Author

Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Arkansas Supreme Court removes third citizen initiative from November ballot, leaving three legislative referrals for voters to decide

On September 17, the Arkansas Supreme Court removed Issue 6 from the November ballot. The referendum would have allowed voters to either repeal or uphold Act 579, which was designed to amend the definition of practice of optometry to allow optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures that were previously only performed by ophthalmologists. A yes vote on the referendum would have been a vote to uphold Act 579 while a no vote would have been a vote to repeal it.

During this cycle, the Arkansas Supreme Court removed all three citizen-initiated measures from the ballot—Issue 4, Issue 5, and Issue 6—that had been certified for the ballot. The rulings were all based on certifications filed by measure sponsors that said background checks were acquired for all signature gatherers. State law requires the certifications to state that background checks were passed by all signature gatherers.

Arkansans for Healthy Eyes led the campaign in support of a yes vote. Arkansans for Healthy Eyes supported Act 579 to allow optometrists to perform some eye surgeries. Safe Surgery Arkansas (SSA) led the campaign in support of a no vote. SSA sponsored the referendum signature petition. The group opposed allowing optometrists to perform some eye surgeries and sought to repeal Act 579. Safe Surgery Arkansas paid $661,000 to National Ballot Access, a petition circulating company, to collect signatures for the measure.

Issue 6 was removed from the ballot for the same reason that Issues 4 and 5 were removed in late August. Issue 4, sponsored by Arkansas Voters First, would have created the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission for state legislative and congressional redistricting. Arkansas Voters First paid $1.1 million to National Ballot Access, Advanced Micro Targeting, and Fieldworks LLC to collect signatures for the measure.

Issue 5, sponsored by Open Primaries Arkansas, would have (a) changed primary elections so that all candidates for an office are listed on a single primary ballot, rather than on separate partisan ballots, and (b) created a top-four ranked-choice voting system for general elections for federal congressional office, state general assembly, and statewide elected offices. Open Primaries Arkansas did not report signature gathering costs.

Under Arkansas Code § 7-9-601(b)(3), sponsors are required to certify to the secretary of state that each paid canvasser passed a state and federal criminal background check. The Arkansas Supreme Court found that proponents of the three measures failed to certify that paid signature gatherers passed background checks. The certifications submitted by petitioners stated that background checks were acquired, but did not say they were passed.

Sponsors of the referendum, Safe Surgery Arkansas, said they would pursue a new ballot measure in 2022.

Three measures remain on the November ballot in Arkansas. All three measures are constitutional amendments that were referred to the ballot by the state legislature. Issue 1 would continue a 0.5% sales tax for transportation projects; Issue 2 would change state legislative term limits; and Issue 3 would change initiative process and legislative referral requirements.

Two measures on the 2018 ballot in Arkansas were declared invalid by the state Supreme Court and votes for the measures were not counted. Similarly, in 2016, the supreme court declared two measures on the ballot to be invalid and votes were not counted.

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28 committees supporting and opposing Colorado’s November ballot measures have raised over $23 million and spent over $19 million

Eleven statewide ballot measures are certified to appear on the November 3 ballot in Colorado. Ballotpedia identified 28 committees supporting and opposing 10 of the measures. The 28 committees had raised $23,369,532.55 and had spent $19,235,702.73 according to reports filed on September 8 that covered information through September 2. The next reports are due on September 21.

Eight of the 11 measures on the ballot were placed on the ballot through citizen petition drives and concern topics including wolf reintroduction, abortion restrictions, citizenship requirements for voting, paid medical leave, and taxes.

The citizen-initiated measures are Amendments 76 and 77 and Propositions 113 through 118. Campaigns surrounding the citizen-initiated measures raised 89.7% of the funds ($20.97 million) and accounted for 92% of the expenditures ($17.7 million of the $19.2 million total).

Campaigns surrounding the measures spent a combined total of $7.38 million on signature gathering costs. The campaigns to place Propositions 113 and 115 on the ballot used volunteers to collect signatures and therefore did not spend money on signature gathering. Proposition 113 will determine whether or not Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Proposition 115 would prohibit abortion after 22 weeks gestational age.

