Author

Victoria Antram

Victoria Antram is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at victoria.antram@ballotpedia.org.

Oregon Psilocybin Program Initiative and Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative campaigns submit signatures ahead of July 2

On May 22, the Yes on IP 34 campaign, which is sponsoring the Oregon Psilocybin Program Initiative, submitted 135,000 signatures, and the Yes on IP 44 campaign, which is sponsoring the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative, submitted 147,000 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State.

Citizen initiative sponsors in Oregon need to collect 112,020 valid signatures by July 2 to qualify a measure for the ballot.

The Psilocybin Program Initiative would create a program and client screening process for administering psilocybin services under the Oregon Health Authority. The program would permit licensed service providers to administer a psilocybin product to pre-screened individuals 21 years of age or older. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (Drug Enforcement Administration |DEA), psilocybin is a “chemical obtained from certain types of fresh or dried mushrooms.” The mushrooms containing psilocybin are also known as magic mushrooms, hallucinogenic mushrooms, or shrooms. As of 2019, psilocybin was classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA.

The Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative would establish a drug addiction treatment and recovery program funded by the state’s marijuana tax revenue. It would also reclassify certain drug offenses. Possession of a controlled substance in Schedule I-IV would be reclassified from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E violation resulting in a $100 fine. Individuals who manufacture or distribute illegal drugs would still be subject to a criminal penalty.

In Oregon, signatures are verified using a random sample method. If a first round of signatures is submitted at least 165 days before an election and contains raw, unverified signatures at least equal to the minimum requirement, but verification shows that not enough of the submitted signatures are valid, additional signatures can be submitted before the final deadline. May 22 was 165 days before the November election date, which means that the campaigns may still submit signatures before the July 2 deadline if the random sample shows they did not collect the required number of verified signatures to qualify.

The campaigns had previously announced on May 4 that they would be coordinating their campaign efforts to ensure the campaigns reached their signature goals. Tom Eckert, the sponsor of IP 34, said, “IP 34 and IP 44 have always enjoyed a supportive relationship with regard to gathering signatures, and that will certainly continue until both campaigns cross the finish line and make the November ballot.”

Two measures have been certified to appear on the Oregon ballot in November 2020 so far. Both were referred to the ballot by the state legislature. A total of 183 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Oregon from 1995 to 2018. Of the 183, 47.5 percent were approved.

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Federal judge requires Ohio to accept electronic signatures from initiative campaigns seeking to place minimum wage and voting changes on the ballot

On May 19, U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus ordered Ohio to accept electronic signatures from the campaigns sponsoring the Minimum Wage Increase Initiative and the Voting Requirements Initiative. The judge also extended the signature deadline from July 1 to July 31. The judge’s order only applies to the ballot measure campaigns that sued the state, including several local marijuana decriminalization initiative campaigns.

On March 30, 2020, Ohioans for Raise the Wage and Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections filed a lawsuit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas asking for the July 1 signature deadline to be extended, the number of signatures required to be reduced, and permission to gather signatures online. On April 28, Judge David C. Young dismissed the case arguing that since the petition requirements for initiatives are in the Ohio Constitution “the ability to change those requirements is reserved only to the people.” He added that there is no exception for public health emergencies. Following the case dismal, the campaigns brought their case to the federal court.

U.S. District Judge Sargus argued in his opinion that “these unique historical circumstances of a global pandemic and the impact of Ohio’s Stay-at-Home Orders, the State’s strict enforcement of the signature requirements for local initiatives and constitutional amendments severely burden Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights.” The ruling did not change the number of signatures required or the state’s distribution requirement.

Ohio filed an appeal of the ruling on May 20. If the decision is not reversed, Ohioans for Raise the Wage and Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections have until July 31 to collect 443,958 valid signatures.

The Minimum Wage Initiative would incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage to $13 per hour by January 1, 2025. After 2025, the minimum wage would be tied to inflation. The first increase would be on January 1, 2021, to $9.60 per hour.

The Voting Requirements Initiative would remove the requirement that voters must be registered 30 days prior to an election; require absentee ballots requested by military personnel or voters outside of the U.S. be sent 46 days before the election; automatically register citizens at motor vehicle departments unless the citizen refuses registration via a written statement; allow voter registration at polling locations; and require 28 days of early voting.

