CategoryBallot measures

Maine could vote on a physician-initiated death referendum in November or June

In April 2018, when Maine had a divided government, the group Maine Death with Dignity launched a ballot initiative to legalize physician-assisted death in the state. Maine Death with Dignity collected around 72,000 signatures—about 9,000 more than required—for the ballot initiative but decided against submitting signatures after Gov. Janet Mills (D), elected the previous November, signed LD 1313 on June 12, 2019. LD 1313 was written to allow adults suffering from a terminal illness to request medications that can be self-administered to end his or her life. Valerie Lovelace, chairperson of Maine Death with Dignity, said, “We are so proud and grateful to finally be heard by our lawmakers and our governor on this issue.”
Some opponents, however, preferred a public vote over a legislative vote on legalizing physician-assisted death. Because Maine is one of 23 states that provides citizens with a process for veto referendums, voters could still have the final word on physician-assisted death. Kandyce Powell, executive director of the Maine Hospice Council, filed the veto referendum after the 2019 legislative session adjourned on June 20, 2019. The veto referendum was approved for signature gathering on July 11, 2019.
The veto referendum could appear on the ballot for the election on November 5, 2019, or June 9, 2020, depending on when signatures are submitted and verified. Opponents of LD 1313 have until September 18, 2019, to collect and file 63,067 valid signatures.
Maine became the eighth state with a law providing for physician-assisted death after Gov. Mills signed the legislation. Three of those states—Colorado (2016), Oregon (1994), and Washington (2008)—authorized physician-assisted death through citizen-initiated ballot measures. Voters in Maine rejected a physician-assisted death ballot initiative in 2000, with 51.3 percent voting to reject the measure.
Maine’s legislation passed 73-72 in the House, with Democrats divided 68-17. One Republican supported the legislation, while the remaining were opposed. In the Senate, the vote was 19-16, with 18 Democrats and one Republican supporting the legislation, and 13 Republicans and three Democrats opposing the legislation.
Since Maine adopted the referendum process in 1908, there have been 30 veto referendums on the ballot. The last veto referendum was in 2018 when voters overturned legislation designed to postpone and repeal ranked-choice voting. Of the 30 bills placed before voters as veto referendums, 18 of them (60 percent) were overturned at the ballot box. Voters upheld 12 (40 percent) of the bills.
Additional reading: 

Four new statewide ballot measures certified for 2019 and 2020

Four new statewide ballot measures were certified for 2019 and 2020 ballots in the past 30 days.
Three statewide measures were certified for 2019 in Maine, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Here’s what they would do:
  • Maine: allow legislation to let persons with physical disabilities that prevent them from signing their own names use an alternative signature to sign petitions for citizen-initiated ballot measures.
  • New Jersey: extend an existing $250 property tax deduction that veterans receive to continuing care retirement centers on behalf of the veterans living there, and require retirement centers to pass the value of the deduction on to veterans in the form of credits or payments. 
  • Pennsylvania: add specific rights of crime victims, together known as a Marsy’s Law, to the Pennsylvania Constitution.
A 2020 measure to establish the authority of state and local governments to pass campaign finance laws was certified in Oregon.
All four statewide measures certified in the past month were proposed constitutional amendments referred to the ballot by state legislatures.
Proponents of a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment in Florida designed to state that only citizens of the United States are qualified electors announced that they had collected 1.5 million signatures seeking to qualify their measure for the 2020 ballot; they need to submit 766,200 valid signatures and have them verified prior to a deadline on February 1, 2020.
Proponents of a 2019 sanctuary city measure in Tucson also submitted signatures for their initiative.