Seven citizen-initiatives were on the ballot in Colorado in November 2018, second only to California with eight. A total of $7.33 million was spent on petition drives by committees behind the citizen-initiated measures that qualified for the 2018 ballot.

The state legislature referred a state statute to the November 2020 ballot that would increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs (Proposition EE). The committee supporting Proposition EE (A Brighter, Healthier Future for Colorado’s Kids) raised $2.4 million. Opponents (No on EE– A Bad Deal for Colorado) had not yet reported campaign finance activity.

The state legislature referred two constitutional amendments: Amendment B, which would repeal the Gallagher Amendment and freeze current property tax assessment rates, and Amendment C, which would amend charitable gaming requirements.

Colorado Coming Together, supporting Amendment B, raised $50. Keep Property Taxes Low, opposing Amendment B, raised $2,050.

Ballotpedia did not identify committees supporting or opposing Amendment C, which would lower the number of years an organization must have existed before obtaining a charitable gaming license from five years to three years and to allow charitable organizations to hire managers and operators of gaming activities so long as they are not paid more than the minimum wage.

In 2018, Ballotpedia tracked $1.185 billion in contributions to the ballot measure campaigns supporting and opposing the 167 certified 2018 measures and $1.16 billion in expenditures by those campaigns. Campaigns supporting and opposing the 13 statewide ballot measures on the 2018 ballot in Colorado raised $70.4 million, ranking Colorado #6 among states with the highest ballot measure campaign contributions in 2018. California was #1 with $369 million.

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Ballotpedia is tracking 21 local police-related ballot measures in nine states

As of September 4, Ballotpedia is tracking 21 local police-related ballot measures in 16 jurisdictions in nine states. These local ballot measures were proposed in the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

Of the 21 ballot measures, seven of them are on the ballot in California and four of them are on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The most common policy addressed by the ballot measures was police oversight boards and offices and the duties and powers of these boards and offices. Ten of the ballot measures addressed police oversight. Other topics include police and criminal justice funding, staffing levels, law enforcement training, and the public disclosure of police camera footage involving deaths and serious injuries.

The following is a list of local police-related measures on the ballot for November 3, 2020:
  • Los Angeles County, California: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require that no less than 10% of the county’s General Fund be appropriated to youth, job, business, and housing programs and alternatives to incarceration.
  • Oakland, California: The Oakland City Council referred to the ballot a charter amendment that would create an Office of the Inspector General to review the police commission’s policies, as well as change the powers, duties, and staffing of the commission and police review board.
  • San Diego, California: The San Diego City Council referred a ballot measure to create a Commission on Police Practices, which would conduct investigations and subpoena witnesses and documents related to deaths resulting from police interactions and complaints made against police officers.
  • San Francisco, California: Voters will decide two ballot measures related to policing. One would remove the minimum police staffing level required (1,971 full-time police officers) from the city’s charter. The other measure would create the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board and the Sheriff’s Department Office of Inspector General.
  • San Jose, California: The San Jose City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize an independent police auditor to review reports and records related to officer-involved shootings and uses of force.
  • Sonoma County, California: Voters will decide Measure P, which would make changes to the county’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach.
  • Monument, Colorado: Voters will decide whether to increase the local sales tax from 3% to 3.5% to fund the Monument Police Department.
  • Glynn County, Georgia: The Georgia State Legislature referred a ballot measure to the county ballot to abolish the county police and transfer the remaining resources and funds to the sheriff’s department. The Glynn County Board of Commissioners filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Secretary of State and the State Board of Elections on August 28. The Board of Commissioners said the measure would transfer county assets through “an unlawful referendum and election process in violation of the Georgia Constitution and state election law.”
  • DuPage County, Illinois: There are two non-binding advisory votes on the ballot. One advises the county on considering law enforcement and public safety as its top budgeting priority, and the other advises the county on funding and supporting law enforcement training methods that are designed to decrease the risk of injury to officers and suspects.
  • Akron, Ohio: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require police body and dashboard camera recording that document police use of force resulting in a death or serious injury to be released to the public.
  • Columbus, Ohio: The Columbus City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would create a Civilian Police Review Board to investigate alleged police misconduct, subpoena testimony and evidence during an investigations, and make recommendations to the Division of Police.
  • Portland, Oregon: Voters will decide a ballot measure to establish a new police oversight board, give the board subpoena powers, and allow the board to impose disciplinary actions, including termination, on law enforcement professionals.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Voters in Philadelphia will decide two police-related ballot measures and one other criminal justice proposal. One measure would add language to the city charter calling on the police department to “eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent.” The other police-related measure would create a Citizens Police Oversight Commission. Another measure would create an Office of the Victim Advocate to act as an advocate for crime victims and co-victims.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize the Independent Citizen Police Review Board to audit the police bureau and require police officers to cooperate with the board’s investigations.
  • Kyle, Texas: Voters in Kyle will decide on a charter amendment that authorizes the city council to adopt procedures and establishes a committee to review the city’s police department.
  • King County, Washington: Two police-related measures will be on the ballot. One would make the county sheriff an appointed, rather than elected, position. The second measure would give the county council the authority to define the sheriff’s duties.
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Mississippi commission selects final flag design containing a magnolia flower

