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Victoria Antram

Victoria Antram is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Nebraska Payday Lender Interest Rate Cap Initiative qualifies for the November ballot

On July 31, 2020, the Nebraska Secretary of State completed the signature verification process for the Payday Lender Interest Rate Cap and announced on August 5 that it had qualified for the ballot.

The initiative would limit the annual interest charged for delayed deposit services—also known as payday lending—to 36%. Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have also enacted a 36% rate cap for payday lending. Colorado was the most recent state to approve a 36% limit through a statewide ballot initiative, Proposition 111, in 2018.

Election officials verified 94,468 valid signatures for the Nebraska initiative, 110% of the number required. Nebraskans for Responsible Lending, the committee leading the campaign in support of the initiative, submitted over 120,000 signatures. The estimated signature validity rate for the petition was 78.7%.

Nebraskans for Responsible Lending reported receiving $1.76 million in cash and in-kind contributions. The Sixteen Thirty Fund has contributed the most to the campaign with contributions totaling over $840,000. The Sixteen Thirty Fund was also the largest contributor to the campaign that sponsored Colorado Proposition 111 with over $2 million in contributions. Nebraskans for Responsible Lending had also received contributions from the ACLU, The Fairness Project, Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public, and Fraser Stryker law firm.

In the campaign’s press release announcing the certification, Aubrey Mancuso, a spokesperson for Nebraskans for Responsible Lending, said, “The fact that signatures were verified in 46 counties speaks to broad support for this initiative. Predatory payday lenders have been charging excessive interest to Nebraskans who can least afford it for years, trapping them in long-term debt that is financially devastating. We found overwhelming support from Nebraskans when circulating this petition, and we are very pleased it’s official. We can now move forward with ending these unethical lending practices.”

There is no organized opposition to the initiative so far, but the ballot language of the initiative has been challenged in court. On July 27, 2020, Trina Thomas, the owner of Paycheck Advance, filed a lawsuit in Lancaster County District Court against the ballot language drafted by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson (R). She argued that the term “payday lenders” was not in the statute that the initiative would amend and was “deceptive to the voters as it unfairly casts the measure in a light that would prejudice the vote in favor of the initiative.” In the press release by the state announcing the certification, it acknowledges the lawsuit and says the attorney general will be defending the ballot language in court and the case outcome will be determined soon.

Four other initiative campaigns in Nebraska submitted signatures by the July 3 deadline. Three initiatives concern gambling at licensed horse racetracks, and the other initiative would legalize medical marijuana.

In Nebraska, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated state statute for the ballot is equal to 7% of registered voters as of the deadline for filing signatures, which was 85,628 signatures. The requirement is 10% for initiated constitutional amendments or 122,326 signatures.

Between 1996 and 2018, Nebraska voters approved 53% (39 of 73) and rejected 47% (34 of 73) of ballot measures. An average of six measures appeared on statewide general election ballots during that period.

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Voters decide local ballot measures in Wayne County, Michigan

Voters in Wayne County, Michigan, approved two property tax renewal propositions on Tuesday. Proposition O, the Operating Budget Property Tax Renewal, was approved with 77% of the vote. Proposition O authorizes the county to renew for 10 years a property tax levy of $95.29 per $100,000 in assessed property tax value to generate an annual estimated $42 million for the county’s operations and services.

Proposition P, the Parks Property Tax Renewal, was approved with 78% of the vote. Proposition P authorizes the county to renew for four years a property tax levy of $24.59 per $100,000 in assessed property tax value to generate an annual estimated $10.9 million for parks. Both measures were referred to the ballot by a vote of the Wayne County Commissioners.

Voters in the Detroit Public Schools Community District renewed a non-homestead property tax levy with 85% of voters approving the measure. The measure authorizes the district to renew for 11 years a property tax levy of $1,800 per $100,000 in assessed property tax value on property except for primary residences to generate an annual estimated $65 million for the district. It was first authorized in 2016.

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Fair Maps Nevada did not turn in signatures for its redistricting initiative by the extended August 3 deadline

Fair Maps Nevada, the campaign behind the Nevada Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative, did not submit signatures by the August 3 deadline. Originally the deadline was June 24, but it was extended by a court ruling. On July 24, 2020, Doug Goodman, founder and executive director of Nevadans for Election Reform; Sondra Cosgrove, chair of Fair Maps Nevada; and Vivian Leal, a member of Indivisible Northern Nevada Fair Democracy Team, wrote that “Fair Maps Nevada will not be able to collect the necessary signatures by the court-set, and county election official agreed to deadline of August 3.” The campaign said that it would attempt to put the initiated constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot.