Florida Citizen Voters announces collecting 1.5 million signatures for 2020 initiative to require Florida voters to be U.S. citizens

On July 11, 2019, Florida Citizen Voters, sponsors of Florida Initiative 18-14, announced having collected more than 1.5 million signatures to qualify the initiative for the 2020 ballot. To qualify for the ballot, 766,200 valid signatures must be submitted by February 1, 2020.
This measure would amend the Florida Constitution to state that only citizens of the United States are qualified electors in Florida.
Constitution as it presently exists: Every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.
Proposed change under the ballot measure: Only a citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.
A similar amendment is certified to appear on the ballot in Alabama in 2020.
Voters in North Dakota decided on a similar measure, Measure 2, in 2018. The measure amended the North Dakota Constitution to state that “only a citizen” rather than “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections. Measure 2 was approved by a vote of 66% to 34%.
Voters in San Francisco approved a measure, Proposition N, in 2016 which allowed non-citizens to register to vote in school board elections. New York City allowed non-citizens to vote in local school board elections from 1968 to 2003 until the city abolished elected school boards. As of 2019, 11 cities in Maryland, including Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Takoma Park allowed non-citizens to vote. Chicago has allowed noncitizens to vote and serve on its school councils since 1989.
All state constitutions mention United States citizenship when discussing the qualifications of an elector. Twenty-one (21) states use the specific phrase “Every citizen of the United States…” when discussing who is a qualified elector. An additional 16 states use the word “every” but structure the sentence differently. Six states use the word “all” or “any” when discussing citizenship and suffrage. Six other states have some other way of phrasing the sentence. As of June 2019, North Dakota was the only state to use the phrase “Only a citizen of the United States…” after having changed it from “every” via a constitutional amendment in 2018.
Map key:
Purple: “Only a citizen of the United States…”
Dark green: “Every citizen of the United States…”
Light green: Uses the term “every”
Dark blue: Uses the terms “any” or “all”
Grey: Unique language concerning citizenship and suffrage
Additional reading:


Judge rules a simple majority, not two-thirds supermajority, is enough for San Francisco’s 2018 citizen-initiated special tax measures

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman ruled Friday that two measures (both called Proposition C) on the San Francisco ballot in June and November of 2018 were properly certified as approved by city officials. Schulman ruled that the measures proposing tax increases for specific purposes required a simple majority for approval because they were put on the ballot through a citizen signature petition.
The ruling stated that the two-thirds supermajority vote requirement for local special taxes in California applies to tax measures referred to the ballot by lawmakers, but not to citizen initiatives. Rex Hime, president of the California Business Properties Association and representing the Howard Jarvis association and the California Business Roundtable, said that plaintiffs would immediately appeal the ruling.
California voters approved statewide Proposition 218 in 1996, adding Article XII C: Voter Approval For Local Tax Levies to the California Constitution. The article includes the requirement that local governments may only enact, extend, or increase a special tax with a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote of the electorate. Following the passage of Proposition 218, the two-thirds supermajority vote requirement was applied to legislative referrals and citizen initiatives.
In August 2017, however, the California Supreme Court ruled in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland that one requirement contained in Article XIII C—that certain tax measures must be put on the ballot during general elections—did not apply to citizen initiatives. The court categorized taxes imposed by citizen initiatives as separate from taxes imposed by local governments. This ruling brought the two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote requirement into question for special taxes proposed through citizen initiatives.
In June 2018, 50.9% of city voters approved a citizen initiative to authorize an additional tax on the lease of commercial property for landlords with annual gross receipts over $1 million to fund childcare and early education programs. In November 2018, 61.3% of city voters approved a measure authorizing the city and county of San Francisco to impose a gross receipts tax on business to fund homelessness services.
 City and county officials in San Francisco argued that the court’s 2017 decision meant that a simple majority—not a two-thirds supermajority—was required for the approval of local citizen initiatives, including tax measures that designate funds for specific purposes. The city certified the 2018 measures and is collecting the June and November Proposition C taxes but is holding the tax revenue until legal disputes are concluded.
Christin Evans, a supporter of November’s Proposition C, said, “Obviously, we’re thrilled. We felt that Prop. C was on firm legal ground from the beginning, and the judge’s opinion left no question that voter-led initiatives will be possible going forward to allow the people to help shape city policy.”
Rex Hime said, “We are disappointed in today’s ruling but will continue to fight to uphold the will of the voters. Prop. 13 and Prop. 218 are unambiguous — voters want a two-thirds vote requirement for special taxes. We will be filing an immediate appeal.”
At least five other local special tax measures, including a third measure in San Francisco, were put on the ballot by citizen initiative petitions and were approved by more than 50% but less than two-thirds of voters.
Additional reading:

Signatures submitted for Tucson sanctuary city initiative targeting the November 2019 ballot