At the election on November 3, 2020, Mississippi voters will be shown a colored picture of the new proposed state flag, named the In God We Trust Flag. Residents may vote either “yes” to adopt the new flag or “no” to oppose adopting the new state flag. If the new proposed flag is rejected by voters, the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag will reconvene, design another flag, and allow voters to approve or reject it at a special election in November 2021. The commission unanimously selected the final flag on September 2, 2020.

Small changes to the flag were set to be made before it is finalized, such as bolding the words IN GOD WE TRUST.

After the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the debate about the state flag resurfaced in the state government. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) tweeted on June 27, 2020, “The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it.” State Representative Robert Johnson III (D) said, “It is a symbol of terror in the Black community. It is a symbol of oppression in the Black community and it is a symbol of slavery. Everything that has been devastating to African Americans and to especially African Americans in the South, everything that has been a complete and utter disaster for us, that flag represents.” Johnson said the protests after Floyd’s death created a perfect storm that spurred the state legislature to act in removing the state flag.

Mississippi became the only state with a state flag containing the Confederate flag after Georgia had removed it from its state flag in 2001.

House Bill 1796, which was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on June 30, 2020, removed the official status of the state flag, which, at the time, contained the Confederate ballot cross. The bill provided for the removal of the state flag within 15 days. The bill established the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag, which was tasked with designing a new state flag and reporting the recommended design to the governor and the state legislature. The bill provided that “the new design for the Mississippi State Flag shall honor the past while embracing the promise of the future.” The Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag consisted of nine members. The speaker of the house and the lieutenant governor each appointed three members. The other three members were representatives from the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which were appointed by Gov. Tate Reeves.

The public was able to submit flag designs to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) until August 1, 2020. Flag designs needed to adhere to North American Vexillological Association standards (be simple enough that a child could draw it from memory; use meaningful symbolism; use two or three basic colors; not use lettering or seals; and be distinctive or be related). The commission received around 3,000 flags that met the criteria. The commission narrowed the designs down across four meetings until the final design was selected on September 2, 2020.

The previous Mississippi state flag was adopted by the state legislature in 1894. The emblem on the left side of the 1894 flag included the Confederate battle cross. In 1906, Mississippi enacted a revised code of laws, and due to an oversight, the law establishing the official state flag was inadvertently repealed. Voters in Mississippi decided a state flag referendum in April 2001. The measure presented voters with two potential state flags. Voters approved Proposition A, which made the 1894 Confederate flag the official state flag.

The 2001 flag referendum came about after a lawsuit brought by the NAACP in 1993 alleging that the use of the Confederate flag in the state flag violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the state flag’s inclusion of the Confederate Battle Flag did not violate any constitutionally protected rights. The court had also found that the state flag requirements were not codified in state law and thus Mississippi did not have an official state flag. The 2001 flag referendum was held to formally adopt a state flag and officially codify it in law.