The ballot measure would have transferred the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a seven-member independent redistricting commission.

The signature deadline was extended from June 24 to August 3 after Fair Maps Nevada filed a lawsuit against the state on May 7 seeking permission to use electronic signatures and asking for a six-week extension of the signature deadline. In their lawsuit, petitioners argued that the state’s actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus made it “extremely difficult to collect signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot in a traditional in-person manner.”

On May 29, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du ruled partially in favor of the petitioners granting them more time to gather signatures. In her decision, she argued that Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) stay-at-home order made it impossible for the campaign to gather signatures and that not changing the statutory deadline was “unreasonable and unfair.” Judge Du did not grant the petitioners’ request to use electronic signatures citing concerns of fraud and legal precedent on courts changing election rules. In her ruling, the new deadline was August 5, but the campaign and state officials later agreed to move it to August 3.

The ruling only applied to the petitioners in this case and did not extend to the Fountainhead Society, the campaign behind the Single Transferable Vote and Multimember Senate Districts Initiative. Benjamin Pennington, the founder of the Fountainhead Society, said that the campaign would submit an “improved initiative” for the 2022 cycle.

In Nevada, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated constitutional amendment for the ballot is equal to 10% of the total votes cast in the most recent general election. Moreover, signature gathering must be distributed equally among each of the state’s four congressional districts. Initiated constitutional amendments that qualify for the ballot must be approved at two consecutive general elections.

Nevada voters will be deciding on five statewide ballot measures in November—four legislatively referred constitutional amendments and one initiated constitutional amendment.
• Question 1, Remove Constitutional Status of Board of Regents Amendment: Removes the constitutional status of the Board of Regents
• Question 2, Marriage Regardless of Gender Amendment: Recognizes the marriage of couples regardless of gender
• Question 3, State Board of Pardons Commissioners Amendment: Revises duties of the State Board of Pardons Commissioners
• Question 4, State Constitutional Rights of Voters Amendment: Creates a constitutional right to certain voting procedures and policies

• The Renewable Energy Standards Initiative: Requires utilities to acquire 50% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030

Between 1995 and 2018, the Nevada State Legislature referred 31 constitutional amendments to the ballot, while voters decided 26 citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. The legislature’s proposed amendments were approved at a lower rate (48.39%) than citizen-initiated amendments (73.08%).

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Voters in Gilbert, Arizona, approved the 2020 General Plan for city land development

Voters in Gilbert, Arizona, passed Proposition 430 on Tuesday approving the 2020 General Plan for city land development with 81.84% of the vote. Proposition 430 was put on the ballot through a vote of the Gilbert Town Council on March 3, 2020. The last general plan was approved in 2010.

In 2020, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. Ballotpedia is also covering all local measures in California, and all statewide ballot measures. Ballotpedia’s 2020 local ballot measure coverage includes Gilbert, Arizona.


Voters in Platte County approved two sales tax measures, and voters in Hickman Mills C-1 School District approved a bond issue

Voters in Platte County, Missouri, approved two sales tax renewal questions on Tuesday. The final unofficial election report by the county showed Question 1 receiving 75.82% of the vote, and Question 2 receiving 60.81% of the vote. Question 1 authorizes the county to renew for 10 years a 0.25% sales tax to fund parks and stormwater control. Question 2 authorizes the county to renew for 10 years a 0.25% sales tax to fund law enforcement.

Voters in the Hickman Mills C-1 School District within Jackson County approved a $30 million bond issue by 82% to 18% according to unofficial election results. The bond issue will not increase the district’s debt service property tax levy. It will be maintained at the existing rate of $1,100 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Missouri voters also approved a statewide initiative, Amendment 2, that expands Medicaid to adults between the ages of 19 and 65 whose income is at or below 138% of the federal poverty level under the Affordable Care Act. Amendment 2 was approved with 53% of the vote.

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Missouri voters approve Amendment 2 to expand Medicaid

Missouri voters approved Amendment 2 in a vote of 53% to 47% on Tuesday.

Amendment 2 was a citizen initiative to expand Medicaid eligibility in Missouri to adults that are between the ages of 19 and 65 whose income is 138% of the federal poverty level or below. In 2020, this amounted to an annual income of $17,608 for an individual and $36,156 for a household of four. The amendment prohibited any additional restrictions or requirements for the expanded population to qualify for Medicaid coverage than for other populations that qualify for Medicaid coverage.