Ballotpedia has identified 11 lawsuits in nine states seeking changes or suspensions of ballot measure requirements. The topics of the lawsuits include:
• the number of signatures required,
• notary requirements for remote signatures,
• the ability to collect signatures electronically, and
• the extension of signature deadlines.

Before March 2020, no states allowed the use of electronic signatures for statewide initiative and referendum petitions. While some states allowed remote signatures through petition sheets printed, signed, and mailed, no states allowed remote signature gathering through email before the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 29, 2020, Massachusetts became the first state to allow campaigns to collect electronic signatures for statewide citizen-initiatives for the 2020 cycle after four campaigns filed a lawsuit and the secretary of the commonwealth agreed to a settlement.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) signed an executive order on May 17 that authorized the Colorado Secretary of State to establish temporary rules allowing for remote petition signature gathering to be signed through mail and email. The rules were expected to be finalized by the Secretary of State in early June. Prior to the order, petition circulators were required to witness each act of signing in person. The order also removed individual initiative signature deadlines of six months after ballot language finalization and instead required that signatures for all initiatives are due by August 3, 2020.

The Washington, D.C., Council passed a bill on May 5 that allowed remote signature gathering for initiative campaigns through email.

On May 13, 2020, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected a request made by four ballot initiative campaigns to allow them to gather signatures through E-Qual, which is the state’s online signature collection platform, during the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 30, Missoula District Judge John Larson rejected a request by Montana ballot initiative petitioners to allow them to use electronic signatures. Judge Larson ruled that the State’s “compelling interest in maintaining the integrity and security of its election process outweighs any burden on [the] Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”

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Missouri legislature sends redistricting, campaign finance, and lobbying measure to voters with changes to 2018 citizen initiative

On Wednesday, the Missouri House approved Senate Joint Resolution 38 that would amend Article III of the Missouri Constitution to change or repeal certain provisions of Missouri Amendment 1 passed in 2018. The House approved the amendment in a vote of 98-56. The Senate approved the amendment in a vote of 22-9 on February 10. The amendment will go be for Missouri voters in November.

The amendment would enact the following changes:
• eliminate the nonpartisan state demographer and instead use a bipartisan redistricting commission appointed by the governor again;
• alter the criteria used to draft district maps;
• change the threshold of lobbyist gifts from $5 to $0; and
• lower the contribution limit for state senate campaigns from $2,500 to $2,400.

Missouri Amendment 1 (2018) was a citizen initiative approved with 62 percent of the vote. Amendment 1 created a position called the non-partisan state demographer, which was tasked with drawing state legislative districts. Amendment 1 required the state demographer and commissions to consider specific criteria, including what the initiative calls partisan fairness and competitiveness, contiguousness, compactness, and the boundaries of political subdivisions. SJR 38 would require that population size, adherence to voting rights laws, compactness, and county unity have a higher priority than partisan fairness and competitiveness in the criteria used for redistricting.

Amendment 1 also prohibited the Missouri State Legislature from passing laws allowing for unlimited campaign contributions to candidates for the state legislature. Amendment 1 established campaign contribution limits for legislative candidates and their committees for a single election cycle to $2,500 per person to a state Senate candidate and $2,000 per person to a state House candidate.

The 2018 initiated constitutional amendment was sponsored by Clean Missouri. The coalition of committees in support of the amendment raised $5.63 million, including $1.01 million from the Action Now Initiative and $1.00 million from the National Education Association. The Missourians First and Advance Missouri PACs, which registered to oppose Amendment 1, raised $343,201.

In Missouri, the state legislature can refer state statutes and constitutional amendments to the ballot for voter consideration. Both amendments and statutes require a simple majority vote of legislators to be placed on the ballot.

Between 1996 and 2018, about 63 percent (52 of 82) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 37 percent (30 of 82) were defeated.

Between 2006 and 2019, 73.33 percent of the 30 constitutional amendments on Missouri ballots were approved.

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Voters in Lincoln and Omaha approve five local ballot measures on Tuesday according to unofficial results

Voters in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, approved five local ballot measures on May 12. Unofficial election results indicate that Omaha voters approved Question 1 and Question 2 with 72.86% and 64.70% of the vote, respectively. Question 1 authorized the city to issue $200 million in bonds to fund street maintenance, and Question 2 authorized the city to impose an estimated property tax at a rate of $35 per $100,000 of assessed property value to repay the bonds.

