gathered about 80,000 signatures from voters. Once those signatures are verified by state election officials, it will be enough to get the group's redistricting amendments before the state Supreme Court for a review.

If the court approves the wording of the three constitutional amendments, the proposal will be on next year's general election ballot if the redistricting group can collect enough additional signatures to reach the 611,000 signatures that will be needed. The Fair Elections group has until Feb. 1. -- Web Sites Become New Campaign Issue |

July 9, 2005

California: AG sues to remove redistricting initiative from ballot

AP reports: Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed suit Friday to remove Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting initiative from the November ballot, saying supporters violated the state Constitution when they significantly changed the measure's wording.

Lockyer filed the suit in Sacramento County Superior Court as the issue becomes increasingly politicized between the attorney general, a Democrat, and Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, a Republican appointed by Schwarzenegger.

The measure is one of eight on the Nov. 8 special election ballot and one of three that are part of the governor's "Year of Reform" package.

"By opting to collect signatures on a ballot measure different from the text reviewed and approved by the attorney general, the proponents violated state law and deceived voters," Lockyer said in a statement. "Allowing access to the ballot for initiative proponents who switch or modify text during the signature gathering phase would defeat existing laws designed to protect the integrity of state elections and would corrupt the people's initiative process." -- L.A. Daily News - News

June 29, 2005

California: you can't tell the redistricting proposals without a score card

AP reports: Key provisions of rival plans backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Senate Democrats to draw districts for the Legislature, California’s congressional delegation and the state Board of Equalization:


Schwarzenegger plan: A panel of three retired judges who would be selected by legislative leaders from a pool of 24 ex-judges nominated by the state Judicial Council. There would have to be at least one panel member from each major political party.

Democrats’ plan: A seven-member commission. The governor, the four top legislative leaders, the Judicial Council and the president of the University of California each would appoint one member. No more than three members could be from the same political party. Calls for commission that reflects state’s diverse population. -- Comparing the Redistricting Plans

June 14, 2005

California: Gov. calls special election for redistricting initiative reports: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called for the state's fourth election in two years, seeking to pass political-district and budget proposals that could boost Republicans' power in the most populous state.

One measure supported by the Republican governor would place retired judges in charge of redrawing the state's political boundaries for Congress and the state Legislature. Democrats control 33 of the state's 53 seats in the House of Representatives and both chambers of the state Legislature.

``Once you take redistricting from the Assembly, you're going to open up California politics like it's never been opened up since the Progressive era,'' said Kevin Starr, the University of Southern California professor and author of a seven-volume state history. ``You'll get more Republicans, more conservatives and you'll get more independents.'' -- U.S.

December 29, 2004

Florida: Dems to push for redistricting commission

Jerome Armstrong of MyDD reports: After ACORN and Floridians For All (the ones behind the successful effort that makes law a state minimum wage starting at $6.15 per hour six months after enactment and indexed to inflation each year) won at the ballot with 71%, it gives a bit of hope for progressive reform in Florida's 2006 election for Democrats. In a recent strategy group, I learned from talking with a few Floridian leaders about a number of plans that are being worked on for 2006.

Specfically, a ballot initiative is being spearheaded by Democrats for 2006 that would turn over redistricting to a non-partisan body. That would put an end to a partisan system that's produced an unbalanced 18-7 Republican congressional delegation; a 84-36 Republican State House; and a 26-14 Republican State Senate. In a state that's pretty much 50-50 in terms of partisan strength at the ballot, it takes an awful lot of gerrymandering to produce such results. -- MyDD :: Florida 2006: non-partisan redistricting, Castor, Nelson

December 13, 2004

Arizona: group circulating initiative petition for mail-only voting

KPHO in Phoenix reports: A local group called "Your Right To Vote" has launched a drive to get an initiative on the November 2006 ballot that would convert Arizona into a vote-by-mail only state. -- KPHO Phoenix - Initiative Launched to Make Ariz. Vote-By-Mail Only State

November 4, 2004

Florida -- lawsuits attacking new constitutional amendments

Abstract Appeal reports: Well, Florida's voters had little trouble playing along in the fight between Florida's doctors and its plaintiffs' lawyers. Voters approved Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 3, the shot across the bow fired by doctors at the plaintiffs' bar, capping attorney's fees in medical liability cases. Voters also approved the retaliatory amendments proposed by the plaintiffs' lawyers -- Proposed Amendment No. 7 and Proposed Amendment No. 8, which, respectively, make medical records relating to adverse medical incidents public and establish a "three strikes" rule for doctors. (For more on these proposals, see this prior post.)