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% 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. For 2020 and subsequent years, the federal government was set to cover 90% of the costs. As of 2020, a total of 37 states and Washington, D.C., had expanded or voted to expand Medicaid, while 13 states had not.

Yes on 2: Healthcare for Missouri led the campaign in support of Amendment 2. As of July 27, 2020, the committees registered in support of the amendment—Healthcare for Missouri and Missourians for Healthcare—had raised $10.1 million.

The support campaign argued that the coronavirus pandemic has shown the need for Medicaid expansion. Jack Cardetti, a spokesperson for the Yes on 2 campaign, said, “Now more than ever, Missourians need to be able to access care in their own communities and protect thousands of local frontline healthcare jobs. … Amendment 2 will help keep rural hospitals and urban clinics open by bringing $1 billion of our own tax dollars back from Washington, instead of going to the 37 other states that have expanded Medicaid.”

No on 2 in August led the campaign in opposition to Amendment 2. Opponents argued that expanding Medicaid would not be economically prudent. State Senator Bob Onder (R-2) said, “The money needed to expand Medicaid is going to come from somewhere. It either has to come from education, from roads or from massive tax increases. … I do think that Missourians, particularly in these challenging economic times, will realize that a massive expansion of the Medicaid program isn’t something that we can afford.”

Missouri was the sixth state to expand Medicaid through a ballot initiative.

In 2017, voters in Maine approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid. The measure was the first citizen initiative to implement an optional provision of Obamacare.

In November 2018, voters in Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, and Utah decided ballot initiatives concerning Medicaid expansion and the funding of expanded Medicaid coverage. They were approved in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah.

Oklahoma was the most recent state to approve Medicaid expansion in June 2020. Oklahoma State Question 802 passed with 50.49% of the vote.


Oregon Secretary of State verifies 59,000 signatures for redistricting initiative; courts to decide if it’s enough to qualify

On July 30, 2020, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office announced that People Not Politicians, the campaign behind the Independent State and Congressional Redistricting Commission Initiative, had submitted 59,493 valid signatures. People Not Politicians submitted its first batch of 64,172 unverified signatures on July 13. The campaign submitted an additional 1,819 signatures on July 17 and 1,063 signatures on July 24 for a total of 67,054 unverified signatures. The signature validity rate for the petition was 88.7%.

A federal judge ruled on July 10 that Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R) had to place the measure on the ballot or lower the threshold to 58,789 signatures and extend the signature deadline to August 17. The reduced number of signatures of 58,789 is equal to the required amount for 2018 veto referendum petitions. The original deadline was July 2, and the required number of signatures was 149,360 valid signatures.

People Not Politicians filed the lawsuit against the state seeking relief from the signature deadline and requirements on June 30. The state appealed the federal court’s decision allowing the campaign to submit signatures after the original deadline. On July 23, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Oregon’s request for an emergency stay on the lower court’s ruling.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) filed an emergency stay with the U.S. Supreme Court on July 29 that has not been decided yet. A panel of the 9th Circuit Court is expected to hear oral arguments for the lawsuit on August 13. It will also be hearing oral arguments for a similar initiative lawsuit in Idaho on the same day. Reclaim Idaho, the sponsors of the Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, filed the lawsuit back in June and a federal judge allowed the campaign to gather electronic signatures and have extra time to gather signatures. On July 30, the Supreme Court granted an emergency stay on the judge’s order.

The Oregon initiative would amend the Oregon Constitution to establish a 12-member redistricting commission. If the initiative qualifies for the ballot, it will be the third initiative appearing on the November ballot in Oregon. The Oregon Secretary of State certified the Psilocybin Program Initiative and the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative for the ballot after both met the original July 2 deadline and submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (112,020).

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Reclaim Idaho suspends signature drive after the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Idaho state officials

On July 30, the U.S. Supreme Court put on hold a previous ruling allowing for electronic signatures and delaying a signature deadline. The court ruled in favor of Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) and granted an emergency stay on a lower court’s order until the appeal process is finalized. The lower court’s ruling had allowed Reclaim Idaho, the sponsors of the Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, to gather signatures electronically and extended the signature deadline.

Reclaim Idaho’s initiative was designed to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000; increase the corporate income tax rate; and create and fund the Quality Education Fund.

