CategoryBallot measures

Signatures for Florida 2020 initiatives must be certified by February 1st

February 1 is the deadline for initiative petition signatures to be certified by the Florida Secretary of State to qualify initiated constitutional amendments for the 2020 ballot. Since state law gives local elections officials 30 days to verify signatures, petitioners needed to submit signatures on or before January 2, 2020, to guarantee that an initiative would qualify for the 2020 ballot.

766,200 valid signatures are required to qualify. This number is based on a percentage (8%) of ballots cast in the last presidential election, which in 2016 was 9,577,333.

Three citizen initiated measures have qualified for the ballot:

  • Amendment 1, sponsored by Florida Citizen Voters, would specify that only U.S. citizens can vote in federal, state, local, or school elections.
  • Amendment 2, sponsored by Florida For A Fair Wage, would increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally to $15 by 2026.
  • Amendment 3, sponsored by All Voters Vote, Inc., would establish a top-two open primary system for state office primary elections.

Sponsors of four other initiatives submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for a ballot language review by the state supreme court. Those initiatives and how many valid signatures had been verified as of January 2, 2020, are as follows:

  • Initiative #18-10, Changes to Energy Market Initiative: 623,079 valid signatures;
  • Initiative #19-01, Ban on Semiautomatic Rifles and Shotguns Initiative: 130,232 valid signatures;
  • Initiative #19-08, Double Election Requirement for Constitutional Amendments Initiative: 526,469 valid signatures;
  • Initiative #19-11, Marijuana Legalization Initiative: 228,308 valid signatures.

Proponents of Initiative #19-11, Make it Legal Florida, filed a lawsuit against Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and other elections officials on December 31, 2019, requesting the court to order the Secretary of State to accept signature petitions submitted by February 1, 2020. The lawsuit also challenges the constitutionality of Florida House Bill 5, passed by the Florida Legislature in 2019. Florida HB 5 required paid petition circulators to register with the secretary of state and provide information such as his or her name, address, date of birth, and a circulator affidavit; banned paying petitioners based on the number of signatures collected (pay-per-signature); and enacted other rules concerning statewide initiative petitions and local measures. Nick Hansen, chairman of Make it Legal Florida, said, “Our request is that Florida’s Secretary of State, who has worked hard to ensure processes and rules are followed to the letter, count every signed petition submitted by January 31 toward the 2020 ballot, regardless of when it’s validated.”

Ninety-one measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Florida between 1996 and 2018, of which, 75.82% (69 of 91) were approved by voters and 24.18% (22 of 91) were defeated.

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Additional Reading:
Florida 2020 ballot measures
Florida Marijuana Legalization and Medical Marijuana Treatment Center Sales Initiative (2020)

Signatures filed for indirect initiative to ban abortion procedure in Michigan


On December 23, 2019, the campaign Michigan Values Life filed 379,418 signatures for a ballot initiative to ban an abortion procedure. The ballot initiative defines the procedure as dismemberment abortion, which is also known as dilation and evacuation abortion.

The ballot initiative would define dismemberment abortion as an abortion which uses an instrument, device, or object to “dismember a living fetus by disarticulating limbs or decapitating the head from the fetal torso or removing the dismembered fetal body parts from the uterus regardless of whether the fetal body parts are removed by the same instrument, device, or object or by suction or other means.”

At least 340,047 (89.6 percent) of the submitted signatures need to be valid. As an indirect initiative, the proposal would first go to the Michigan State Legislature if enough signatures are verified. The legislature would have 40 days to pass the initiative. The governor’s signature is not needed on an indirect initiative passed by the legislature. Currently, Republicans control both legislative houses, while a Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer, is the governor. House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-107) said that he expected the legislature to pass the ballot initiative.

If enough signatures are verified and the indirect initiative is not passed by the legislature, the initiative would appear on the ballot for November 3, 2020. Speaking about the scenario of the initiative going to the ballot, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said, “I will actively campaign against adoption.”

According to Bridge Magazine, dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions are the most common type of second-trimester abortion. Mississippi and West Virginia have active bans on D&E abortions. Courts have struck down bans in several other states.

As of December 2019, one abortion-related ballot measure has qualified for the 2020 ballot. In Louisiana, voters will decide a constitutional amendment stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” Signatures are also being collected for a 22-week abortion ban ballot initiative in Colorado. In Michigan, a campaign for a second ballot initiative that would restrict abortions when a fetal heartbeat is present is also collecting signatures. The latest that signatures can be filed for an indirect initiative in Michigan is May 27, 2020.