These matters are not yet settled, though.

This story from today's St. Pete Times describes how the plaintiffs' bar is contemplating a federal constitutional challenge to No. 3 and how the medical establishment has already filed a suit relating to No. 7. -- Abstract Appeal -- by Matt Conigliaro

Conigliaro's post has links the the stories he mentions.

October 30, 2004

A debate on Colorado Amendment 36

Richard A. Epstein and Sanford Levinson debate on the Legal Affairs Debate Club: Next Tuesday, Coloradans may well decide the presidential election between Bush and Kerry. If the state's citizens pass Amendment 36, Colorado's nine electoral votes will be divided proportionally among the candidates. Because polls indicate a very close race, the candidate who wins might do so by grabbing five of those votes while the other top candidate scores four.

Colorado wouldn't be the first state to split its votes--Maine and Nebraska already do. But Amendment 36 is freighted with constitutional ambiguities, like whether voters, and not the state's legislature, can change the way its electors are appointed and whether the outcome of the presidential election can rest on an amendment voted on that same day.

Should Colorado be allowed to split its electoral votes?

Richard A. Epstein is the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Sanford Levinson is the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law and Professor of Government at the University of Texas and the editor of Torture: A Collection. -- Should Colorado split its electoral votes? (Legal Affairs Debate Club)

October 28, 2004

Arizona judge dismisses pre-election challenge to Prop. 200

The Arizona Republic reports: The legal challenge to Arizona's immigration initiative was dismissed by a Superior Court Judge this morning because it came too late and too close to Tuesday's election.

Judge Margaret H. Downie threw out the case brought last week by opponents who argued that the Protect Arizona Now measure, if passed, should not become law because of mistakes made with signature petitions used to qualify the initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot. Opponents of Prop. 200, which filed the lawsuit, are expected to decide later Thursday whether to appeal the judge's decision.

In her ruling, Downie said she does not believe Arizona law authorizes the remedy that the group No on 200 campaign sought - stopping county and state election officials from canvassing votes and the governor from proclaiming results.

She did not rule on the merits of the plaintiff's contention: That supporters of the measure accidentally, or maybe even knowingly, circulated petitions with wording that did not clearly reflect what the measure would do. The judge noted that the allegations are "serious and cast doubt on the validity and integrity of the petition circulation process." -- Judge dismisses petition challenge on Prop. 200 (Arizona Republic)

If someone will send me the names of the parties or the number of the case, I can most likely download the opinion from the court's website.

October 25, 2004

Charges of false campaign reports in Ohio initiative campaign

AP reports: Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment [in Ohio] to ban gay marriage say backers of the amendment violated campaign finance laws by reporting they raised only $50 to date.

Ohioans Protecting the Constitution filed a complaint Monday with the Ohio Elections Commission. In it, they said amendment supporters should have reported money raised since they began collecting signatures, which started in April.

Instead, the group filed a campaign finance report Thursday that said it had raised $50 and received $3,416 in in-kind contributions since the amendment was certified for the Nov. 2 ballot on Sept. 29.

The complaint says the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage would have had to spend "far in excess" of that amount to gather 500,000 signatures and defend the petition process in court. -- Marriage amendment opponents say supporters broke campaign finance law (AP via

October 20, 2004

Progressive group pushes initiatitves

From the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center website: Founded in 1998, the mission of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center is to utilize the ballot initiative process to further the goals of the labor and progressive community by developing a proactive, national strategy to advance progressive ballot measures and connecting advocates across state and issue lines with a growing network of organizational leaders and experienced consultants so that valuable tactical and strategic ballot initiative resources may be shared. We do this by building a funding, research, and training infrastructure to support progressive ballot measure activity. --
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center

Thanks to Inter Alia for the link.

October 19, 2004

Schwarzenegger backs open primary initiative

AP reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger bucked party leaders by endorsing two ballot measures opposed by his party leaders.

Schwarzenegger announced Monday he was endorsing a $3 billion bond measure that would fund human embryonic stem cell research and a ballot proposal to dump political party primaries. ...

Schwarzenegger also jumped into the debate on primaries, saying Proposition 62 would send more moderates to Sacramento. ...