In a statement posted to the campaign’s Facebook page, Luke Mayville of Reclaim Idaho said, “We are shocked that the Court has made this extraordinary intervention rather than let the normal appeals process run its course. … Regretfully, we see no other option than to suspend our signature drive.”

Chief Justice Roberts was joined by Justice Alito, Justice Gorsuch, and Justice Kavanaugh in granting the emergency stay that applies to all previous lower court orders in the case. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. The published opinion and dissent did not state how Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan voted. The dissenting judges argued that the Court had intervened too early in the appeal process.

In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “[T]he State is likely to suffer irreparable harm absent a stay. Right now, the preliminary injunction disables Idaho from vindicating its sovereign interest in the enforcement of initiative requirements that are likely consistent with the First Amendment.” He added, “Nothing in the Constitution requires Idaho or any other state to provide for ballot initiatives. And the claims at issue here challenge the application of only the most typical sort of neutral regulations on ballot access.”

In response to the ruling, Governor Little said, “I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld Idaho’s sovereignty over its election and initiative processes. It is important that initiatives follow the laws set by the Idaho Legislature so we can ensure those initiatives that get on the ballot are legitimate and have significant support throughout Idaho.”

Reclaim Idaho filed the lawsuit back in June arguing that the state’s social distancing restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible for the campaign to collect signatures, and therefore the state violated the petitioners’ First Amendment rights. A U.S. district judge granted Reclaim Idaho a preliminary injunction that gave the campaign 48 more days to gather signatures and temporary permission to use electronic signatures. The governor appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied his emergency stay request but expedited the hearing process. The court is expected to hear oral arguments on August 13.

Thirteen of the 26 states that permit statewide initiative and/or referendum featured at least one lawsuit challenging ballot measure deadlines and signature requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic. The subjects of the lawsuits include the use of electronic signatures, notarization requirements, signature deadlines, and signature requirements.

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Missouri voters will decide on Medicaid expansion August 4

Missouri voters will vote on Amendment 2, the Medicaid Expansion Initiative, on August 4. Amendment 2 would expand Medicaid eligibility in Missouri to adults that are between the ages of 19 and 65 whose incomes are at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. The amendment would also prohibit any additional restrictions or requirements for the expanded population to qualify for Medicaid coverage than for other populations that qualify for Medicaid coverage. It would also require the Missouri Department of Social Services and the Missouri HealthNet Division to submit state Medicaid plan amendments by March 1, 2021, to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement Medicaid expansion.

The following populations are currently eligible for Medicaid in Missouri:

• Over 65 years of age,
• Blind or disabled,
• Adults with dependent children with a household income at or below 22% of the federal poverty level,
• Infants under the age of one in a household with an income at or below 196% of the federal poverty level,
• Children between the ages of one and 18 in a household with an income at or below 150% of the federal poverty level, and

• Pregnant women with a household income at or below 196% of the federal poverty level.

Amendment 2 was sponsored by Yes on 2: Healthcare for Missouri. The campaign submitted 341,440 signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State on May 1, 2020, to qualify the measure for the ballot. In Missouri, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated constitutional amendment for the ballot is equal to 8% of the votes cast for governor in the previous gubernatorial election in six of the eight state congressional districts. The initiative qualified in districts 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7. A total of 172,015 valid signatures were required, and a projected total of 258,686 signatures submitted by the campaign were valid in those districts.

There are two political action committees, Healthcare for Missouri and Missourians for Healthcare, registered to support Amendment 2. As of July 27, 2020, the committees had raised a total of $10.1 million, with Missourians for Healthcare receiving the bulk of the contributions. The top five donors to the campaign included the Missouri Hospital Association, the North Fund, the Health Care Issues Committee of the Missouri Hospital Association, the Health Forward Foundation, and the Washington University.

The support campaign argued that the coronavirus pandemic has shown the need for Medicaid expansion. Jack Cardetti, a spokesperson for the Yes on 2 campaign, said, “Now more than ever, Missourians need to be able to access care in their own communities and protect thousands of local frontline healthcare jobs. … Amendment 2 will help keep rural hospitals and urban clinics open by bringing $1 billion of our own tax dollars back from Washington, instead of going to the 37 other states that have expanded Medicaid.”