A group called Let Mississippi Vote planned to file an initiative targeting the 2022 ballot that would ask voters to choose between four flag designs:

1. The former state flag that includes Confederate battle emblem, but with the phrase “In God We Trust” added;
2. The flag commission’s final flag, which contains a magnolia flower and the words “In God We Trust”;
3. The bicentennial flag with the state seal; and

4. The former Stennis Flag (also called the Hospitality Flag), which includes the words “In God We Trust.”

As of September 2, 2020, one initiative filing concerning the state flag was active. The measure, sponsored by Matthew Brinson, would ask voters if they want to change the flag from the 1894 flag containing the Confederate battle cross to the Hospitality Flag.

To qualify an initiative for the 2022 ballot, 106,190 valid signatures are required. Signatures for the initiative can be collected for a period of one year after petitions are approved.



Colorado initiative to expand gaming types and increase maximum single bets certified for November ballot

Questions set to appear on the Colorado November ballot were finalized on August 27 after the last citizen initiative awaiting a statement of sufficiency was certified for the ballot.

The constitutional amendment, Initiative #257, would allow voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek — the only towns where gaming is legal in Colorado — to approve a maximum single bet of any amount and approve more game types in addition to slot machines, blackjack, poker, roulette, and craps. The measure would repeal language that is currently in the Colorado Constitution that limits the types of games allowed in the casinos and that sets a maximum single bet of $100. The distribution of gaming tax revenue for community colleges in state statute would be amended to include distributions to programs to improve student retention and increase credential completion. If the measure is approved by voters statewide in November, each of the three towns may hold a local election to vote on whether to change betting limits and add new games. The earliest these changes would go into effect is May 1, 2021.

Going into the election, the maximum single bet in Colorado was $100, which was raised from $5 in 2008. The only other state with individual betting limits is South Dakota, where the maximum bet in Deadwood (also a former gold mining town turned gaming town) is $1,000.

The initiative was sponsored by Bruce Brown, the former mayor of Cripple Creek, and former Colorado Senate president Bill Cadman (R). Bruce Brown said, “These towns have built much of their local economies around hotels, restaurants, tourism, and travelers who visit because of gaming. Voters in these communities should be allowed to decide what is best for them and their economy, including whether they want to change betting limits and add new games.” Local Choice Colorado is leading the campaign in support of the measure. According to the most recent reports, the committee had raised $2.25 million and had spent $1.51 million. Top donors included Penn National Gaming, Monarch Blackhawk Casino, and Monarch Casino and Resort, Inc. Local Choice Colorado said, “If local voters choose to approve new games and betting limits, mountain casinos could attract higher-income Coloradans who would typically travel to other states to gamble, as well as out-of-state, high-stakes bettors visiting Aspen or Vail. This will improve economic opportunities for people living in these mountain towns by bringing in more tourists, creating good-paying jobs, and increasing tax revenues.” The Colorado Gaming Association had also endorsed the measure.

Proponents submitted 209,885 signatures to the secretary of state’s office on July 28, 2020. On August 27, the secretary of state announced that 138,232 were projected to be valid based on a random sample. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required.

On November 3, Coloradans will see 11 measures on the ballot. Eight of the measures were placed on the ballot through citizen petition drives and concern topics ranging from wolf reintroduction, abortion restrictions, citizenship requirements for voting, paid medical leave, and taxes. The state legislature referred a state statute to increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs and two constitutional amendments: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment.

In even-numbered years from 2000 through 2018, an average of nine measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado. The approval rate for measures on the ballot in even-numbered years was about 41%.

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Ranked-choice voting and redistricting commission initiatives blocked from Arkansas ballot

On August 27, two Arkansas citizen-initiated measures—one that would have established a redistricting commission (Issue 4) and another that would have established ranked-choice voting (Issue 5)—were blocked by the Arkansas Supreme Court from appearing on the November ballot. The measures were provisionally certified for the ballot on August 21, 2020.

The redistricting measure, sponsored by Arkansas Voters First, would have created the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission for state legislative and congressional redistricting. The commission would have been comprised of nine commissioners who are registered Arkansas voters and would have replaced the Board of Apportionment, which is currently responsible for state legislative redistricting in Arkansas. The current Board of Apportionment is comprised of the governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general. Currently, in Arkansas, the state legislature is responsible for congressional redistricting. The measure would have also established criteria for drawing district maps.