The initiative would toss out the state's primary election system in most state and federal races in favor of a so-called "top-two" primary -- a kind of candidate soup in which all contenders for an office would appear on a single primary ballot. -- Governor bucks GOP by endorsing two propositions (AP via

October 11, 2004

Ohio's election-related lawsuits

AP reports: After the 2000 presidential election mess in Florida, many political watchers predicted that lawyers would take on a larger role in this year's election.

They're off to an early start in Ohio. No fewer than five major election cases landed before courts in Ohio - all at least one month before the Nov. 2 election.

While court challenges of election law are common in the weeks before the election, the number of high-profile cases to reach court is unusual, said Herb Asher, a political scientist at Ohio State University who has followed Ohio elections for more than 30 years.

The Ohio Supreme Court has two challenges before it. A constitutional ban on gay marriages that is to go before voters Nov. 2 should be removed, opponents say, because the petitions circulated to collect the signatures to get on the ballot did not include a summary of what the amendment would do. An appeals court has upheld the ballot issue.

Backers of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader have appealed to the high court a ruling by Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell that some petition circulators illegally collected the signatures. The ruling meant Nader's bid fell short of the required 5,000 signatures of registered Ohio voters. -- PERSPECTIVE: Dockets crowded with election cases (AP via

September 29, 2004

Alaska judge orders state to recall and reprint ballots

AP reports: A Superior Court judge on Wednesday ordered the state to rewrite, reprint and redistribute all of its ballots for the Nov. 2 election, saying the wording of a ballot initiative was inaccurate and biased. ...

The ballot initiative concerns how the state fills its U.S. Senate vacancies.

Currently, the governor can appoint a replacement to a vacant Senate seat. The initiative would abolish appointments and require a special election in all cases except when the vacancy occurs within 60 days of a primary election.

The four-sentence summary on the ballot wrongly estimates how long a Senate seat would be vacant under the initiative, Judge Moorage Christen wrote in her order. The summary also says the measure would leave Alaska without full representation in the Senate, wording which is not impartial, she said.

"Emphasizing one consequence to the exclusion of others is impermissible advocacy," Christen wrote. -- Alaska judge orders 517,000 ballots reprinted, redistributed for Nov. 2 election (AP via

Thanks to Jurist's Paper Chase for the link.

September 19, 2004

Colorado considers dropping pass-fail in the Electoral College

The New York Times reports: Colorado voters have delivered the state for the Republican presidential candidate in every election in the last half century, except when Bill Clinton won by a whisker in 1992 and Lyndon B. Johnson swamped Barry Goldwater in 1964.

But if a ballot initiative called Amendment 36 is approved by the voters here on Election Day, the facade of unanimity will shatter, and in one stroke a new small state's worth of definitively Democratic Electoral College votes will be created in the heart of what has been the solidly Republican West.

Amendment 36 would make Colorado the first state to distribute its electoral votes on the basis of its popular vote. The change would take effect immediately with this year's election, which means that President Bush and Senator John Kerry would share Colorado's nine electoral votes, but neither would get all.

Political experts say the implications for the election are deeply uncertain. A Rocky Mountain News/News 4 poll released Friday showed Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry in a statistical dead heat here. -- Coloradans to Consider Splitting Electoral College Votes (New York Times)

August 15, 2004

SEIU sues to keep anti-immigrant initiative off the Arizona ballot

AP reports: A labor union filed a lawsuit Friday that could keep Arizonans from getting a chance to vote on an initiative that would require proof of citizenship when registering to vote or when seeking social services.

The Service Employees International Union's suit asks that the state be ordered to keep Proposition 200 off the November ballot. The union also asked that Maricopa County, the state's most populous county, be prohibited from printing its ballot until the issue is resolved.

The lawsuit contends that the petition description of the initiative was inadequate because it didn't mention the initiative would create a new crime and that Secretary of State Jan Brewer should have checked the eligibility of people who circulated the petitions.

Some of the same circulators were found to be ineligible when they collected signatures for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader in his unsuccessful bid to qualify for Arizona's ballot, the lawsuit said. -- Suit seeks to block immigration initiative (AP via Casa Grande Valley Newspapers Inc.)

August 13, 2004

Anti-Clean Elections initiative off the Arizona ballot

AP reports: The state Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that an initiative to dismantle Arizona's "Clean Elections" system for publicly funding candidates' campaigns be kept off the November ballot.

The justices upheld a trial judge's ruling that Proposition 106, the so-called "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" initiative, violated the Arizona Constitution's ban on including more than one subject in a proposed constitutional amendment.

