Welcome to the Monday, October 2, 2023, Brew.
By: Juan Garcia de Paredes
In Friday’s edition, we mistakenly included a paragraph referencing a chart on Article III nominations, renominations, and recess appointments. This paragraph wasn’t intended for publication. We apologize for the error.
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- Proposed 2024 initiative would recriminalize Schedule I-IV drug possession offenses in Oregon
- Ballotpedia helps launch National Voter Education Week 2023
- State supreme courts issue 133 opinions from Sept. 18-24
Proposed 2024 initiative would recriminalize Schedule I-IV drug possession offenses in Oregon
On Sept. 19, a group in Oregon filed an initiative that would recriminalize drugs in the state four years after voters decriminalized Schedule I-IV drug possession offenses.
The Coalition to Fix and Improve Ballot Measure 110, the group behind the measure, filed two versions of the initiative with the secretary of state. Both versions would make changes to Oregon Measure 110, which decriminalized personal non-commercial drug possession offenses. Voters approved Measure 110 58% to 42% in 2020, making Oregon the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all drugs for personal use.
Measure 110 reclassified possession of Schedule I-IV controlled substances, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines, from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E violation. The maximum penalty for a Class A misdemeanor was one year in prison and a $6,250 fine. Class E offenders face either a $100 fine or a completed health assessment.
Measure 110 also established the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund, which the Oregon Health Authority manages. The fund gives grants to government or community-run organizations to create addiction recovery centers.
Both versions of the proposed 2024 initiative would make it a misdemeanor to possess or use Schedule I-IV drugs in public. They would also mandate treatment for drug-dependent persons charged with low-level crimes.
One of the versions would also automatically expunge misdemeanor possession convictions after individuals complete addiction treatment. It would also increase penalties for repeat dealers and transfer oversight of the Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund from the Oregon Health Authority to the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission.
To qualify the initiative for the ballot, supporters must collect 120,413 signatures, which is 6% of the votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election. The signature deadline is July 5, 2024.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Coalition to Fix and Improve Ballot Measure 110 has received campaign contributions from Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle ($300,000) and Nike founder Phil Knight ($200,000).
Max Williams, a former Republican state legislator, is leading the coalition. Williams said the group “strongly support[s] the parts of Measure 110 that are putting resources into moving people into treatment and recovery.”
“That’s why this isn’t a repeal. But what we’re trying to do is actually make 110 better and really fulfill its promise, which is more people into more treatment quickly,” Williams said.
Drug Policy Alliance, which supported the passage of Measure 110, tweeted, “Two initiative petitions aimed at undoing Oregon’s Measure 110 were filed. The complicated, costly, & ineffective ballot measures announced today are not a solution but, instead, a false promise of change & a return to the failed drug war.”
As of Sept. 29, Ballotpedia has identified five other measures regarding criminal penalties for drugs that may appear on the 2024 ballot. These include two measures in California seeking to increase penalties for fentanyl dealers and other drug-related crimes, and measures in Michigan, California, and Massachusetts seeking to decriminalize certain psychedelic substances.
There are also a number of ballot measures next year related to the sales, use, and growth of marijuana. To learn more about those measures, click here.
Ballotpedia helps launch National Voter Education Week 2023
Now, for some different kind of news, Ballotpedia is excited to announce its participation in the launch of National Voter Education Week (“NVEW”) 2023!
Founded in 2020, NVEW is a nationwide campaign to give voters the tools, information, and confidence they need to cast their ballot. The effort aims to help voters find their polling location, understand their ballot, and make a plan to vote. NVEW 2023 starts TODAY, Oct. 2, and runs all week through Oct. 6.
NVEW is one of four “civic holidays”—nonpartisan mobilizations that strengthen and celebrate our country’s democracy each fall. The other three are:
- National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 19,
- Vote Early Day on Oct. 26, and;
- Election Hero Day on Nov. 6.
Each event addresses a unique aspect of democratic participation, from registering to vote, to making a plan and preparing to vote, to casting a ballot, and celebrating the people who administer elections for communities throughout the U.S.
As part of NVEW 2023, Ballotpedia is happy to be able to offer voters the Sample Ballot Lookup Tool. Few voters know who is on their ballot, and they don’t have an easy way to find out. When you sit down to research what’s on your ballot, we don’t believe you should have to open 30 different web pages from 20 different websites to find out what district you’re in, what races are up for election, who’s running, and what a “yes” vote on that ballot measure would really mean. And even then, you still might not find the answers you need.
Ballotpedia provides all that information in one spot. Instead of spending time searching for what’s on your ballot, you can instead read encyclopedic articles, analyze candidate views, and decide how you should vote. We also offer unique ways to learn about your candidates, such as survey questions meant to elicit personal and thoughtful responses from candidates.
Also, be sure to check out tomorrow’s edition of the Brew, where we’ll give you an update on 2024 election dates and deadlines! And, in case you missed it, check out our Sept. 25 edition as well, where we did a deep dive on voter registration.
Click here to check out more information about National Voter Education Week and here to learn more about Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup Tool. To learn more about our voting education resources, click the link below.
State supreme courts issue 133 opinions from Sept. 18-24
Let’s end the day with our weekly update on state judicial opinions. We’re officially into the 4th quarter of 2023 – 75% of the year is behind us.
State supreme courts issued 133 opinions from Sept. 18-24. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia led the field with 32 opinions issued, followed by Georgia with 11, and Montana and Texas with seven each.
The 133 opinions account for 3% of the year-to-date total of 4,851. West Virginia, again, leads with 404 opinions issued since Jan. 1, followed by Texas with 342, Delaware with 312, and Pennsylvania with 286.
State supreme courts have been issuing an average of 128 opinions per week so far this year. This figure is less than the 2022 weekly average of 143. It’s also less than the average of 160 opinions issued per week in 2021.
Supreme courts in three states have issued fewer than 25 opinions since the start of the year, while those in 20 states have issued more than 75 each.
Some of the state supreme court opinions issued this year include those in:
- Idaho, where the court affirmed a citation issued against “a residential assisted living and memory care facility, for failing to provide a safe living environment for residents and for inadequate training in relation to COVID-19 infection control measures;”
- Mississippi, where the court found that “the creation of the CCID inferior court in Section 4 of House Bill 1020 was constitutional” but “Section 1’s creation of four new appointed ‘temporary special circuit judges’ in the Seventh Circuit Court District for a specified, almost-four-year term violated the State Constitution’s requirement that circuit judges be elected for a four-year term;” and,
- Ohio, where the court “granted a limited writ ordering the ballot board and [Secretary of State Frank] LaRose to reconvene and adopt ballot language that accurately conveyed that the proposed amendment limited the ability of the state, as defined by the amendment, to burden, penalize, or prohibit abortion.”
Supreme courts in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Texas, and Delaware regularly end the year as some of the country’s most active courts. Collectively, they accounted for 26% of all opinions issued in 2021 and 2022, and, to date, 28% in 2023.
Every state and the District of Columbia have at least one supreme court, known as a court of last resort. Oklahoma and Texas have two courts of last resort, one for civil cases and one for criminal proceedings. Supreme courts do not hear trials of cases. Instead, they hear appeals of decisions made in lower courts. The number of justices on each state supreme court ranges between five and nine.
In 2020, we conducted a study identifying the partisan balance on every state supreme court. You can find that research here. We also identified which justices ruled together most often in our Determiners and Dissenters report found here.