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Related pages:
Michigan 2020 ballot measures
Michigan Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban Initiative (2020)
Abortion regulations by state

South Dakota to vote on medical marijuana in 2020

On December 19, the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office announced that New Approach South Dakota’s initiative to establish a medical marijuana program had qualified for the ballot. The group reported submitting more than 30,000 signatures in November, of which 25,524 were deemed valid. To qualify, 16,961 signatures were required.

The measure would establish a medical marijuana program in South Dakota for individuals who have a debilitating medical condition and are certified by a physician. Under the measure, a debilitating medical condition means, “A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating pain; severe nausea; seizures; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.” The measure provides that the Department of Health could add additional qualifying conditions.

Medical marijuana patients would be able to possess three ounces of marijuana as well as additional amounts of other types of marijuana products. Patients would be able to possess three marijuana plants and products made from the plants.

The attorney general’s explanation stated, “The 95-section measure contains numerous other provisions not described here. It will likely require judicial or legislative clarification.”

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, a group sponsoring a separate measure to legalize recreational marijuana, reported submitting more than 50,000 signatures on November 4, 2019, and are awaiting validation from the Secretary of State. That measure was designed to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. It would also require the legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. In South Dakota, if there are two conflicting ballot measures on the same ballot, and both are approved, the one that receives the most yes votes supersedes the other in areas of conflict.

As of 2019, 33 states and Washington, D.C., had passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Additionally, 13 states had legalized the use of cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—for medical purposes. As of 2019, 11 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

Also set to appear on the 2020 ballot is a marijuana legalization amendment in New Jersey that would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons age 21 and older and legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana. The New Jersey constitutional amendment is the first marijuana legalization measure that a state legislature has referred to voters. In Illinois and Vermont, the state legislatures passed bills to legalize marijuana without ballot measures. The other nine states (and D.C.) that have legalized marijuana did so through the ballot initiative process, in which proponents collected signatures to place their issues before voters. There is no initiative process in New Jersey.

Measures concerning medical marijuana targeting the 2020 ballot have been proposed in Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, and Nebraska. Measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use have been proposed targeting the 2020 ballot in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma.

From 1996 through 2018, a total of 74 measures have appeared on the ballot during even-numbered election years in South Dakota, of which, 39% were approved and 61% were defeated.

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Wisconsin’s April 7th Marsy’s Law ballot measure challenged in court

On December 18, 2019, the Wisconsin Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization, filed litigation in the Dane County Circuit Court that challenges the Marsy’s Law Amendment, which is on the ballot for April 7, 2020. Marsy’s Law was designed as a type of constitutional bill of rights for crime victims.

As of 2019, 13 states had passed ballot measures for Marsy’s Law. Courts have struck down Marsy’s Law in Montana and Kentucky. In Montana, the constitutional amendment was struck down as violating the state’s single-subject and separate-vote requirements. In Kentucky, a judge ruled that the ballot question didn’t fully and fairly inform the electorate. In Pennsylvania, where a majority of electors voted for Marsy’s Law on November 5, 2019, an ongoing lawsuit contends that the constitutional amendment violated the state’s single-subject requirement.

Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., established Marsy’s Law for All in 2009 to advocate for constitutional amendments. In Wisconsin, the state legislature passed Marsy’s Law in 2017 and 2019 to place the amendment on the ballot. In 2019, most legislative Republicans (77 of 82) supported the resolution placing Marsy’s Law on the ballot. Two-thirds of legislative Democrats (32 of 50) supported the resolution.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit stated that the ballot question did not accurately and completely describe the constitutional amendment. Craig Johnson, board president of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative, said, “Voters are being asked to vote on a single sentence that doesn’t remotely begin to describe what Marsy’s Law is and what it does. It may sound reasonable, but the question masks a proposed amendment twice the length of the U.S. Bill of Rights.” The Wisconsin Justice Initiative asked the court to strike Marsy’s Law from the ballot or require the ballot question to be rewritten.

The ballot question is: “Shall section 9m of article I of the constitution, which gives certain rights to crime victims, be amended to give crime victims additional rights, to require that the rights of crime victims be protected with equal force to the protections afforded the accused while leaving the federal constitutional rights of the accused intact, and to allow crime victims to enforce their rights in court?”