Voters in the Millard Public Schools district also approved $125 million in bonds with 58.57% of the vote. The bond question authorized the school district to impose a 1% property tax to repay the bonds bringing the total estimated property tax to $1,236 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Voters in Lincoln approved two charter amendments. The Gender Neutral References to Mayoral Office Charter Amendment received 76.51% of the vote. The measure amended the city’s charter to fix typographical errors in the article dealing with appropriations and change all references to the mayoral office to gender-neutral terms.

The City Contracts Charter Amendment received 70.22% of the vote. The measure amended the city’s charter to require mayoral approval on contracts exceeding $50,000, increase the bid requirement from $25,000 to $50,000, and remove the requirement for three informal bids for city contracts.


Maryland Sports Betting Expansion Measure will appear on November ballots

The Maryland Sports Betting Expansion Measure, a legislatively referred state statute, was certified for the ballot on May 7. The ballot measure would authorize sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities. The state revenue generated by such activities would be primarily dedicated to funding public education.

On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Murphy v. NCAA that the federal government could not require states to prohibit sports betting, thereby overturning the federal ban and allowing states to legalize sports betting. As of March 2020, 16 states had active sports betting industries, three of which legalized sports betting by approving a statewide ballot measure. South Dakota voters will vote on a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in November that would legalize sports betting within the city limits of Deadwood, South Dakota.

The Maryland Constitution requires that the Maryland General Assembly refer laws expanding commercial wagering to voters at a general election. In Maryland, a simple majority vote is needed in each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly to refer a state statute to the ballot. The governor is able to veto bills proposing legislatively referred state statutes. The governor has 30 days to sign or veto the bills after they are presented to him. If the governor does not sign a bill by the deadline, the bill is enacted without his signature.

On March 14, 2020, the Maryland House of Representatives voted 129-3 in favor of the measure. On March 18, the Maryland State Senate voted 45-0. Governor Larry Hogan (R) did not sign or veto the bill by the May 7 deadline. Therefore, the sports betting measure was certified for the ballot on May 7 without his signature.

During the 2020 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly also referred to the 2020 ballot the Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment, which would authorize the Maryland General Assembly to increase, decrease, or add items to the state budget as long as such measures do not exceed the total proposed budget submitted by the governor.

Since 1996, 34 measures appeared on Maryland ballots. Of that total, 31 were approved, and three were defeated. One legislatively referred state statute appeared on Maryland ballots between 1996 and 2019, and it was approved.

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Missouri Medicaid Expansion Initiative was lone citizen initiative for which signatures were submitted by May 3 deadline

Healthcare for Missouri, the sponsor of the Missouri Medicaid Expansion Initiative, was the only campaign targeting the Missouri 2020 ballot to submit signatures by the May 3 deadline. The campaign reported submitting over 350,000 signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State. A total of 160,199 valid signatures are required to make the ballot.

The Medicaid Expansion Initiative would amend the Missouri Constitution to require the state government to provide Medicaid for persons whose income is 133 percent of the federal poverty level or below and who are not eligible for other state insurance coverage, which would effectively increase the coverage level to 138 percent under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Medicaid is a government program that provides medical insurance to groups of low-income people and individuals with disabilities. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, provided for the expansion of Medicaid to cover all individuals earning incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NFIB v. Sebelius that the federal government could not withhold funds from states that refused to expand Medicaid. The ruling had the practical effect of making Medicaid expansion optional for states. As of January 2020, a total of 36 states and Washington, D.C., had expanded or voted to expand Medicaid, while 14 states had not.

In Missouri, the signature requirement totals for initiatives are based on the number of votes cast for governor in the state’s most recent gubernatorial election. In two-thirds of Missouri’s congressional districts, proponents must collect signatures equal to 5 percent of the gubernatorial vote for initiated state statutes and veto referendums and 8 percent of the gubernatorial vote for initiated constitutional amendments. Therefore, the total number of signatures required is less than 5 percent or 8 percent of the total votes cast for governor. For 2020, petitioners needed to collect at least 160,199 valid signatures for initiated constitutional amendments and at least 100,126 valid signatures for initiated state statutes and veto referendums.