Sponsored by Open Primaries Arkansas, the ranked-choice voting measure would have (a) changed primary elections so that all candidates for an office are listed on a single primary ballot, rather than on separate partisan ballots, and (b) created a top-four ranked-choice voting system for general elections for federal congressional office, state general assembly, and statewide elected offices, including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer of State, Auditor of State, Attorney General, and Commissioner of State Lands.

The campaigns each submitted around 100,000 signatures on July 6. To qualify for the ballot, 89,151 valid signatures were required.

Secretary of State John Thurston (R) found on July 14 that signatures for the initiatives were insufficient on the grounds that petition circulators’ background check certifications did not comply with state law.

Under Arkansas Code § 7-9-601(b)(3), sponsors are required to certify to the Secretary of State that each paid canvasser passed a state and federal criminal background check. Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas campaigns submitted certifications stating that the background checks were acquired but did not say they were passed. The statements of insufficiency for the two measures came a day after Special Master Mark Hewett determined signatures submitted on January 31 for an optometry law referendum were invalid for the same reason. Hewett’s report was filed with Arkansas Supreme Court for a final determination.

The campaigns asked the state Supreme Court on July 17 to order Secretary of State John Thurston to give the campaigns at least 30 days to collect additional signatures. In Arkansas, if petitioners fail to meet the signature requirement, but the petitioners have gathered at least 75% of the valid signatures needed, petitioners have 30 days to collect additional signatures or demonstrate that rejected signatures are valid. The campaigns were granted a provisional 30-day cure period. Arkansas Voters First reported submitting an additional 50,000 signatures on August 5. Open Primaries Arkansas reported submitting an additional 59,000 signatures on August 20.

Retired Circuit Judge John Fogleman was appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court on July 24 as a special master to resolve the disputes between Arkansas Voters First, Open Primaries Arkansas, and the secretary of state concerning petition circulator background check certifications and signature validity. Fogleman’s report was submitted to the state Supreme Court on August 10, 2020. Fogleman concluded that the Supreme Court needed to decide whether or not the campaigns’ background check certifications comply with Arkansas Code § 7-9-601(b)(3).

On August 21, Secretary of State John Thurston certified both measures for the ballot “for coding purposes and preparation purposes only, pending the outcome of the litigation.” Under Arkansas Code § 7-5-204, if the secretary of state has not determined a petition’s sufficiency by the 75th day before the general election or if a measure is being challenged in court, the measure must be placed on the ballot. If the measure is later declared insufficient or invalid, votes for the measure will not be counted or certified.

On August 27, 2020, Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of John Thurston. Associate Justice Robin Wynne, who wrote the majority opinion, said, “Simply acquiring or obtaining a background check is not sufficient under the plain language of the statute. The results of the background checks are not required to be filed with the Secretary of State, and the certification is the only assurance the public receives that the paid canvassers ‘passed’ background checks.” The state Supreme Court ruled, “In sum, we hold that petitioners did not comply with Arkansas Code Annotated section 7-9-601(b)(3) when they failed to certify that their paid canvassers had passed criminal background checks. Accordingly, the initiative petitions at issue are insufficient and petitioners are not entitled to a cure period or any other relief.” Justice Josephine Linker Hart dissented, writing, “Today, the majority has disenfranchised more than 90,000 citizens. By signing the petition, these registered voters clearly manifested their desire to have these issues placed on the ballot. … there is no evidence that the certification language directly affected the validity of even a single petition part.”

The campaign managers for Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas said they were exploring their legal options for keeping the measures on the ballot.

Two measures on the 2018 ballot in Arkansas were declared invalid by the state Supreme Court and votes for the measures were not counted. Similarly, in 2016, the supreme court declared two measures on the ballot to be invalid and votes were not counted.

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Measure to create paid family and medical leave program in Colorado to appear on November ballot

An initiative to create a paid family and medical leave program in Colorado was certified for the ballot on August 25, 2020. The initiative is the 10th measure to be certified for the November ballot in Colorado.