Teri Jendusa-Nicolai, chairperson of Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin, responded to the lawsuit, saying, “This to me is a last-ditch effort to take away the rights of crime victims.” Jendusa-Nicolai added, “I do believe in the intelligence of the voters of Wisconsin, that they do understand what they are getting into and what they are voting for. … This has passed (the) Legislature twice. It has gone through many rigorous hearings, many rewordings and revisions, something that’s been worked on for quite some time.”

The case could eventually be appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which would have final jurisdiction.

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Additional reading:
Marsy’s Law crime victim rights
Marsy’s Law for All
Wisconsin 2020 ballot measures
2020 ballot measures 

Massachusetts income tax rate decrease takes effect on January 1

In the general election of 2000, Massachusetts voters approved Question 4 with 59 percent of the vote. The initiative enacted a law that would lower the state’s personal income tax from 5.9% in 2000 to 5% by 2003.

In 2002, the Massachusetts General Court passed House No. H.5250, which replaced the schedule adopted by Question 4 with a more gradual decrease tied to revenue milestones. The act decreased the state’s personal income tax rate by 0.05% every fiscal year that revenue benchmarks were met. On January 1, 2020, the rate will decrease to 5%—the target rate of Question 4.

The rate decrease is expected to lower tax revenue by $88 million in fiscal year 2020, which ends June 30, 2020. Massachusetts is one of nine states with a flat income tax rate. In 2019, the average income tax rate among those states was 4.49 percent.

From 2010 through 2018, Massachusetts voters approved 8 citizen initiatives. Of those, two were altered by the state legislature; one was amended and one

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Additional Reading:
Legislative alteration


Ballotpedia’s annual minimum wage increase report: 24 states and D.C. will increase their minimum wages in 2020

Twenty-four states and Washington, D.C. will increase their minimum wages in 2020. The increases range from between $0.10 per hour in Florida to $1.50 per hour in New Mexico, Washington, and New York City for certain employees. In New York and Oregon, state laws provide for regional minimum wages.
Eight minimum wages will increase due to wages being indexed to changes in cost-of-living or inflation. Minimum wages in 10 states and D.C. will increase due to legislative bills scheduling specific increases, and they will increase in six states due to citizen-initiated measures scheduling specific increases.
In 2020, the largest minimum wage increases based on state laws are $1.50 in New Mexico ($7.50 to $9.00), Washington ($12.00 to $13.50), and New York City ($13.50 to $15.00 for certain employees).
The highest minimum wage based on state law is $15.00 in New York City in 2020. The highest statewide minimum wages based on state laws are $13.50 per hour in Washington and $13.00 in California.
In 2019, there were no statewide ballot measures related to minimum wages. Legislation to increase state minimum wages were approved by state legislatures and signed into law in five states in 2019.
One measure, a $15 per hour minimum wage initiative in Florida, has been certified for the 2020 ballot so far. Potential measures designed to increase minimum wages in Arizona and Idaho and one measure to prohibit local minimum wage increases in Missouri were filed targeting 2020 ballots.
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NJ voters will decide a constitutional amendment to legalization marijuana at the 2020 general election

On December 16, the New Jersey State Legislature passed a resolution placing a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana on the ballot for November 3, 2020. New Jersey would be the 12th state and the first Mid-Atlantic state to legalize marijuana.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D) campaigned on marijuana legalization in the 2017 gubernatorial election. When Murphy was elected, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) said his goal was to get a marijuana legalization law passed within 100 days of Murphy’s term. However, the state legislature did not pass legislation to legalize marijuana in 2018 or 2019. On May 15, 2019, Sweeney stated there were not enough votes to pass marijuana legalization. “There’s no sense dragging this out,” he said. On November 18, 2019, Sweeney and Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-22) announced a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana. Gov. Murphy said, “… I have faith that the people of New Jersey will put us on the right side of history when they vote next November.”

In New Jersey, there are two avenues for the state Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. First, the legislature can refer an amendment to the ballot through a 60 percent vote of both chambers during one legislative session. Second, the legislature can refer an amendment through a simple majority vote (50%+1) in each legislative chamber during two successive legislative sessions.

Legislators took the first path, with 60 percent of legislators in each chamber approving the resolution. In the state Senate, the vote was 24-16. In the state Assembly, the vote was 49-24. The vote made the New Jersey State Legislature the first in the country to ask voters to legalize recreational marijuana. All other marijuana legalization measures were put on the ballot through signature petition drives, a process not available in New Jersey. State legislatures in Illinois and Vermont legalized marijuana without ballot measures.

