TagBallot Bulletin

Signatures filed for North Slope oil tax initiative in Alaska

The campaign Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share filed signatures for a ballot initiative to increases taxes on North Slope oil production fields. The taxes would apply to North Slope fields that have a lifetime output of at least 400 million barrels of oil and had a daily output of at least 40,000 barrels during the prior year. As of 2020, three oil production fields—Alpine, Kuparuk, and Prudhoe Bay—met those criteria. The ballot initiative would tax oil production using an alternative gross minimum tax or an additional production tax, whichever is greater for each month and each field.

On January 17, 2020, the campaign filed 44,624 signatures with election officials. At least 28,501 (63.9 percent) of the submitted signatures need to be valid. Robin Brena, chairperson of Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share, said the campaign had collected enough signatures in 35 state House districts to meet the state’s distribution requirement of 30 House districts. As the ballot initiative is indirect, certification would first send the proposal to the Alaska State Legislature, which would have the chance to approve the proposal outright. Otherwise, the ballot initiative would go before voters at the election on August 18, 2020, or November 3, 2020, depending on when the legislature adjourns this year’s regular session.

The ballot initiative has divided former oil officials who worked under former Gov. Bill Walker (I). Robin Brena, who served as chairperson of Walker’s Transition Subcommittee on Oil and Gas, is leading Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share. Chantal Walsh, a petroleum engineer and former Oil and Gas Division Director for Walker, is leading the opposition campaign OneAlaska. The Alaska Oil and Gas Association, as well as ConocoPhillips Alaska and ExxonMobil, are backing the opposition campaign.

Alaska voters last decided an oil-related ballot measure in August 2014. The measure, which sought to overturn legislation that expanded tax credits to oil companies and made the oil production tax a flat, rather than graduated, rate. The campaign that sought to overturn the legislation raised $488,09, most of which came from businessman BJ Gottstein, and the campaign to uphold the legislation raised $14.22 million, including $3.6 million from BP, $3.6 million from ExxonMobil, and $2.5 million from ConocoPhillips Alaska.

Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share is the second campaign to file signatures for a ballot initiative this cycle. On January 9, 2020, the campaign Alaskans for Better Elections filed 41,068 signatures for a ballot initiative to replace partisan primaries with open top-four primaries and use ranked-choice voting in general elections. The final deadline to file signatures for Alaska ballot initiatives ahead of the 2020 election is January 21, 2020.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:
Alaska 2020 ballot measures
Alaska Top Four Ranked Choice Voting and Campaign Finance Laws Initiative (2020)
2020 ballot measures

New campaign finance reports in for 2020 Colorado ballot measures show support campaigns ahead in fundraising

New campaign finance reports for Colorado ballot measures, which covered information through December 31, 2019, show support campaigns had raised more money than opposition campaigns.

So far, four measures are certified to appear on the November 2020 ballot in Colorado, including one legislatively referred bond issue, a veto referendum, and two citizen initiatives. No issue committees have registered to support or oppose the bond issue.

Citizen Requirement for Voting Initiative:
The initiative would amend the Colorado Constitution to state that “only a citizen” of the U.S. can vote in Colorado. The existing language says “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote. Current Colorado law requires U.S. citizenship to register to vote.

This measure is supported by Citizen Voters, Inc., a Florida-based not-for-profit organization founded by John Loudon that supports similar measures to amend state constitutions nationwide. Amendments to change constitutional language to explicitly require voters to be U.S. citizens are also on the 2020 ballot in Alabama and Florida.

Colorado Citizen Voters is the issue committee supporting the measure in Colorado. The committee reported $36,000 in cash contributions and $1.43 million in in-kind contributions. Citizen Voters, Inc. contributed 99.25% of the total contributions to the committee. The committee reported in $28,507 in cash expenditures.

There are no committees registered to oppose the initiative.

Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative:
The initiative would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves on designated lands west of the continental divide by the end of 2023.

One committee is registered to support the initiative: Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF). The committee reported $1.35 million in contributions and $1.32 million in expenditures. The top donor to the RMWAF, with contributions totaling $333,650, was the Tides Center, which describes itself as “a philanthropic partner and nonprofit accelerator dedicated to building a world of shared prosperity and social justice.”