On July 3, 2019, proponents of an initiative to make Tucson the first sanctuary city in Arizona submitted 18,155 unverified signatures to election officials. They needed to collect 9,241 valid signatures by July 5, 2019, to qualify the initiative for the November general election ballot.
Submitted signatures must now be verified by election officials. The initiative would include a declaration of the city’s sanctuary status and add a new section that includes provisions:
  • restricting law enforcement officers from actions to determine a person’s immigration status under certain conditions,
  • prohibiting officers from contacting federal law enforcement agencies to determine a person’s immigration status, and
  • prohibiting city employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status, among other policies.
People’s Defense Initiative (also referred to as Tuscon Families Free and Together) sponsored the petition drive for the initiative.
Ballotpedia’s August 2017 review of municipal immigration policies found that 32 cities among the nation’s 100 largest by population self-identified as sanctuary cities or maintained sanctuary policies. As of 2017, 30 of the 32 cities identified as sanctuary jurisdictions had Democratic mayors.

Fourteen states approve changes to laws governing ballot measures in 2019

In 2019, 14 states have approved 29 proposals changing laws governing ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall.
Five approved proposals, however, were constitutional amendments requiring voter ratification in 2019 or 2020. Two additional bills were approved by the Idaho State Legislature, but the governor vetoed them. Five citizen-initiated measures directly related to initiative and referendum laws were also filed in Florida, Missouri, and South Dakota. Below are some of the most significant proposals:
  • Arkansas legislators passed a bill to change the timeline for approval of the ballot title and popular name of citizen initiatives to after signatures are submitted and make other changes to the state’s initiative processes.
  • Arkansas legislators sent an amendment to the 2020 ballot increasing the state’s distribution requirement, adding a supermajority vote requirement for the legislature to put amendments on the ballot, and making other changes to laws governing ballot measures.
  • A proposal requiring out-of-state circulators to register and adding other restrictions for circulators was passed in Arizona.
  • A bill banning pay-per-signature, requiring paid circulators to register with the secretary of state, and establishing economic impact statement requirements was passed in Florida.
  • The Maine Legislature passed and the governor signed a bill requiring reporting about which circulators are paid and what the method of payment is, among other requirements.
  • Bills requiring ballot language to be written as simply as possible and making other changes regarding ballot language and public hearings were also passed in Maine.
  • Utah legislators approved five bills changing the initiative process. Changes included: changing signature requirements, requiring county clerks to post the names of those who sign an initiative petition on county websites, requiring funding sources to be specified, and establishing rolling signature submission deadlines.
  • The Idaho State Legislature passed but the governor vetoed a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, reduce the allowed circulation period, enact a single-subject rule, and require a fiscal impact statement.
In 2018, Ballotpedia tracked 203 ballot measure law change proposals in 34 states. In 2017, Ballotpedia tracked 213 bills in 37 states.

Oregon legislature passed campaign finance amendment that will appear on 2020 ballot

Over the weekend, the Oregon State Legislature approved a constitutional amendment (SJR 18) that would authorize the state legislature and local governments to (1) enact laws or ordinances limiting campaign contributions and expenditures; (2) require disclosure of contributions and expenditures; and (3) require that political advertisements identify the people or entities that paid for them. The constitutional amendment is required to enact campaign finance limits since campaign contributions and expenditures were found by the state supreme court in 1997 to be forms of free speech protected by the state constitution.
The amendment was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tim Knopp (R-27). On June 29, 2019, the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 22-5 with three Republican Senators absent or excused. All 18 Senate Democrats voted in favor and five Republicans voted against the amendment. Aside from the measure’s Republican sponsor, three Republican Senators crossed party lines in voting for the amendment: Dallas Heard, Denyc Boles, and Kim Thatcher. The House passed the measure on June 30, 2019, by a vote of 43-11 with five Representatives excused. Among Republicans, 10 were in favor, 7 were opposed, and four were excused. Among Democrats, 36 were in favor, one was opposed (Jeff Barker), and one (Brian Clem) was excused.
Oregon has no limits on campaign contributions to candidates or ballot measure campaigns from individuals, candidate committees, political action committees, political parties, corporations, or unions. Along with Oregon, 10 other states allow unlimited individual contributions, 17 other states have no limit on state party contributions, five other states have no limits on corporate contributions (while 22 states prohibit corporate contributions entirely), and 12 other states have no limits on PAC contributions.
House Bills 2714 and 2716, sponsored by Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), were designed to implement some aspects of the constitutional amendment.
The limits per election from an individual, a multicandidate political committee, the principal campaign committee of a candidate, or a recall political committee would be as follows:
  • State Representative: $1,000
  • State Senator or circuit court judge: $1,500
  • Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, Attorney General, Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, judge of the Supreme Court, judge of the Court of Appeals: $2,800
The above candidates/offices could receive unlimited contributions from a caucus political committee, a political party committee, or a small donor political committee.
HB 2714 passed in the House on June 6, 2019, in a vote of 35-23 with two representatives excused. It was referred to the Senate on June 10, 2019.
House Bill 2716 was designed to require that a communication (advertisement) in support of or in opposition to a clearly identified candidate must state the name of the persons that paid for the communication. The bill was passed by the legislature on June 29, 2019.