The initiative would allow for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave and would allow for an additional four weeks for pregnancy or childbirth complications. The program would be funded through a payroll tax to be paid for by employers and employees in a 50/50 split. For the first two years of the program (2023 and 2024), the premiums would be 0.9% of the employee’s wage (0.45% paid by the employer and 0.45% paid by the employee). Employers could choose to pay a larger percentage of the cost up to 100%. Businesses with less than 10 employees would be exempt from paying the premium. Sole proprietors could opt in to the program. Premiums under the program would begin on January 1, 2023, if the measure is approved. Premiums would be adjusted for 2025 so that the total amount of premium contributions to the program equal 135% of the previous year’s claims and 100% of the administration costs. The premium could be set up to a cap of 1.2% of each employee’s wages. A covered individual would receive 90% their weekly wage if their wage is less than 50% of the state average weekly wage (AWW) and 50% of wages that are 50% or more of the AWW, up to a maximum benefit of $1,100 per week.

Colorado Families First is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. According to the most recent reports that covered information through July 27, the committee had received $2.83 million in contributions from four donors: Sixteen Thirty Fund, The Fairness Project, the Colorado AFL-CIO, and the American Civil Liberties Union. The committee reported $2.4 million in cash expenditures, of which, $2.23 million was paid to Blitz Canvassing for signature gathering, resulting in a cost-per required signature of $17.88.

Colorado Families First said, “Eighty percent of Coloradans don’t have access to paid family and medical leave. They can’t afford to take time off work to care for a newborn baby or a seriously ill loved one — something that’s needed now, more than ever. … Currently, 2.6 million Coloradans would benefit from the program. … Coloradans should not have to choose between paying their bills and taking care of their seriously ill family members or having a baby. Eight states, including Oregon, Washington, and Connecticut, have passed similar paid family and medical leave programs. These programs have had lower than expected costs, increased employee retention and have boosted morale.”

Not Now Colorado is leading the campaign in opposition to the initiative. The committee reported $25,000 in contributions from one donor: the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. The committee reported $9,968 in expenditures.

Not Now Colorado said, “[The initiative] is dishonest. To fund the program, proponents designate a ‘payroll premium’ as the source. The premium is actually a payroll tax deducted directly for the paychecks of hardworking Coloradans. … A dual-income family making $110k per year will pay approximately $1,000 per year into this state-run program. This equates to a car payment or a few weeks of groceries for a family. Did anyone ask them if they could afford it? Colorado is in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and an economic recession that has been compared to the Great Depression. Is now the time to ask families who are just getting back to work to pay a payroll tax out of their wages for an unproven, state-run program that they may not ever use? Not Now, Colorado!”

Of the 205,660 signatures submitted by proponents, 137,999 were projected to be valid. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required.

As of August 25, 2020, 10 statewide ballot measures were certified for the November ballot in Colorado. Along with the paid family and medical leave program initiative, voters will decide on five other citizen initiatives concerning wolf reintroduction, abortion restrictions, a citizenship requirement for voting, voter approval of fee-based enterprises, and an income tax rate reduction. A veto referendum determining whether Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is also on the ballot. The state legislature referred a state statute to increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs and two constitutional amendments: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment.

One additional initiative concerning expanded maximum bets and gaming types in the state’s casinos could also make the ballot after having submitted over 200,000 signatures in July.

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Colorado ballot initiative to require voter approval of certain new state enterprises qualifies for November ballot

In November, Coloradans will vote on whether or not to require statewide voter approval of new state enterprises if the enterprise’s projected or actual revenue from fees and surcharges is greater than $100 million within its first five years.

To qualify for the ballot, proponents needed to submit 124,632 valid signatures. Of the 196,090 signatures submitted by proponents on July 31, 2020, 138,852 were projected to be valid based on a random sample.

Enterprises were established through the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment of 1992. Enterprises are government-owned businesses that provide goods or services for a fee or surcharge that is paid for by the individuals or entities that are purchasing the goods or services. Examples of enterprises include the state lottery, state nursing homes, correctional industries, parks and wildlife, public colleges and universities, and the state unemployment insurance program. This is in contrast to government agencies or programs that provide goods or services that are paid for by tax revenue. Enterprises may receive a maximum of 10% of their annual revenue from state and local government sources but are otherwise financially independent from the state government and any local governments. Enterprise revenue does not count toward the TABOR limit. TABOR limits the amount of money the state of Colorado can take in and spend. It limits the annual increase for some state revenue to inflation plus the percentage change in state population. Any money collected above this limit is refunded to taxpayers unless the voters allow the state to spend it.