Two committees are registered to oppose the initiative: Coloradans Defending Our Wildlife and Coloradans Protecting Wildlife. Coloradans Defending Our Wildlife had not yet reported campaign finance activity. Coloradans Protecting Wildlife reported $10,125 in cash contributions and $66.50 in cash expenditures. The top donor to the opposition campaign was the Colorado Farm Bureau, which gave $3,500.

National Popular Vote Referendum:
The referendum, if approved, would make Colorado part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) and give all of Colorado’s nine electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes nationwide if the NPVIC becomes effective.

Two committees are registered to support a yes vote on the referendum: Coloradans for National Popular Vote and Yes on National Popular Vote. Together, the committees reported $1.89 million in contributions and $454,436 in expenditures. The top donor to the support campaign was Stephen Silberstein, a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit National Popular Vote., who gave $500,000.

One committee registered to support a no vote on the referendum: Protect Colorado’s Vote. The committee reported $802,219 in contributions and $738,598 in expenditures. The top donor to the opposition campaign was the Better Jobs Coalition, which gave $105,000.

In 2018, Colorado was the #6 state with the most campaign finance activity reported for state ballot measure campaigns. Thirteen measures were on the ballot in Colorado in 2018. Combined, support and opposition campaigns spent $70 million supporting and opposing the 13 measures. The #1 state was California, with $363 million spent supporting and opposing 16 measures.

A total of 108 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during the 20-year period from 1999 through 2019. From 1999 through 2019, about 42% (45 of 108) of the total number of measures that appeared on the statewide ballot were approved, and about 58% (63 of 108) were defeated.

Additional Reading:
Colorado 2020 ballot measures
Ballot measure campaign finance, 2018

Ballot Bulletin: A look back on election policy in 2019

Redistricting December 2019 map

Electoral policy legislation in 2019: the year in review

With the year drawing to a close, let’s take a look back at electoral policy legislation in the states in 2019.

Redistricting legislation: This year, we’ve tracked 243 bills relating to redistricting policy. This represents a 179 percent increase over the 87 relevant bills introduced in 2018. Of the 243 bills introduced in state legislatures this year, 22 (or 9 percent) have become law. 

Examples of enacted legislation

  • Virginia HB2760: Requires municipal clerks to furnish Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps, along with ordinances describing district boundaries, to local election boards, the secretary of the commonwealth, the department of elections, and the division of legislative services whenever redistricting local districts. 
  • Washington SB5502: Moves the deadline by which the redistricting commission must submit its plan to the legislature from Jan. 1 of the year ending in two to Nov. 15 of the year ending in one following completion of the census. 

The map below shows which states having taken up redistricting policy legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2019 

Current as of Dec. 9, 2019

Redistricting December 2019 mapElectoral systems legislation: This year, we’ve tracked 142 bills pertaining to electoral systems policy, addressing such issues as ranked-choice voting and approval voting. This represents a 35 percent increase over the 105 relevant bills introduced in 2018. Of the 142 bills introduced in state legislatures this year, 21 (or 15 percent) have become law. 

Examples of enacted legislation

  • Colorado SB042: Enters Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. 
  • Maine LD1663: Technical revisions to the state’s election laws relating to ranked-choice voting.

The map below shows which states having taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2019 

Current as of Dec. 9, 2019

Electoral systems December 2019 map

Primary systems legislation: This year, we’ve tracked 13 bills pertaining to primary systems policy, addressing such issues as top-two primaries and open primaries. This represents a 41 percent decrease from the 22 relevant bills introduced in 2018. Of the 13 bills introduced in state legislatures this year, none have become law. 

Examples of proposed legislation

  • North Carolina H994: Proposes implementation of a top-four primary and ranked-choice voting in the subsequent general election for all state and federal offices (except the presidency). 
  • New York A07934: A proposed constitutional amendment creating top-two primaries for state and federal offices.

The map below shows which states having taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2019 

Current as of Dec. 9, 2019

Primary systems December 2019 mapNorth Carolina court allows remedial U.S. House maps to stand for 2020, opens candidate filing period

On Dec. 2, 2019, a three-judge panel of North Carolina’s state superior court ruled unanimously that U.S. House elections in 2020 will take place under a remedial map (depicted below) that state lawmakers adopted in November. The court had earlier ruled that the original map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander under state law. The court also ordered that the candidate filing period open immediately, having previously delayed the filing period pending consideration of the remedial map and the objections to it. 

North Carolina remedial U.S. House map

Click the above image to see a larger version of the remedial map. 