The constitutional amendment would legalize the recreational use of marijuana, also known as cannabis, for persons age 21 and older. Marijuana would be subject to the state sales tax (6.625 percent), but additional state excise taxes on marijuana sales would be prohibited. The ballot measure would authorize the legislature to allow local governments to enact an additional 2 percent excise tax on marijuana sales. The state Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) would be responsible for regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of marijuana. The ballot measure would not provide additional specifics; rather, the legislature and CRC would need to enact additional laws and regulations.

While the New Jersey constitutional amendment is the first legalization measure to make the 2020 ballot, it may not be the last. There could be marijuana legalization ballot measures in several states, including Arizona and South Dakota. The measure in Arizona would be a second attempt for legalization proponents, as an initiative was defeated in 2016. Signatures were submitted for a South Dakota ballot initiative at the beginning of November and are in the process of being verified.

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Arkansas Supreme Court rules signatures must be counted for Optometry Referendum

A veto referendum effort in Arkansas is moving forward after a state supreme court ruling on Thursday ordered the secretary of state to count the signatures submitted by proponents.
The referendum seeks to overturn Act 579 (House Bill 1251) which amended the definition of practice of optometry to allow optometrists to perform surgical procedures. Safe Surgery Arkansas, sponsors of the referendum petition effort hope voters will overturn HB 1251 and are advocating for a no vote on the referendum.

HB 1251 amended the definition of practice of optometry in state law to allow optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures including the following:
1. injections, excluding intravenous or intraocular injections;
2. incision and curettage of a chalazion;
3. removal and biopsy of skin lesions with low risk of malignancy, excluding lesions involving the lid margin or nasal to the puncta;
4. laser capsulotomy; and
5. laser trabeculoplasty.

Sponsors reported submitting about 84,000 signatures on July 23, 2019. To qualify for the 2020 ballot, 53,491 valid signatures are required. The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office said proponents submitted 23,953 signatures and therefore failed to qualify for the ballot. Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston (R) declined to count 61,065 signatures submitted by proponents, saying they were not collected in compliance with Act 376 (House Bill 346) of 2019, which changed the laws governing the initiative process in Arkansas. Among other things, Act 376 required sponsors to submit certain required sworn statements from paid circulators to the secretary of state before the circulator collects any signatures. Generally, laws become effective 90 days after they are signed by the governor unless they constitute an emergency. Act 376, signed by the governor in March, contained an emergency clause that was designed to apply the new laws to petitions that were already being circulated.

Alex Gray, attorney for Safe Surgery Arkansas, filed a lawsuit in the Arkansas Supreme Court against Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston (R) on August 13, 2019. The plaintiffs alleged that the emergency clause was unconstitutional and that the signatures they submitted were valid and should be counted by the Secretary of State’s office. The state supreme court ruled 4-3 in favor of Safe Surgery Arkansas on December 12, 2019.

The supreme court wrote that the test for determining whether a law is not an emergency is “if reasonable people would not think that the facts stated constitute an emergency.” In Act 376, the legislature wrote that the bill constituted an emergency in order “to avoid confusion in petition circulation.” The supreme court ruled that this did not constitute an emergency. In the majority opinion, the court wrote, “the only purpose this emergency clause can functionally serve is to simply bring Act 376’s new requirements into operation at an earlier time (effectively voiding referendum efforts brought pursuant to the otherwise-then-still-existing legal framework). Here, this would disenfranchise over 60,000 Arkansas citizens who have expressed through their signatures the desire to hold a referendum on Act 579 on the November 2020 ballot, all because the legislature decided (1) that it was time to add additional requirements for procuring those signatures, and (2) that those additional requirements should become effective immediately.”

Three constitutional amendments referred to the ballot by the state legislature are certified to appear on the 2020 ballot. The measures concern a 0.5% sales tax for transportation, term limits for state legislators, and changes to the initiative and legislative referral processes.

From 1996 to 2018, an average of four measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Arkansas. During even-numbered years between 1996 and 2018, 73% (35 of 48) of statewide ballot measures were approved by voters, and 27% (13 of 48) were defeated.