Arizona voters approved a system in 1998 that allows public funding for campaigns of candidates for governor, legislative seats and other state offices. It provided funding to candidates in 2000 and 2002.

Initiative supporters had appealed Judge Margaret Downie's order to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court announced its decision in a brief order and said it will issue an opinion later to explain its legal reasoning for its decision. -- Supreme Court knocks Clean Elections off ballot (AP via Arizona Republic)

August 5, 2004

Gambling won't be on the ballot in D.C.; wanna bet?

The Washington Post reports: The D.C. elections board ruled yesterday that a petition drive to legalize slot machines failed to collect enough valid signatures to qualify for the Nov. 2 ballot, ending for now a rushed and ambitious campaign by offshore investors to open a gambling hall in the nation's capital.

Though the drive produced more than 56,000 signatures -- three times the number needed -- the board determined that only 21,664 came from registered D.C. voters. From that pool, 6,977 were discarded after the board found evidence of fraud, forgery and other "systematic" violations of local election laws.

That left slots proponents with 14,687 valid signatures, well short of the 17,599 required -- the equivalent of 5 percent of the number of registered voters in the District. ...

Proponents of the initiative said they would keep pushing their plan to bring 3,500 slot machines and more than 1,500 jobs to a run-down stretch of New York Avenue NE. They said they would file a notice of appeal today, arguing that the elections board had wrongly invalidated signatures gathered by paid petition circulators who emphasized the benefits of gambling, including a fresh flow of revenue for government services. -- Slots Barred From Ballot (

August 2, 2004

Groups charge Florida anti-abortion initiative misleading

AP reports: The ACLU and Planned Parenthood sued Monday to block a Florida ballot measure that would pave the way for a law requiring parents to be told when their minor daughters seek abortions.

The lawsuit argues that the ballot summary for the proposed constitutional amendment is misleading - leading voters to think they're preserving rights when, in fact, the measure takes them away.

State lawmakers voted this spring to put the proposed constitutional change before voters. The ballot summary says state lawmakers "shall not limit or deny the privacy rights guaranteed to minors" under the U.S. Constitution.

But the summary doesn't explain that the state constitution gives Floridians greater privacy rights than the federal Constitution and that the proposed change would limit those state privacy rights for girls under the age of 18, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and several Planned Parenthood chapters. -- Groups Try to Block Florida Abortion Vote (AP via

An explanation of the "single subject" rule in Arizona

Charles Blanchard has posted a comment explaining the application of the "single subject" rule to the effort to cripple the Clean Elections program in Arizona.

July 31, 2004

anti-Clean Elections initiative tossed off the ballot

The Arizona Republic reports: A judge on Thursday rejected a ballot initiative designed to end public funding for state election campaigns in Arizona.

Judge Margaret Downie of Maricopa County Superior Court ruled that Proposition 106 violated the "single-subject rule" for making changes to the state Constitution.

The measure would get rid of public financing for campaigns, but would also prevent the Clean Elections Commission from pursuing other duties such as scheduling debates, publishing a voters guide and regulating campaign-finance laws.

The judge concluded that a voter might reasonably agree with one part of the initiative, such as getting rid of publicly financed political campaigns, but might support the commission's other duties. ...

The institute's suit also contended that petitions used to explain the purpose of the anti-Clean Elections initiative were "highly partisan" and "designed to mislead voters." Downie tossed out that complaint, saying that the Legislature only requires an impartial description of an initiative in the actual ballot language, not on the petitions used to qualify. -- Ruling helps boost Clean Elections (Arizona Republic)

I believe the public financing of the Clean Elections program and the other duties of the Commission were adopted in one initiative. If so, wasn't that a violation of the "one subject" rule?

Common Cause pushes for Massachusetts redistricting commission

AP reports: Activists say they have collected enough signatures to put a nonbinding referendum question on the ballot in 15 [Massachusetts] state representative districts asking voters if they support turning the authority to draw new district lines over to an independent commission.

The move is the first step in a strategy to deny lawmakers in the House and Senate the authority to draw new district maps every 10 years after the federal census.

Advocates from the government watchdog group Common Cause eventually hope to change the state constitution by pushing for an amendment establishing a special redistricting commission. That question wouldn't reach voters until at least 2008.