Veto referendum to reinstate religious and philosophical vaccination exemptions approved for signature drive in Maine

In Maine, a veto referendum was launched to overturn Legislative Document 798 (2019). LD 798 eliminates religious and philosophical, but not medical, exemptions from vaccination requirements for students to attend schools and colleges and employees of healthcare facilities. The organization Mainers for Health and Parental Rights is leading the campaign sponsoring the veto referendum effort. Mainers for Health and Parental Rights has until September 18, 2019, to collect the 63,067 valid signatures required to place a veto referendum on the ballot. The veto referendum could appear on the ballot for November 5, 2019, or June 9, 2020, depending on when signatures are submitted and verified.
Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed LD 798 into law on May 24, 2019. The Maine House of Representatives passed LD 798 in a vote of 79-62 on May 21. The Maine State Senate passed LD 798 in a vote of 19-16 on May 23,. Most legislative Democrats—74/88 in the House and 18/21 in the Senate—voted to pass the legislation. Most legislative Republicans— 51/56 in the House and 13/14 in the Senate—voted to reject the legislation. Independents were divided 2-4. In 2019, Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature, as well as the governor’s office, making Maine a Democratic trifecta. Prior to 2019, Maine was a divided government.
With LD 798, Maine became the fourth state to prohibit non-medical exemptions from vaccination requirements for students to attend schools. The other states, at the time of passage, were California, Mississippi, and West Virginia, according to NCSL. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation three weeks after Gov. Mills did to end his state’s religious and philosophical vaccination exemptions and make New York the fifth state.
Since Maine adopted the referendum process in 1908, there have been 30 veto referendums on the ballot. The last veto referendum was in 2018, when voters overturned legislation designed to postpone and repeal ranked-choice voting. Of the 30 bills placed before voters as veto referendums, 18 of them (60 percent) were overturned at the ballot box. Voters upheld 12 (40 percent) of the bills.
There have been at least four citizen-initiated measures addressing vaccination in the U.S. Oregon voted on initiatives in 1916 and 1920, Arizona voted on an initiative in 1918, and California voted on an initiative in 1920. Voters rejected the initiatives in Oregon and California. In Arizona, the initiative was approved, prohibiting minors from receiving vaccinations without the consent of their guardians.

Second veto referendum effort filed targeting provisions of Oregon HB 3427, the Student Success Act