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Citizen voting requirement initiative certified to appear on Colorado’s 2020 ballot

On Dec. 12, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office reported that the Citizen Requirement for Voting Initiative had qualified for the November 2020 ballot. This measure would amend the Colorado Constitution to state that only citizens of the United States are qualified electors in Colorado.
The measure is sponsored by Colorado Citizen Voters and has the support of the national Citizen Voters Inc. Colorado Citizen Voters reported submitting around 200,000 valid signatures in November. To qualify the measure for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required.
The Colorado Constitution currently says, “Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, has resided in this state for such a time as may be prescribed by law, and has been duly registered as a voter if required by law shall be qualified to vote at all elections.” (Emphasis added)
Under the ballot measure, the Colorado Constitution would say, “Only a citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, has resided in this state for such a time as may be prescribed by law, and has been duly registered as a voter if required by law shall be qualified to vote at all elections.” (Emphasis added)
Currently, Colorado statutes require U.S. citizenship to register to vote.
Citizen Voters, Inc. is also supporting similar measures that are on the 2020 ballots in Alabama and Florida.
Colorado Citizen Voters, the committee supporting the measure, reported $10,100 in cash contributions and $1.39 million in in-kind contributions. All but $100 of the contributions came from Citizen Voters, Inc. The in-kind contributions were reported as signature-gathering expenses. The committee reported in $7,730 in cash expenditures.
John Loudon, national chairman of Citizen Voters, Inc. said these amendments are needed across the nation because “surprisingly, the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution, with the exception of Arizona and North Dakota, does not specifically require citizenship to vote. Each of these state constitutions say nearly the same thing: ‘Every citizen shall be an elector…’ This inclusive language tells us who can vote, but not who can’t vote.”
Mark Grueskin, a Democratic Colorado attorney, said, “Whatever [the sponsors] intended isn’t what they ended up with,” and said that Colorado’s home-rule law under Article XX of the state constitution would mean that cities would still have the power to “legislate upon, provide, regulate, conduct and control… all matters pertaining to municipal elections in such city or town.”
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%.
Citizenship is a requirement for voting in most elections in the U.S. 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 non-citizens to vote and serve on its school councils since 1989.
Also certified to appear on Colorado’s 2020 ballot is a veto referendum determining whether Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) and a measure authorizing the state to issue bonds for transportation projects.
From 1996 through 2018, an average of between nine and 10 measures appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered years in Colorado. A total of 131 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Colorado from 1996 through 2018, of which about 42% (49 of 117) were approved, and about 58% (68 of 117) were defeated.
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Oklahoma City voters approve sales tax measure Tuesday

Oklahoma City voters approved a 1% sales tax measure by 71.7% to 28.3 percent in a special election Tuesday. The tax revenue was earmarked to fund the city’s Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) 4 program of proposed city infrastructure and facility projects.
The MAPS 4 tax will expire in eight years and is expected to raise an estimated $978 million over that time. The three largest recipients of the tax proceeds will be city parks ($140 million), youth centers ($110 million), and the Chesapeake Energy Arena and related facilities ($115 million).
The tax will go into effect in April 2020, when the current 1% transportation sales tax expires. The city’s overall sales tax rate will remain unchanged at 8.625%. The state sales tax rate in Oklahoma is 4.5%. The total Oklahoma City sales tax rate is 4.125%. There are no county-wide or other local sales taxes in Oklahoma City. If voters had not approved the measure, Oklahoma City’s overall sales tax would have decreased to 7.625%.
The average total sales tax rate (state and local) in Oklahoma is 8.77%. State law allows additional local sales taxes of up to 6.5%, making the maximum total sales tax rate in the state 11%.
The first version of the city’s MAPS program—which was also funded by a 1% sales tax—was approved by voters on December 14, 1993, with the tax expiring on July 1, 1999, after generating about $309 million in revenue. MAPS 2 and MAPS 3 followed. The MAPS 3 tax expired in December 2017 and final projects are planned for completion in 2022.
The city council voted Sept. 24 to put the measure on the ballot. The council will have final authority over the administration of the program. A volunteer advisory board will have detailed oversight. Oklahoma City’s next regular municipal election—when four of the council’s eight seats are up for election—is in 2021.
Next year, voters could decide on another 0.125% sales tax measure to fund city park maintenance and operations. Former City Council Member Ed Shadid filed petitions for a citizen initiative proposing the measure on Dec. 2. If city officials verify the petitions have the 6,499 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, voters could decide the initiative during the state’s presidential primary on March 3 or state legislative primaries June 30. The tax is expected to generate about $15 million per year.
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