The goal is to take the politics out of the task of redistricting by putting it in the hands of a commission, according to Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause of Massachusetts. Legislative leaders would likely oppose the proposal. -- Activists push to deny lawmakers power to redraw district lines (AP via Worcester Telegram & Gazette Online)

July 26, 2004

Prop. 64 is simple: you're either for the greedy lawyers or the consumer-cheating companies

AP reports: A wave of large corporations that have been sued under California's Unfair Competition Act -- including Microsoft, Nike, General Motors, Bank of America, Blue Cross and State Farm -- are now pushing a November ballot initiative to weaken the law.

They're among at least 22 companies that have contributed almost $1.34 million of more than $7 million in donations to the campaign behind Proposition 64, according to campaign finance documents and consumer groups fighting the initiative.

"It's pretty clear to us that the largest corporate donors to this are attempting to limit their liability, their accountability, for unfair practices," said Carmen Balber, a consumer advocate for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, based in Santa Monica. "Their donations are just a small investment compared to having to return millions to consumers that they cheat."

But John Sullivan, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, a coalition of businesses and local governments that fights what it considers wasteful lawsuits, said the companies are backing the initiative because they've been victimized by greedy lawyers. ...

The [unfair competition] law allows individuals, interest groups, companies and prosecutors to sue to stop businesses from using practices that would allegedly give them an unfair advantage over competitors or defraud consumers. In many cases, suits are brought by public interest groups with no direct connection to an alleged abuse, such as misleading advertising, other than their interests as citizens. -- Corporations use ballot to fight Unfair Competition Act (AP via

A good round-up of opinions pro and con on Instant Runoff Voting

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: If Jerry Cronk's political dream were reality, Al Gore would probably be running for re-election as president, and Slade Gorton would probably still be a U.S. senator.

Not that Cronk voted for either. In 2000, he supported Green Party nominee Ralph Nader for president and Maria Cantwell, the Democrat who unseated Republican Gorton, for the Senate.

But while Washington voters might have to navigate three different primary election systems in three consecutive years now that the state's popular "blanket primary" has been invalidated, Cronk is promoting a fourth option: no primary.

The 72-year-old Shoreline lawyer, whose clients include the Green Party of Washington, is pushing an "instant runoff voting," or IRV, system. It would eliminate primaries altogether, have all candidates run in the general election, and guarantee that nobody wins an election with less than a majority of the vote. -- OK, how about no primary? Lawyer pushes instant runoff election (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

July 25, 2004

Defenders of Arizona 'clean elections' file suit over ballot description

Capitol Media Services reports: Supporters of public financing of [Arizona] campaigns have gone to court to force a new description of a ballot measure which would defund the system.

Legal papers filed Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court contend that the description of Proposition 106 uses the "politically charged and inflammatory term 'taxpayer money' " to describe what sources of cash the measure would eliminate for funding political races. That, according to the the lawsuit, violates the legal requirement to provide an impartial analysis of all ballot measures.

Charles Blanchard, who represents the group working to defeat Proposition 106 also says the description, prepared by the Legislative Council, "inaccurately and misleadingly describes the effect of one of the key provisions of Proposition 106."

The lawsuit asks the court to direct the council, made up of state lawmakers, to recraft the description and delete the words the attorneys find offensive.

Whatever the trial judge decides is unlikely to be the final word: Prior disputes over ballot wording traditionally have had to be resolved ultimately by the Arizona Supreme Court. -- Lawsuit filed over ballot description of Prop 106 (Capitol Media Services via Arizona Daily Sun)

July 20, 2004

King Co., Wash., to vote on smaller council

The Seattle Times reports: Brushing aside warnings that it could be courting a legal challenge, the Metropolitan King County Council voted yesterday to delay the effective date of a citizen initiative that would reduce the size of the council from 13 members to nine.

The changes, described by proponents as "technical" corrections to Initiative 18, will change language on the Nov. 2 ballot. If the initiative passes, the changes would push back the election of a smaller council from 2005 to 2007 and would restructure three regional committees.

Critics of the changes said they are substantive, not technical, and could leave the initiative vulnerable to legal claims that it improperly deals with more than one issue.

County Council President Larry Phillips, D-Seattle, defended the council action, saying, "The fundamental proposition is before the voters unchanged."

Phillips said there wouldn't be enough time to redistrict the council between the November vote on I-18 and the original redistricting deadline of the end of the year. -- Vote alters initiative on council size (Seattle Times)

July 13, 2004

Arizona Supreme Court will hear challenge to ballot pamphlet language on anti-Clean Elections initiative

The Arizona Republic: Arizona's highest court will decide how an initiative that would strip the funding for Clean Elections will be described in a guide seen by more than 1 million voters before they go to the polls this fall.