There is one legislatively referred constitutional amendment certified for the November ballot in Missouri. The State Executive Term Limits Amendment would limit the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and attorney general, along with the governor and state treasurer, to two terms of office. In Missouri, the state legislature can refer state statutes and constitutional amendments to the ballot for voter consideration during its legislative session. The 2020 legislative session was scheduled to convene on January 8, 2020, and adjourn on May 15, 2020.

A total of 82 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Missouri from 1996 to 2018. About 63 percent (52 of 82) of the total number of measures that appeared on Missouri ballots were approved, and about 37 percent (30 of 82) were defeated. Between 1996 and 2018, an average of seven measures appeared on the ballot in Missouri during even-numbered election years.

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Deadline for Idaho 2020 ballot initiatives passed on May 1 with no campaigns submitting signatures

The signature deadline for citizen initiatives in Idaho targeting the 2020 ballot passed on May 1 with no campaigns submitting signatures. Petitioners needed to gather 55,057 valid signatures, which is equal to 6 percent of the number of registered voters as of the state’s last general election. Idaho also has a distribution requirement requiring signatures equal at least 6 percent of registered voters in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts.

Three ballot initiatives—the Minimum Wage Increase Initiative, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, and the Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative—were cleared for signature gathering by the Idaho Secretary of State. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all three campaigns announced that they were suspending their signature drives prior to the signature deadline.

In Idaho, petitioners have 18 months to collect signatures after the ballot title has been granted. Signatures may not be collected after April 30 of the year in which the measure would appear on the ballot. This means that proponents of citizen initiatives that did not make the ballot in 2020 must start the initiative process over for the 2022 election cycle and collect a new number of signatures determined by the number of registered voters at the 2020 election.

The Idaho Require 35 Legislative Districts Amendment is the only ballot measure certified to appear on the November 3 ballot. It was referred by the state legislature on March 4. The amendment would remove language in the state constitution that allows the legislature to have between 30 and 35 districts and, instead, require the state to have 35 state legislative districts. Currently, the Idaho State Senate contains 35 Senators, who are elected from 35 districts. The Idaho House of Representatives consists of 70 Representatives, who are elected from the same 35 districts, with two being elected from each constituency.

A total of 36 measures appeared on the Idaho ballot between 1996 and 2018, 72 percent of which were approved. From 1996 to 2018, an average of three ballot measures appeared on the ballot in even-numbered years.

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Massachusetts becomes the first state to allow electronic signatures for 2020 ballot initiative petitions

On April 26, the campaigns sponsoring the Massachusetts “Right to Repair” Initiative, the Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative, the Nursing Homes Medicaid Ratemaking Initiative, and the Beer and Wine in Food Stores Initiative filed a joint lawsuit against Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin asking the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to allow the campaigns to gather the second round of 13,347 signatures electronically.

On April 29, all four active ballot initiative campaigns and Secretary Galvin agreed to a resolution that allows the campaigns to gather the second round of signatures electronically. The resolution allows campaigns to distribute the petitions online to be electronically signed or printed and mailed or emailed back to the respective campaign.

Justice Barbara Lenk, who issued the judgment, determined that typed names would not be considered valid signatures. The judgment stated, “Voters who wish to sign the Form online shall apply an electronic signature with a computer mouse, stylus, or finger, in-person directly on the Form. A typewritten name, uploaded image, or computer-generated generic signature shall not be considered a genuine signature of a voter.”

In Massachusetts, citizens may propose initiated state statutes and initiated constitutional amendments. The power of initiative is indirect in Massachusetts, which means the Massachusetts General Court must consider any initiative petitions that meet the first-round signature deadline and requirement (80,239 for 2020). The deadline for the Massachusetts General Court to act on the petitions is May 5. If a statute proposed by a valid initiative petition is not adopted, proponents must collect by July 1 another smaller round of 13,347 signatures to place the statute on the ballot. Four initiative campaigns submitted enough signatures to qualify their measures for review by the state legislature. The petitioners did not seek relief from the number of signatures required or the July 1 deadline because those requirements are determined by the state Constitution.