In the fiscal year 1993-94, the first year TABOR was in effect, enterprise revenue was $724.3 million. In 2017-18, state enterprises received $17.9 billion in revenue. In total, from 1993 to 2018, Colorado enterprises have received $150.17 billion in revenue.

Colorado Rising State Action sponsored the initiative. Michael Fields, executive director of Colorado Rising State Action, said, “For too long the legislature has been going around the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). [Senate Bill 20-215] was a a perfect example of them trying to go around TABOR to raise revenue by calling them fees. Clearly, this is the move they are going to make, raising taxes by calling them fees.”

Ballotpedia identified two committees registered to support the initiative: Voter Approval of Fees and Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee. Together, the committees reported $754,703 in contributions, all but $655 of the contributions were in the form of in-kind contributions. The top three donors were Unite for Colorado, Americans for Prosperity, and Colorado Rising State Action. Unite for Colorado contributed $742,931.74 as an in-kind contribution to Voter Approval of Fees for signature gathering, resulting in a cost-per required signature of $5.96. Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee is also supporting another measure on the November ballot that would decrease the state’s income tax rate.

As of August 25, 2020, 10 statewide ballot measures were certified for the November ballot in Colorado. Along with the voter approval of fees measure, voters will decide on five other citizen initiatives concerning wolf reintroduction, abortion restrictions, a citizenship requirement for voting, a paid family and medical leave program, and an income tax rate reduction. A veto referendum determining whether Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is also on the ballot. The state legislature referred a state statute to increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs and two constitutional amendments: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment.

Signatures for one other citizen initiative were submitted and are waiting a statement of sufficiency or insufficiency. The measure would allow voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to vote to expand allowed gaming types and bet limits.

Additional reading:


Measure to change elections and redistricting procedures in North Dakota blocked from November ballot

A citizen-initiated constitutional amendment that was designed to make changes to elections and redistricting procedures in North Dakota was removed from the 2020 ballot by the North Dakota Supreme Court on August 25.

The measure was certified for the ballot by Secretary of State Al Jaeger on August 11 after his office found that proponents submitted around 32,000 valid signatures for the initiative on July 6. To qualify for the ballot, 26,904 valid signatures were required.

Brighter Future Alliance, which opposed the initiative, filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court on August 12, 2020, seeking to block the measure from the ballot by ordering Secretary Jaeger to declare all signatures for the measure invalid. Brighter Future Alliance argued that the measure’s sponsors failed to meet the initiative petition requirements under the state constitution and state law because the petitions did not include the full text of the measure and that the ballot title did not accurately describe the measure. Under Section 2 of Article III of the state constitution, petitions that are being circulated must include the full text of the proposed measure. Under state law, the petition title must be a “short and concise statement that fairly represents the measure.” In North Dakota, the petition titles are drafted by the secretary of state and approved by the attorney general.

On August 25, 2020, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the measure must be blocked from appearing on the ballot because the text of the constitutional amendment referenced statutory law and that “embedding a statute into the Constitution, which by definition is a law inferior to the Constitution and subject to change by normal legislative procedure, would threaten the sanctity of our fundamental law.” The court did not address the claims related to the petition title’s sufficiency.

Section 1 of the proposed constitutional amendment stated, “In order to provide military-overseas voters with ample opportunity to vote … the secretary of state shall transmit ballots and balloting materials to all covered voters who submit a valid military-overseas ballot application. This shall apply for all elections covered in N.D.C.C. section 16.1-07-19.”