Attorney Paul Eckstein, who represents groups supporting publicly funded elections, said the wording approved by a special legislative panel last week is biased and doesn't let Arizonans know it was created by a vote of the people in 1998. He will file his challenge with the Arizona Supreme Court next week, likely proposing new language. If the court agrees that the analysis is not impartial, it can order Secretary of State Jan Brewer to adopt new wording.

After three hours of nitpicking over wording, the Republican-controlled Legislative Council last week agreed on a two-paragraph explanation of an initiative that could ultimately end Clean Elections. There was more than 30 minutes of debate over the words "public money" vs. "taxpayer money." Eventually, the term taxpayer money was used to describe how the election system is funded.

A group called No Taxpayer Money for Politicians wants to end publicly funded campaigns and put that money into state coffers. The group filed 275,000 signatures, far more than needed for a constitutional amendment. The essence of the argument is that no taxpayer money should go to politicians for political campaigns. -- Top court will judge Clean Elections text (Arizona Republic)

July 11, 2004

Instant runoff voting proposed for Washington State

The Olympian reports: Another alternative to Washington's election system was unveiled Saturday by activists hoping to encourage more voter participation and ensure that winners truly garner a majority to get elected.

Backers of Initiative 318, which would install instant runoff elections in Washington, will be trying to gather enough signatures by December to present the measure to the state Legislature.

Instant runoff voting sends two candidates to a second round if at least one doesn't grab a 50 percent majority. It allows voters to rank their choices instead of just selecting one person, so that the losing candidates' votes can be dispersed according to how voters ranked their second and third choices.

It's designed to eliminate situations where a candidate wins the election even if he or she receives less than 50 percent of the vote. It would also allow voters to "vote their heart" for third-party candidates without "spoiling" elections, supporters say. -- Group unveils I-318 for instant runoff elections (The Olympian)

July 8, 2004

Arizona decides on ballot language for "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" initiative

Michael Bryan at Political State Report: At Wednesday's [Arizona] Legislative Council hearing, the ballot language for the 'No Taxpayer Money for Politicians' initiative was decided. It was determined that the ballot language for the initiative would have to indicate an intent to repeal the Clean Elections system.

Arizona law says descriptions printed on petitions and ballots must describe the principal provisions of the initiative, be accurate, and be free from political argument. The description on the NTMP petitions failed to mention that the initiative will de-fund the Clean Elections system, de-fund the Clean Elections Commission and contained several political arguments about the voter-approved Clean Elections Act. NTMP advocates certainly wished to stay on message on the ballot, but the Legislative Council's decision precludes this. Clean Elections opponent and State Representative Randy Graf (R) reportedly commented that the decision was "a dagger in the heart" of the initiative. He is almost certainly correct.

A large majority of Arizonans support the Clean Elections system, therefore, clear language on the ballot, despite any misleading campaign advertising by the initiative's proponents, will greatly undermine chances of the initiative's passage. A majority of Arizona state office candidates are running under the Clean Elections system this cycle. The appeal of the system crosses partisan lines. There are actually more Republican candidates running clean than are Democrats. Many credit the Clean Elections system with enabling moderate Arizona Republicans to defy the far Right elements of their own caucus to pass a bi-partisan budget with Democrats this year. Of the 31 Representatives who voted for the compromise budget, 26 were Clean Elections candidates. Therein lies a possible motive for NTMP backers. -- Political State Report

I wonder if there is a connection between the support of the Christian Coalition for NTMP and the supposed moderating influence of the Clean Elections program?

July 4, 2004

Harder to put initiative on the ballot in Oregon

Despite [Oregon's] new rules and barriers imposed on ballot-measure signature gatherers, Friday's petition turn-in deadline still saw several campaigns deliver petitions by the boxful.

But it wasn't cheap or easy, according to the apparently successful campaigns.

And the initiative activists who came up short said the new requirements are putting ballot access out of reach for all but the most financially well-off and well-organized interests. ..

Groups that tried to rely on tradition found the job tougher than ever because:

Voters in 2002 passed a measure banning per-signature payment of circulators. That means payments must be hourly, which initiative activists say is costlier.

Rules that determine whether signatures have been properly gathered, and how many will count, have become more stringent. A new anti-fraud rule requiring petition circulators to sign and date each page of voter petitioners is being legally challenged by petitioners who say it has led to the unreasonable disqualification of thousands of signatures.