Two referendum petitions have been filed targeting House Bill 3427, referred to as the Student Success Act, which was signed into law on May 16, 2019.
HB 3427 was designed to establish the Fund for Student Success and allocate funding to education purposes including the following:
  • the creation of a grant program in the state’s Student Investment Account with funds to be spent on increased learning time, decreased class sizes, and improvements to students’ education, healthy, and safety;
  • the expansion of access to free meals at school; and
  • the creation of a program for students who have left high school to re-enter and complete high school.
The bill establishes a 0.57% tax (corporate activity tax) on businesses that have more than a million dollars in Oregon sales and reduces personal income tax rates for the lowest three tax brackets by subtracting 0.25% from the rates.
The first referendum, #301, seeks to overturn provisions of HB 3427 that levy a 0.57% tax (corporate activity tax) on businesses that have more than a million dollars in Oregon sales with revenue to be used to fund the Fund for Student Success. Defeat the Tax on Oregon Sales is leading the veto referendum effort. Our Oregon is leading the campaign against the referendum effort in order to preserve HB 3427 provisions.
Oregon Senator Alan Olsen (R-20), who opposes the corporate activity tax and supports the referendum effort, argued, “The funds from the gross receipts tax are not dedicated to funding K-12 education by constitutional amendment, meaning the Democratic majority can spend it however they choose. Because it’s a statutory law, it is not guaranteed to education or K-12 programs like the Democrats have promised. Additionally, this tax will absolutely devastate Oregonians with fixed incomes, such as the poor and elderly – the very populations Democrats claim to represent – because consumers are paying for the sales tax every time something is purchased.”
Our Oregon argued, “Special interests have filed an attempt to send the Student Success Act to the ballot, jeopardizing a historic $2 billion investment in Oregon students. These dedicated investments mean smaller class sizes, more mental health resources, restored art, music, PE, and career training classes, and increased access to early education programs. The Student Success Act also delivers hundreds of millions in personal income tax relief for families across the state.”
The second referendum, #302, seeks to overturn Section 67 of HB 3427, which would prohibit cities, counties, or other local political subdivisions from imposing taxes on commercial activities or grocery sales.
74,680 valid signatures are due for each measure 90 days after the legislature adjourns its 2019 session. The legislature is set to adjourn at the end of June.
In the 112-year period between 1906 and 2018, 68 veto referendum measures have appeared on the ballot in Oregon. Veto referendums resulted in the targeted law being overturned in 44 of 68 cases for a veto referendum success rate of 64.7%. The targeted law was upheld in 24 of 68 veto referendum elections (35.3%).
The states that have had the most veto referendums are North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California (48).
Additional reading:

Maine to vote on a ballot measure to allow persons with physical disabilities to sign initiative petitions using an alternative signature

In November, voters in Maine will decide a constitutional amendment to authorize legislation
allowing persons with physical disabilities that prevent them from signing their own names to use an alternative signature to sign petitions for citizen-initiated ballot measures. It’s the first ballot measure certified for the election on November 5, 2019, in Maine.
The Maine State Constitution requires people to sign petitions for citizen-initiated ballot measures with their original signature. The state constitution does not have a similar requirement for candidate petitions. In 2005, the Maine State Legislature passed a law allowing persons with physical disabilities to register to vote and sign candidate petitions using an alternative signature, defined as a signature stamp or having a registered voter sign the petition on the person’s behalf. Melissa Packard, the state Director of Elections, said, “it was determined that a constitutional amendment would be needed to authorize a similar process for direct initiative and people’s veto petitions.”
The constitutional amendment required a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the Maine State Legislature to be placed on the ballot. Rep. Bruce White (D-109) was the constitutional amendment’s lead sponsor. He said, “This legislation addresses a constitutional contradiction in that historic work that prevents people with some disabilities from participating in the process of petitioning their government, as the Constitution requires that signatures for initiatives and people’s vetoes must be original signatures, made by the voter themselves. This is an obvious problem for people who, for example, are quadriplegic, or have Parkinson’s, or have no hands at all. This proposal would give the Legislature room to make allowance for alternatives to original signatures on citizen initiatives and people’s vetoes, such as proxies and self-inking stampers, for example, as are allowed for in other sections of the law.”
Between 1995 and 2018, voters in Maine decided 15 constitutional amendments, approving 11 and rejecting four. The average number of constitutional amendments on an odd-year ballot during that period was one. The Maine State Legislature had until the end of the session on June 20, 2019, to pass constitutional amendments. While just one constitutional amendment was passed before June 20, the Portland Press Herald reported that Democratic leaders expected a special session to address bond ballot measures. A special session could also address two constitutional amendments—an Equal Rights Regardless of Sex Amendment and a Constitutional Right to Food Amendment. Gov. Janet Mills (D) wanted the legislature to refer $239 million in bond measures to voters, but a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on whether to take a vote on the bonds as a package or on each individual bond led to the bill failing to meet the two-thirds vote requirement.