Ballot initiative sponsors in Arkansas, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, and Oklahoma have also filed lawsuits seeking relief from signature deadlines and requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Massachusetts ballot initiative campaigns file a joint lawsuit seeking permission to gather signatures electronically

On April 26, the campaigns sponsoring the Massachusetts “Right to Repair” Initiative, the Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative, the Nursing Homes Medicaid Ratemaking Initiative, and the Beer and Wine in Food Stores Initiative filed a joint lawsuit against Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin asking the Supreme Judicial Court to allow the campaigns to gather the second round of 13,347 signatures electronically.

Petitioners argued, “Without immediate relief from this Court, Petitioners and all other ballot proponents similarly situated will face an unduly burdensome Catch-22: either risk their health and the health of voters to satisfy unjustifiable and unachievable ballot restrictions and participate in democracy or protect their health and give up their fundamental right to access the ballot.” The petitioners could not seek relief from the number of signatures required or the July 1 deadline because they are determined by the state Constitution.

In Massachusetts, citizens may propose initiated state statutes and initiated constitutional amendments. The power of initiative is indirect in Massachusetts, which means the Massachusetts General Court must consider any successful initiative proposals. The deadline for the Massachusetts General Court to act on the petitions is May 5. If a statute proposed by a valid initiative petition is not adopted, proponents must collect by July 1 another smaller round of 13,347 signatures to place the statute on the ballot.

On April 17, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reduced the number of signatures needed by half, allowed some use of electronic signature gathering for certain offices, and extended the deadline to May 5 for candidates seeking to appear on the September 1 primary ballot.

Assistant Attorney General Anne Sterman wrote a response to the ballot initiative lawsuit on behalf of Secretary Galvin stating that the Secretary was working to negotiate with the campaigns and believed the Court should not grant the petitioners more relief than was offered to the primary candidates.

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U.S. Supreme Court overturns Oregon ballot measure from 1932 that enacted non-unanimous jury verdicts

On April 20, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Oregon ballot measure from 1932 in its ruling on Ramos v. Louisiana. In 2016, Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on a 10 to 12 jury verdict. He appealed his conviction to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing his conviction by a non-unanimous jury violated his federal constitutional rights. The court of appeal affirmed Ramos’ conviction and sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and in a 6-3 decision, the Court held that “if the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial requires a unanimous verdict to support a conviction in federal court, it requires no less in state court.”

In 1932, Oregon voters passed Measure 2, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, with 58 percent of the vote. The measure allowed non-unanimous verdicts in all criminal trials, except first-degree murder trials. It also provided that in criminal trials any accused person, with the consent of the trial judge, may waive trial by a jury and consent in writing to be tried by the judge alone. In the published voting guide, state legislators in favor of the amendment argued that it would “prevent one or two jurors from controlling the verdict.”

Oregon and Louisiana were the last two states to allow non-unanimous verdicts. Between 1812 and 1898, the state of Louisiana required unanimous juries to convict persons for felonies in state criminal trials. In 1898, Louisiana held a state constitutional convention, which resulted in an amendment to allow 9-3 verdicts for serious felonies. In 1973, Louisiana held another state constitutional convention, which increased the requirement for non-unanimous verdicts from 9-3 to 10-2. In 2018, Louisiana voters approved Amendment 2 with 64 percent of the vote. It was a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that required the unanimous agreement of the jurors to convict people charged with felonies.

In its decision, the Supreme Court explained that the enactment of non-unanimous jury verdicts in Oregon and Louisiana was a product of racism. Writing the majority opinion for the Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “Courts in both Louisiana and Oregon have frankly acknowledged that race was a motivating factor in the adoption of their States’ respective nonunanimity rules.”

Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Elena Kagan dissented. In his dissenting opinion, Alito argued against overturning precedent established by Apodaca v. Oregon (1972), which ruled that the Sixth Amendment required unanimous juries to convict persons in federal criminal trials but that the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend the requirement of unanimous juries to state criminal trials. He argued that overruling Apodaca would cause “a potential tsunami of litigation.” The Court’s majority acknowledged the potential number of cases challenging non-unanimous jury verdicts but determined that it did not justify withholding the Sixth Amendment’s protections to state criminal trials.

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