An earlier Oregon Supreme Court ruling lets property owners such as shopping centers bar access to petition circulators. Even post offices and other public property owners have made access difficult, petitioners say. -- New rules put ballot access out of reach for some groups (Register-Guard)

June 25, 2004

Arizona Clean Elections under fire

Arizona voters likely will decide in November if they want to keep letting political candidates use public money as a way to fund their campaigns.

The fight over Arizona's Clean Elections system, which has become the financial muscle for hundreds of legislative candidates, is on.

A group called No Taxpayer Money for Politicians has an initiative for the Nov. 2 ballot that would amend the state Constitution and stop the use of public money for political races. The group's chairman, Eric Crown, filed 275,100 signatures on Thursday, well above the 184,000 signatures needed to change the state Constitution. The signatures still must be validated by state election officials, which could take several days. -- Anti-Clean Elections petitions being validated by officials (Arizona Republic)

June 21, 2004

San Francisco initiative proposes voting rights for non-citizens in school elections

In a push to get more immigrants involved in their children's education, San Francisco officials are considering asking voters in November to give parents who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote in school board elections.

Under the proposed ballot initiative, even illegal immigrants would be able to vote, so long as they are parents with kids in public schools.

If the effort succeeds, San Francisco would become the first city in California to join a growing number of cities across the country that have adopted similar laws in recent years.

The controversial idea is already fueling charges from critics who say allowing non-citizens to vote devalues citizenship. But immigrant advocates and some voting-rights experts believe it's only a matter of time before the state comes to grips with its new demographic reality: Almost one-fifth of all voting-age Californians are non-citizens. -- San Francisco considers school board voting rights for non-citizens (KRT Wire via Biloxi Sun Herald)

June 20, 2004

Lies by the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians Act" crowd

Michael Bryan at Political State Report has this post about the campaign to repeal the Clean Elections program in Arizona:

This video captures a paid petition circulator bald-facedly lying to a 'voter,' who is wearing a wire, about what the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians Act" is all about. He represents it as favoring "100% Clean Elections" and simply ensuring that no taxpayer money should be spent on political campaigns, as it would be "better used for education and health care for the elderly". As if.

Contrary to what initiative backers are simplistically claiming, that taxes are being used for campaigns, the Clean Elections law receives no appropriated tax dollars. The initiative was written to include its own funding mechanisms. The primary sources of funds are:

a 10% surcharge on civil and criminal fines and penalties,

a voluntary $5 check off on your income tax return, and

voluntary tax credit contributions, just like many other tax credit contributions such as those to schools.

June 15, 2004

Colorado initiative seeks proportional presidential vote

The wealthy president of a Brazilian university is bankrolling an initiative to end Colorado's winner-take-all presidential electoral system. ...

For example, a candidate who wins 60 percent at the polls could snag five of the state's nine electoral votes, leaving the remaining four to a candidate who wins 40 percent on Election Day.

The group has begun to collect signatures; it needs 67,799 to get the measure on the ballot.

If approved Nov. 2, the constitutional amendment would affect this year's choice for president by immediately permitting the division of Colorado electoral votes. And it would mark the most ambitious Electoral College reform yet in the nation. -- Group pushes for vote switch: Colo. would split presidential tally (

The text of the initiative is here.

If every state adopted the proposal, we might begin to see a truly national election, rather than red-blue-purple trichotomy in which some states are ignored by the two parties because they are considered to safe territory for one party or the other. On the other hand, if only a few smaller states adopt this proposal, will it be worth diverting any campaign resources to such states? Since Colorado is already considered a purple state by some, this initiative (if already in effect) might have the perverse effect of making the national parties less interested in Colorado. It would only be worth one or two electoral votes to win it or win more of its votes, while it is worth 9 electoral votes now.

Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

Update: Kos has a contrary analysis:

But on a more immediate tactical level, this initiative will force Republicans to spend a great deal of money in Colorado when they hoped to completely ignore the state and take its nine EVs for granted. Despite all the talk of Colorado being in play this year, Kerry still has a ways to go before he pulls the state in play.

But with this initiative on the ballot, Republicans have to fight to defeat the initiative (millions will likely get spent on the effort), and also give the state some love (Bush's time and money) in case the initiative passed.

Oh well, as some fair and balanced media outlet says, "we report, you decide."

June 14, 2004

Ward Connerly ballot petition okayed in Michigan

A Michigan Court of Appeals ruling has reinstated a petition drive to put an anti-affirmative action measure on the fall ballot.