How did this start? On Sept. 27, opponents of North Carolina’s congressional district plan filed suit, alleging that the district map enacted by the state legislature in 2016 constituted a partisan gerrymander in violation of state law. The plaintiffs asked that the court bar the state from using the maps in the 2020 election cycle. On Oct. 28,  the court granted this request, enjoining further application of the 2016 maps. In its order, the court wrote, “The loss to Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights guaranteed by the North Carolina Constitution will undoubtedly be irreparable if congressional elections are allowed to proceed under the 2016 congressional districts.” The court did not issue a full decision on the merits, stating that “disruptions to the election process need not occur, nor may an expedited schedule for summary judgment or trial even be needed, should the General Assembly, on its own initiative, act immediately and with all due haste to enact new congressional districts.” The same three-judge panel, comprising Judges Paul C. Ridgeway, Joseph N. Crosswhite, and Alma L. Hinton, struck down the state’s legislative district plan on similar grounds on Sept. 3.

The House approved the remedial map (HB1029) 55-46 on Nov. 14 .The vote split along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor of the bill and all Democrats voting against it. The Senate approved the bill 24-17 on Nov. 15, also along party lines.

What were the reactions to the remedial map? Democrats opposed the remedial plan and announced their intention to challenge it in court. Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said, “The congressional map passed by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature simply replaces one partisan gerrymander with a new one. This new map fails to respond to the court’s order by continuing to split communities of interest, packing voters in urban areas, and manipulating the district lines to provide Republicans with an unfair partisan advantage.” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R) dismissed Holder’s criticism: “Eric Holder and (former President) Barack Obama have raised a lot of money for this outcome, and they’ve pursued a really aggressive legal strategy for their partisan outcomes, and right now they’re calling it partisan gerrymandering, but what they’re seeking is partisan gerrymandering for the left. We basically have a Wild West of redistricting. This will be the fourth map in six cycles, and I think that is so confusing for voters and has a major negative impact on voters.”

What comes next? In 2020, North Carolina’s 13 seats in the U.S. House will be up for election. Heading into 2020, Republicans hold 10 of those seats, and Democrats hold the remaining three. In the wake of the court’s Dec. 2 order confirming the implementation of the remedial map in 2020, Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, said via Twitter, “Not going to officially make NC House ratings changes until we know the new map is final, but here’s what’s tentatively coming: NC-2: Likely R to Safe D; NC-6: Safe R to Safe D; NC-8: Safe R to Likely R; NC-13: Likely R to Safe R. Ratings changes suggest a two-seat D net gain.”

California Supreme Court rules law requiring presidential candidates to disclose income tax returns unconstitutional

On Nov. 21, 2019, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that SB27, which requires presidential candidates to file copies of their income tax returns with the California secretary of state in order to qualify for placement on the primary ballot, violates Article II, Section 5(c) of the state constitution. Article II, Section 5(c) states that “the Legislature shall provide for partisan elections for presidential candidates, and political party and party central committees, including an open presidential primary whereby the candidates on the ballot are those found by the Secretary of State to be recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States, and those whose names are placed on the ballot by petition, but excluding any candidate who has withdrawn by filing an affidavit of noncandidacy.” Writing for the court, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, joined by Associate Justices Goodwin Liu, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Carol Corrigan, Leondra Kruger, Ming Chin, and Joshua Groban, said, “The Legislature may well be correct that a presidential candidate’s income tax returns could provide California voters with important information. But article II, section 5(c) embeds in the state Constitution the principle that, ultimately, it is the voters who must decide whether the refusal of a ‘recognized candidate throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States’ to make such information available to the public will have consequences at the ballot box.”

Enforcement of SB27, which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom (D) on July 30, 2019, had already been enjoined by Judge Morrison England of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. In his opinion, dated October 1, 2019, England wrote, “[The] Court finds that Plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their arguments that the Act 1) violates the Presidential Qualifications Clause contained in Article II of the United States Constitution; 2) deprives Plaintiffs of their rights to associate and/or to access the ballot, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution; 3) further violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause as set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment; and 5) is preempted by the provisions of [the Ethics in Government Act of 1978] in any event.”

On Oct. 8, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) appealed England’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In light of the state supreme court’s ruling on the matter, Padilla announced Nov. 21 he would abandon his appeal to the Ninth Circuit.