No on 2 in August is leading the campaign in opposition to Amendment 2. The committee organized in early June and has reported $112,000 in contributions. Opponents have argued that expanding Medicaid is not economically prudent. State Senator Bob Onder (R-2) said, “The money needed to expand Medicaid is going to come from somewhere. It either has to come from education, from roads or from massive tax increases. … I do think that Missourians, particularly in these challenging economic times, will realize that a massive expansion of the Medicaid program isn’t something that we can afford.” Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) also came out in opposition to expanding Medicaid. He argued, “I don’t think it’s the time to be expanding anything in the state of Missouri right now. There’s absolutely not going to be any extra money whatsoever.”

In 2017, Maine was the first state to vote on a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. It was approved. In 2018, ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid in Utah, Nebraska, and Idaho were approved. A 2018 initiative in Montana that would have renewed Medicaid expansion and increased tobacco taxes was defeated. On June 30, 2020, Oklahoma approved an initiative to expand Medicaid. It was approved 50.5% to 49.5%. Maine, Utah, and Oklahoma expanded Medicaid with opposition from Republican governors. Idaho expanded it with support from its Republican governor. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R) did not take a side on the question.

In Missouri, all polling places are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Central Time. Missouri voters may vote by mail with notarization of the ballot envelope. If a voter is in an at-risk category for contracting COVID-19, the voter may vote via absentee ballot without notarization. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot was July 22. Absentee ballots may be requested in-person until August 3. All ballots must be received by 7:00 p.m. on election day.

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Montana county clerks verify that New Approach Montana has enough signatures to qualify marijuana measures for the ballot

On July 17, New Approach Montana reported that county clerks had accepted 52,315 signatures from the 80,000 raw signatures submitted for its constitutional amendment initiative (CI-118) and 35,458 signatures from the 52,000 signatures submitted for its initiated state statute (I-190). A total of 50,936 signatures and 25,468 signatures, respectively, were required to qualify for the ballot.
Together, the initiatives would legalize and tax marijuana. New Approach’s CI-118 would amend the state constitution to allow for the legislature or a citizen initiative to establish minimum legal ages for the possession, use, and purchase of marijuana. I-190 would legalize marijuana for individuals over the age of 21 and tax the sale of non-medical marijuana at a rate of 20 percent. CI-118 must be approved in order for I-190 to be enacted.
Pepper Petersen, a spokesperson for New Approach Montana, said, “Every single legislative district submitted signatures for this drive, all 56 counties, every little small town, people contributed signatures to this in Montana. We think that shows a huge level of support out here, and we’re excited going forward.”
In April, the campaign filed a lawsuit against the state arguing that it had violated the right to petition the government by prohibiting electronic signature gathering during the coronavirus pandemic. On April 30, Missoula District Judge John Larson ruled against the petitioners arguing that the state’s “compelling interest in maintaining the integrity and security of its election process outweighs any burden on [the] Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”
On May 7, 2020, the Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton (R) issued a declaratory order enabling campaigns to circulate petitions online so that supporters could print, sign, and return them to a county elections office without notarization. Prior to the order, supporters had to take the signed petition to a notary for verification. On the same day, New Approach Montana announced that it would be carrying out a traditional signature gathering campaign with added precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic, such as having circulators wear masks and using single-use pens.
In Montana, the deadline to gather signatures and submit them to county clerks for verification was June 19. The county election authorities had until July 17 to submit accepted signatures to the Montana Secretary of State’s office for a final tabulation before the ballot measures are certified.
New Approach Montana was the only campaign to submit a sufficient number of signatures and meet the state’s distribution requirement. The distribution requirement for initiated state statutes is 5 percent of qualified voters in one-third (34) of the 100 state legislative districts. For initiated constitutional amendments, the requirement is 10 percent of qualified voters in two-fifths (40) of the 100 state legislative districts.
Montana Cares, the sponsor of I-187, the Renewable Energy Initiative, also filed signatures with county clerks. The campaign reported on July 17 that it did not meet the signature and distribution requirements. The initiative would have required investor-owned electric utilities to acquire 80% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2035. The campaign filed two similar initiatives in 2016 and 2018 that also did not make the ballot.
Fourteen petitions targeting the 2020 ballot were filed with the Montana Secretary of State, and five were cleared for signature gathering.
The state legislature referred one state statute and two constitutional amendments to the November ballot. LR-130, would remove local governments’ power to regulate the carrying of permitted concealed weapons. The ballot measure would continue to allow local governments to regulate unpermitted concealed weapons and unconcealed weapons in public occupied buildings. C-46 and C-47 would amend constitutional language regarding initiative signature distribution requirements to match existing practices.
From 1996 through 2018, an average of between four and five measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Montana, 62% of which were approved.
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