Secretary of State Jaeger said, “The court made its decision, and it will not go on the ballot.” Brighter Future Alliance Chairman Pat Finken said, “We are gratified the court agreed with our position to keep Measure 3 off the ballot. It was ill-conceived, poorly written and the forces behind the measure showed contempt for our initiated measure processes and safeguards. This outcome further demonstrates why we must not allow out-of-state special interests to tamper with our constitution and our elections to further their political agenda.” North Dakota Voters First Chairwoman Carol Sawicki said, “There can be little doubt that Measure 3 was a threat to political insiders and career politicians in North Dakota. The proof is in the way they banded together in a coordinated and unprecedented effort to ensure North Dakota voters never had the chance to cast their ballot.”

The state legislature referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot: one measure would change the structure of the State Board of Higher Education; the other measure would require initiated constitutional amendments passed by voters to be submitted to the legislature.

Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six measures appeared on the ballot in North Dakota during even-numbered election years, 56% of which were approved.

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Ranked-choice voting and redistricting commission initiatives provisionally certified for Arkansas ballot

Two Arkansas citizen-initiated measures—one that would establish ranked-choice voting and another that would establish a redistricting commission—were provisionally certified for the ballot on August 21, 2020. Whether or not votes will be counted for the measures is a question pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Sponsored by Open Primaries Arkansas, the ranked-choice voting measure would (a) change primary elections so that all candidates for an office are listed on a single primary ballot, rather than on separate partisan ballots, and (b) create a top-four ranked-choice voting system for general elections for federal congressional office, state general assembly, and statewide elected offices, including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer of State, Auditor of State, Attorney General, and Commissioner of State Lands.

The redistricting measure, sponsored by Arkansas Voters First, would create the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission for state legislative and congressional redistricting. The commission would be comprised of nine commissioners who are registered Arkansas voters and would replace the Board of Apportionment, which is currently responsible for state legislative redistricting in Arkansas. The current Board of Apportionment is comprised of the governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general. Currently, in Arkansas, the state legislature is responsible for federal congressional redistricting. The measure would also establish criteria for drawing district maps. All meetings of the commission would be publicized and open to the public.

The campaigns each submitted around 100,000 signatures on July 6. To qualify for the ballot, 89,151 valid signatures are required.

Secretary of State John Thurston (R) found on July 14 that signatures for the initiatives were insufficient on the grounds that petition circulators’ background check certifications did not comply with state law.

Under Arkansas Code § 7-9-601(b)(3), sponsors are required to certify to the Secretary of State that each paid canvasser passed a state and federal criminal background check. Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas campaigns submitted certifications stating that the background checks were acquired but did not say they were passed. The statements of insufficiency for the two measures came a day after Special Master Mark Hewett determined signatures submitted on January 31 for an optometry law referendum were invalid for the same reason. Hewett’s report was filed with Arkansas Supreme Court for a final determination.

The campaigns asked the state Supreme Court on July 17 to order Secretary of State John Thurston to give the campaigns at least 30 days to collect additional signatures. In Arkansas, if petitioners fail to meet the signature requirement, but the petitioners have gathered at least 75% of the valid signatures needed, petitioners have 30 days to collect additional signatures or demonstrate that rejected signatures are valid. The campaigns were granted a provisional 30-day cure period. Arkansas Voters First reported submitting an additional 50,000 signatures on August 5. Open Primaries Arkansas reported submitting an additional 59,000 signatures on August 20.

Retired Circuit Judge John Fogleman was appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court on July 24 as a special master to resolve the disputes between Arkansas Voters First, Open Primaries Arkansas, and the secretary of state concerning petition circulator background check certifications and signature validity. Fogleman’s report was submitted to the state Supreme Court on August 10, 2020. Fogleman concluded that the Supreme Court must decide whether or not the campaigns’ background check certifications comply with Arkansas Code § 7-9-601(b)(3).

On August 21, Secretary of State John Thurston certified both measures for the ballot “for coding purposes and preparation purposes only, pending the outcome of the litigation.” Under Arkansas Code § 7-5-204, if the secretary of state has not determined a petition’s sufficiency by the 75th day before the general election or if a measure is being challenged in court, the measure must be placed on the ballot. If the measure is later declared insufficient or invalid, votes for the measure will not be counted or certified.

Two measures on the 2018 ballot in Arkansas were declared invalid by the state Supreme Court and votes for the measures were not counted. Similarly, in 2016, the supreme court declared two measures on the ballot to be invalid and votes were not counted.



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