In a seven-page opinion dated Friday, the unanimous three-judge appeals panel overturned a March ruling in Ingham County Circuit Court that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative was improperly worded and likely to confuse voters.

The decision removes a major obstacle for the campaign led by Ward Connerly, a California businessman and affirmative action opponent, The Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press and The Ann Arbor News reported.

But MCRI spokesman Chetly Zarko said that, although he was elated by the court's decision, it may have come too late to salvage the petition drive for the 2004 ballot. -- Appellate court overturns MCRI petition drive ruling (Michigan Daily)

May 31, 2004

California 3-strikes law to face the voters

A Sacramento insurance broker has spent $1.56 million in an effort to qualify an initiative for the November ballot that would weaken California's three-strikes law and could lead to the release of the man's son, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence for a car crash that killed two people.

Jerry Keenan spent the money to gather petition signatures to place the initiative on the ballot, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday, citing campaign finance records. Keenan declined to discuss the issue.

Both proponents and opponents of the effort say they expect the initiative to qualify for the ballot within the next few days. -- AP Wire | 05/31/2004 | California insurance broker spends $1.56 million to weaken Three-Strikes law (AP via Monterey Herald)

May 12, 2004

California to vote on non-partisan primary initiative

Voters may be able to choose any candidate in state primaries regardless of their party affiliation.

The California Secretary of State's office announced May 3 that an initiative to make California's primaries nonpartisan - allowing voters to choose any candidate regardless of party affiliation - has collected enough signatures for the November 2004 ballot.

If voters approve the new system, races for the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, the state Legislature, governor, attorney general, treasurer, controller, lieutenant governor, insurance commissioner and secretary of state will all be changed to open primary elections.

Proponents of the initiative said it will help bridge the gap between the two parties and increase voter turnout by making primaries more competitive. -- Initiative to make primary nonpartisan on state ballot (California Aggie)

April 1, 2004

Florida may restrict the initiative process

Class-size reduction and high-speed rail may not have made it into the Florida constitution under a proposal the state Senate passed Thursday to thwart costly citizen initiatives.

The Senate would require 60 percent of voters to approve amending the state's constitution, a move made in part out of frustration over those two issues that will cost billions over the next decade and, some say, threaten Florida's long-term fiscal health.

Neither class size nor high-speed rail - both put on the ballot by petition drive - drew enough votes to satisfy the proposed 60 percent standard. Currently, only a simple majority of 50 percent plus one is needed for passing an initiative amendment.

Also passing the Senate were measures approving tighter deadlines for groups wanting to bring issues to the ballot and limiting the types of subjects that can be addressed by citizen initiative. -- Senate passes higher vote standard for constitutional changes (AP via Miami Herald)

One judge nixes Ward Connerly proposal in Michigan, another does not

A campaign to put affirmative action before voters this fall was dealt a major setback Thursday [25 March] when a Lansing [Michigan] judge said the petition wording violates state election law.

Ingham County Judge Paula Manderfield ordered the four-member Board of State Canvassers to rescind its December approval of the petition to ban racial preferences in college admissions and government hiring.

The judge found the proposed amendment would add a new section to the state constitution without clarifying that it would alter an existing anti-discrimination section, as required by law. -- Judge: Race petition illegal (Ann Arbor News, 26 March)

A Wayne County judge on Friday denied a request from two attorneys to stop a petition drive to place a proposal on the state ballot to ban racial preferences in college admissions and government hiring.

Circuit Judge Susan Borman ruled that it is premature to rule on the constitutionality of a proposed initiative that may or may not be placed on the November ballot.

After Borman dismissed the case, attorneys Milton R. Henry of Bloomfield Hills and Godfrey J. Dillard of Detroit said that they would take their case to federal court. -- Judge won't halt petitions (Ann Arbor News, 27 March)

The state attorney general said Tuesday that his office plans to appeal a lower court ruling that a state board shouldn't have approved petition forms being circulated by a group trying to end affirmative action at Michigan's public universities and other public agencies.

Mike Cox said if Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Paula Manderfield's ruling last week is allowed to stand, it will impair citizens' rights to petition to change the state constitution.

"The lower court's standard for amending the constitution creates too onerous a burden on those who choose to engage in democratic debate," he said in a news release. "The language of the petitions in question clearly meets the test established by Michigan's courts." -- Cox to appeal affirmative-action petition ruling (AP via Ann Arbor News)

The proposal can be found on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative website.