Supporters of payday lending rate caps, expanded gambling, and medical marijuana initiatives file signatures in Nebraska

Supporters of payday lending rate caps, gambling expansion at horse racetracks, and medical marijuana submitted signatures to the Nebraska Secretary of State by the July 3 deadline to qualify for the November 3 ballot. In Nebraska, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated state statute for the ballot is equal to 7 percent of registered voters at the time of the deadline for filing signatures. The requirement is 10 percent for initiated constitutional amendments. According to the July 2020 voter registration report, there were a total of 1,222,741 registered voters in Nebraska. This means that approximately 85,592 valid signatures are required for state statutes, and 122,274 valid signatures are needed for constitutional amendments.
Nebraskans for Responsible Lending, the campaign sponsoring the Payday Lender Interest Rate Cap Initiative, was the first to file signatures on June 25. Supporters submitted approximately 120,000 signatures for the initiative, requiring a signature validity rate of approximately 71 percent for the initiated state statute to qualify for the ballot.
The initiative would limit the annual interest charged for delayed deposit services—also known as payday lending—to 36 percent. Across the country, 16 states and the District of Columbia have enacted a 36 percent interest rate cap. In 2018, a similar measure was approved in Colorado.
Keep the Money in Nebraska is sponsoring one constitutional amendment and two state statutes that would allow games of chance at licensed racetracks and provide for the taxation and regulation of such games. The group filed about 200,000 signatures for the Constitutional Amendment to Allow Laws Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative, requiring a signature validity rate of approximately 61 percent to meet the requirement of 122,274. The group filed about 135,000 signatures each for the Tax on Gaming at Racetracks Initiative and the Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative, requiring signature validity rates of 63 percent to meet the requirement of 85,592 valid signatures.
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana filed 182,000 signatures in support of a constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana. To meet the signature requirement, the secretary of state needs to verify at least 61 percent of the signatures as valid. As of February 2020, 33 states and Washington, D.C., had passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Two prior medical marijuana initiatives did not make the Nebraska ballot in 2014 and 2016.
Campaigns behind three initiatives that were cleared for signature gathering did not submit enough signatures by the deadline. The initiatives concerned legislative and congressional redistricting, marijuana, and income tax credits.
One citizen-initiated measure qualified for the Nebraska ballot in both 2016 and 2018. In 2016, the signature validity rate of the petition was 85.79 percent. In 2018, the signature validity rate was 78.55%.
Based on a sampling of 143 citizen-initiated measures on the ballot from 2006 through 2018 across the country, successful petitions featured an average signature validity rate of 75.33 percent. Signature verification processes and petition requirements vary widely by state.
The Nebraska Legislature also referred to constitutional amendments to the November ballot: the Remove Slavery as Punishment for Crime from Constitution Amendment and the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Repayment Amendment. Nebraska requires a 60 percent vote by legislators during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to a general election ballot.
Between 1996 and 2018, voters approved 53 percent (39 of 73) and rejected 47 percent (34 of 73) of the ballot measures. An average of six measures appeared on statewide general election ballots during that period.
Additional reading: