Tagballot measure

With funding from Uber, Lyft, and Doordash, campaign behind California Proposition 22 tops $180 million

California Proposition 22 has become one of the most expensive ballot measure contests to ever appear on a ballot in California. Based on campaign finance reports available on September 4, 2020, the campaign Yes on Proposition 22 received $181.4 million from five rideshare and app-based companies—Lyft, Uber, DoorDash, InstaCart, and Postmates.

Proposition 22 would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents. The ballot measure was designed to override Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), signed in September 2019, on the question of whether app-based drivers are employees or independent contractors.

In August 2019, DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber provided a combined $90 million to the ballot initiative campaign, which was 18 days before Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB 5. The ballot initiative, which became Proposition 22, was filed on October 29, 2019. Brandon Castillo, a spokesperson for the campaign supporting the initiative, stated, “We’re going to spend what it takes to win. It’s been widely reported that three of the companies already shifted $90 million, but we’re still in the early phases. The bottom line is: We’re committed to passing this.”

The campaign No on Prop 22 received $4.8 million through September 4. Two labor unions—the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and SEIU-UHW West—provided about 52% of the campaign’s total funds.

Not only is Yes on Proposition 22 the most expensive campaign Ballotpedia has tracked in California, but the combined funds between supporters and opponents—$186.2 million—makes Proposition 22 the most expensive California ballot measure contest overall.

Before Proposition 22, campaigns for four veto referendums against gaming compacts—Propositions 94, 95, 96, and 97—raised a combined total of $154,554,073 in contributions. The single most expensive ballot measure was Proposition 87, which had $150,770,683 in total contributions for and against the measure. Proposition 87 would have imposed a severance tax on oil production to fund alternative energy research and projects but was defeated.

Across the United States, the five most expensive ballot measures of 2020 are, to date, California Proposition 22 ($186.2 million), an Illinois constitutional amendment that would allow for a graduated income tax ($79.7 million), California Proposition 21 ($32.9 million), Massachusetts Question 1 ($31.3 million), and California Proposition 15 ($26.3 million).

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Ballotpedia is tracking 21 local police-related ballot measures in nine states

As of September 4, Ballotpedia is tracking 21 local police-related ballot measures in 16 jurisdictions in nine states. These local ballot measures were proposed in the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

Of the 21 ballot measures, seven of them are on the ballot in California and four of them are on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The most common policy addressed by the ballot measures was police oversight boards and offices and the duties and powers of these boards and offices. Ten of the ballot measures addressed police oversight. Other topics include police and criminal justice funding, staffing levels, law enforcement training, and the public disclosure of police camera footage involving deaths and serious injuries.

The following is a list of local police-related measures on the ballot for November 3, 2020:
  • Los Angeles County, California: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require that no less than 10% of the county’s General Fund be appropriated to youth, job, business, and housing programs and alternatives to incarceration.
  • Oakland, California: The Oakland City Council referred to the ballot a charter amendment that would create an Office of the Inspector General to review the police commission’s policies, as well as change the powers, duties, and staffing of the commission and police review board.
  • San Diego, California: The San Diego City Council referred a ballot measure to create a Commission on Police Practices, which would conduct investigations and subpoena witnesses and documents related to deaths resulting from police interactions and complaints made against police officers.
  • San Francisco, California: Voters will decide two ballot measures related to policing. One would remove the minimum police staffing level required (1,971 full-time police officers) from the city’s charter. The other measure would create the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board and the Sheriff’s Department Office of Inspector General.
  • San Jose, California: The San Jose City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize an independent police auditor to review reports and records related to officer-involved shootings and uses of force.
  • Sonoma County, California: Voters will decide Measure P, which would make changes to the county’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach.
  • Monument, Colorado: Voters will decide whether to increase the local sales tax from 3% to 3.5% to fund the Monument Police Department.
  • Glynn County, Georgia: The Georgia State Legislature referred a ballot measure to the county ballot to abolish the county police and transfer the remaining resources and funds to the sheriff’s department. The Glynn County Board of Commissioners filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Secretary of State and the State Board of Elections on August 28. The Board of Commissioners said the measure would transfer county assets through “an unlawful referendum and election process in violation of the Georgia Constitution and state election law.”
  • DuPage County, Illinois: There are two non-binding advisory votes on the ballot. One advises the county on considering law enforcement and public safety as its top budgeting priority, and the other advises the county on funding and supporting law enforcement training methods that are designed to decrease the risk of injury to officers and suspects.
  • Akron, Ohio: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require police body and dashboard camera recording that document police use of force resulting in a death or serious injury to be released to the public.
  • Columbus, Ohio: The Columbus City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would create a Civilian Police Review Board to investigate alleged police misconduct, subpoena testimony and evidence during an investigations, and make recommendations to the Division of Police.
  • Portland, Oregon: Voters will decide a ballot measure to establish a new police oversight board, give the board subpoena powers, and allow the board to impose disciplinary actions, including termination, on law enforcement professionals.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Voters in Philadelphia will decide two police-related ballot measures and one other criminal justice proposal. One measure would add language to the city charter calling on the police department to “eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent.” The other police-related measure would create a Citizens Police Oversight Commission. Another measure would create an Office of the Victim Advocate to act as an advocate for crime victims and co-victims.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize the Independent Citizen Police Review Board to audit the police bureau and require police officers to cooperate with the board’s investigations.
  • Kyle, Texas: Voters in Kyle will decide on a charter amendment that authorizes the city council to adopt procedures and establishes a committee to review the city’s police department.
  • King County, Washington: Two police-related measures will be on the ballot. One would make the county sheriff an appointed, rather than elected, position. The second measure would give the county council the authority to define the sheriff’s duties.
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Mississippi commission selects final flag design containing a magnolia flower

At the election on November 3, 2020, Mississippi voters will be shown a colored picture of the new proposed state flag, named the In God We Trust Flag. Residents may vote either “yes” to adopt the new flag or “no” to oppose adopting the new state flag. If the new proposed flag is rejected by voters, the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag will reconvene, design another flag, and allow voters to approve or reject it at a special election in November 2021. The commission unanimously selected the final flag on September 2, 2020.

Small changes to the flag were set to be made before it is finalized, such as bolding the words IN GOD WE TRUST.

After the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the debate about the state flag resurfaced in the state government. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) tweeted on June 27, 2020, “The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it.” State Representative Robert Johnson III (D) said, “It is a symbol of terror in the Black community. It is a symbol of oppression in the Black community and it is a symbol of slavery. Everything that has been devastating to African Americans and to especially African Americans in the South, everything that has been a complete and utter disaster for us, that flag represents.” Johnson said the protests after Floyd’s death created a perfect storm that spurred the state legislature to act in removing the state flag.

Mississippi became the only state with a state flag containing the Confederate flag after Georgia had removed it from its state flag in 2001.

House Bill 1796, which was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on June 30, 2020, removed the official status of the state flag, which, at the time, contained the Confederate ballot cross. The bill provided for the removal of the state flag within 15 days. The bill established the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag, which was tasked with designing a new state flag and reporting the recommended design to the governor and the state legislature. The bill provided that “the new design for the Mississippi State Flag shall honor the past while embracing the promise of the future.” The Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag consisted of nine members. The speaker of the house and the lieutenant governor each appointed three members. The other three members were representatives from the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which were appointed by Gov. Tate Reeves.

The public was able to submit flag designs to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) until August 1, 2020. Flag designs needed to adhere to North American Vexillological Association standards (be simple enough that a child could draw it from memory; use meaningful symbolism; use two or three basic colors; not use lettering or seals; and be distinctive or be related). The commission received around 3,000 flags that met the criteria. The commission narrowed the designs down across four meetings until the final design was selected on September 2, 2020.

The previous Mississippi state flag was adopted by the state legislature in 1894. The emblem on the left side of the 1894 flag included the Confederate battle cross. In 1906, Mississippi enacted a revised code of laws, and due to an oversight, the law establishing the official state flag was inadvertently repealed. Voters in Mississippi decided a state flag referendum in April 2001. The measure presented voters with two potential state flags. Voters approved Proposition A, which made the 1894 Confederate flag the official state flag.

The 2001 flag referendum came about after a lawsuit brought by the NAACP in 1993 alleging that the use of the Confederate flag in the state flag violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the state flag’s inclusion of the Confederate Battle Flag did not violate any constitutionally protected rights. The court had also found that the state flag requirements were not codified in state law and thus Mississippi did not have an official state flag. The 2001 flag referendum was held to formally adopt a state flag and officially codify it in law.

A group called Let Mississippi Vote planned to file an initiative targeting the 2022 ballot that would ask voters to choose between four flag designs:

1. The former state flag that includes Confederate battle emblem, but with the phrase “In God We Trust” added;
2. The flag commission’s final flag, which contains a magnolia flower and the words “In God We Trust”;
3. The bicentennial flag with the state seal; and

4. The former Stennis Flag (also called the Hospitality Flag), which includes the words “In God We Trust.”

As of September 2, 2020, one initiative filing concerning the state flag was active. The measure, sponsored by Matthew Brinson, would ask voters if they want to change the flag from the 1894 flag containing the Confederate battle cross to the Hospitality Flag.

To qualify an initiative for the 2022 ballot, 106,190 valid signatures are required. Signatures for the initiative can be collected for a period of one year after petitions are approved.



Missouri Amendment 3 receives third ballot title from state Court of Appeals

On August 31, a panel for the Missouri Court of Appeals agreed with a Cole County Circuit Court judge that “certain aspects of the official summary statement are unfair or insufficient and require revision,” but the panel said its draft of the ballot title had “more limited revisions than those ordered by the circuit court.”

The lower court had ruled on August 17 in favor of a group of petition circulators for Clean Missouri, the campaign that sponsored Missouri Amendment 1 (2018), and rewrote the ballot title originally drafted by the state legislature. The lawsuit argued that the ballot title of Amendment 3 was misleading because it did not mention the elimination of the nonpartisan demographer, which was the office established by Amendment 1 (2018) to conduct legislative redistricting in the state. Judge Alok Ahuja, who wrote the opinion on behalf of the appellate court panel, said, “We believe that voters need to be informed that they are being asked to reconsider, and substantially modify, a measure which they only recently approved.” The attorney general’s office said the state would appeal the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The original ballot title written by the state legislature read:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
  • Ban all lobbyist gifts to legislators and their employees;
  • Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits; and
  • Create citizen-led independent bipartisan commissions to draw state legislative districts based on one person, one vote, minority voter protection, compactness, competitiveness, fairness and other criteria?”
The second title written by a Cole County Circuit Court judge read:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
  • Repeal rules for drawing state legislative districts approved by voters in November 2018 and replace them with rules proposed by the legislature;
  • Lower the campaign contribution limit for senate candidates by $100; and
  • Lower legislative gift limits from $5 to $0, with exemptions for some lobbyists?”
The third title written by the Missouri Court of Appeals reads:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
  • Ban gifts from paid lobbyists to legislators and their employees;
  • Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits;
  • Change the redistricting process voters approved in 2018 by: (i) transferring responsibility for drawing state legislative districts from the Nonpartisan State Demographer to Governor-appointed bipartisan commissions; (ii) modifying and reordering the redistricting criteria.”

Amendment 3 would return to the use of bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor for legislative redistricting and eliminate the nonpartisan state demographer, which was created by the approval of Amendment 1 (2018). The bipartisan commissions would be renamed the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and consist of 20 members each. The amendment would also change the criteria used to draw district maps, the threshold of lobbyists’ gifts, and the campaign contribution limit for state senate campaigns.

Missouri Amendment 3 was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 38 (SJR 38) on January 8, 2020. On February 10, the state Senate passed SJR 38 in a vote of 22-9. Of the 23 Republicans in the Senate, 22 voted in favor of SJR 38, one voted against it. All eight Democrats voted against it. On May 13, the state House passed SJR 38 in a vote of 98-56 with eight absent.

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Ballotpedia is tracking 21 local police-related ballot measures in nine states

As of August 28, Ballotpedia is tracking 21 local police-related ballot measures in 16 jurisdictions in nine states. These local ballot measures were proposed in the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

Of the 21 ballot measures, seven of them are on the ballot in California and four of them are on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The most common policy addressed by the ballot measures was police oversight boards and offices and the duties and powers of these boards and offices. Ten of the ballot measures addressed police oversight. Other topics include police and criminal justice funding, staffing levels, law enforcement training, and the public disclosure of police camera footage involving deaths and serious injuries.

The following is a list of local police-related measures on the ballot for November 3, 2020:
  • Los Angeles County, California: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require that no less than 10% of the county’s General Fund be appropriated to youth, job, business, and housing programs and alternatives to incarceration.
  • Oakland, California: The Oakland City Council referred to the ballot a charter amendment that would create an Office of the Inspector General to review the police commission’s policies, as well as change the powers, duties, and staffing of the commission and police review board.
  • San Diego, California: The San Diego City Council referred a ballot measure to create a Commission on Police Practices, which would conduct investigations and subpoena witnesses and documents related to deaths resulting from police interactions and complaints made against police officers.
  • San Francisco, California: Voters will decide two ballot measures related to policing. One would remove the minimum police staffing level required (1,971 full-time police officers) from the city’s charter. The other measure would create the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board and the Sheriff’s Department Office of Inspector General.
  • San Jose, California: The San Jose City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize an independent police auditor to review reports and records related to officer-involved shootings and uses of force.
  • Sonoma County, California: Voters will decide Measure P, which would make changes to the county’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach.
  • Monument, Colorado: Voters will decide whether to increase the local sales tax from 3% to 3.5% to fund the Monument Police Department.
  • Glynn County, Georgia: The Georgia State Legislature referred a ballot measure to the county ballot to abolish the county police and transfer the remaining resources and funds to the sheriff’s department.
  • DuPage County, Illinois: There are two non-binding advisory votes on the ballot. One advises the county on considering law enforcement and public safety as its top budgeting priority, and the other advises the county on funding and supporting law enforcement training methods that are designed to decrease the risk of injury to officers and suspects.
  • Akron, Ohio: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require police body and dashboard camera recording that document police use of force resulting in a death or serious injury to be released to the public.
  • Columbus, Ohio: The Columbus City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would create a Civilian Police Review Board to investigate alleged police misconduct, subpoena testimony and evidence during an investigations, and make recommendations to the Division of Police.
  • Portland, Oregon: Voters will decide a ballot measure to establish a new police oversight board, give the board subpoena powers, and allow the board to impose disciplinary actions, including termination, on law enforcement professionals.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Voters in Philadelphia will decide two police-related ballot measures and one other criminal justice proposal. One measure would add language to the city charter calling on the police department to “eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent.” The other police-related measure would create a Citizens Police Oversight Commission. Another measure would create an Office of the Victim Advocate to act as an advocate for crime victims and co-victims.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize the Independent Citizen Police Review Board to audit the police bureau and require police officers to cooperate with the board’s investigations.
  • Kyle, Texas: Voters in Kyle will decide on a charter amendment that authorizes the city council to adopt procedures and establishes a committee to review the city’s police department.
  • King County, Washington: Two police-related measures will be on the ballot. One would make the county sheriff an appointed, rather than elected, position. The second measure would give the county council the authority to define the sheriff’s duties.
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Colorado initiative to expand gaming types and increase maximum single bets certified for November ballot

Questions set to appear on the Colorado November ballot were finalized on August 27 after the last citizen initiative awaiting a statement of sufficiency was certified for the ballot.

The constitutional amendment, Initiative #257, would allow voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek — the only towns where gaming is legal in Colorado — to approve a maximum single bet of any amount and approve more game types in addition to slot machines, blackjack, poker, roulette, and craps. The measure would repeal language that is currently in the Colorado Constitution that limits the types of games allowed in the casinos and that sets a maximum single bet of $100. The distribution of gaming tax revenue for community colleges in state statute would be amended to include distributions to programs to improve student retention and increase credential completion. If the measure is approved by voters statewide in November, each of the three towns may hold a local election to vote on whether to change betting limits and add new games. The earliest these changes would go into effect is May 1, 2021.

Going into the election, the maximum single bet in Colorado was $100, which was raised from $5 in 2008. The only other state with individual betting limits is South Dakota, where the maximum bet in Deadwood (also a former gold mining town turned gaming town) is $1,000.

The initiative was sponsored by Bruce Brown, the former mayor of Cripple Creek, and former Colorado Senate president Bill Cadman (R). Bruce Brown said, “These towns have built much of their local economies around hotels, restaurants, tourism, and travelers who visit because of gaming. Voters in these communities should be allowed to decide what is best for them and their economy, including whether they want to change betting limits and add new games.” Local Choice Colorado is leading the campaign in support of the measure. According to the most recent reports, the committee had raised $2.25 million and had spent $1.51 million. Top donors included Penn National Gaming, Monarch Blackhawk Casino, and Monarch Casino and Resort, Inc. Local Choice Colorado said, “If local voters choose to approve new games and betting limits, mountain casinos could attract higher-income Coloradans who would typically travel to other states to gamble, as well as out-of-state, high-stakes bettors visiting Aspen or Vail. This will improve economic opportunities for people living in these mountain towns by bringing in more tourists, creating good-paying jobs, and increasing tax revenues.” The Colorado Gaming Association had also endorsed the measure.

Proponents submitted 209,885 signatures to the secretary of state’s office on July 28, 2020. On August 27, the secretary of state announced that 138,232 were projected to be valid based on a random sample. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required.

On November 3, Coloradans will see 11 measures on the ballot. Eight of the measures were placed on the ballot through citizen petition drives and concern topics ranging from wolf reintroduction, abortion restrictions, citizenship requirements for voting, paid medical leave, and taxes. The state legislature referred a state statute to increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs and two constitutional amendments: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment.

In even-numbered years from 2000 through 2018, an average of nine measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado. The approval rate for measures on the ballot in even-numbered years was about 41%.

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Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative qualifies for the ballot

On August 28, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) announced that the Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative had qualified for the ballot despite objections filed with the secretary of state’s office regarding the ballot language.

Secretary Evnen received the objections on August 26 from attorney Mark Fahleson representing several Nebraskans. The objections argued that the ballot language violated the state’s single-subject rule that requires ballot initiatives to address a single issue or subject. Fahleson argued that the right to use marijuana to treat serious medical conditions is not necessarily connected to the right of providers to produce marijuana. In his letter determining the legal sufficiency of the initiative, Secretary Evnen responded to this argument saying, “The production and sale of medical cannabis has a natural and necessary connection to legalization of medical cannabis for individual use, which is the primary purpose of the Amendment.”

Fahleson also argued that the initiative’s provision that allows individuals to personally grow marijuana violates the medicinal purposes of the initiative. Secretary Evnen responded that another provision in the amendment closes this loophole because it authorizes the state to establish laws and rules to regulate marijuana.

Fahleson also objected to the amendment’s use of the phrase “serious medical condition” because it was not defined. Secretary Evnen argued that “placing the determination in the hands of medical professionals is sufficiently clear.”

The amendment, sponsored by Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, would allow adults, with the recommendation of a licensed physician or nurse practitioner, to use, possess, purchase, and produce marijuana to alleviate a serious medical condition. The initiative would also allow children (under 18 years of age), with the recommendation of a licensed physician or nurse practitioner and permission of a parent or legal guardian who is responsible for their healthcare decisions, to use marijuana to alleviate a serious medical condition. Parents of children who use medical marijuana would be allowed to possess, purchase, and produce marijuana to alleviate their child’s medical condition.

State Senators Adam Morfeld (D-46) and Anna Wishart (D-27) are the campaign’s co-chairs. After a two-month suspension of their signature drive due to the coronavirus pandemic, the campaign reported submitting 182,000 unverified signatures to the secretary of state on July 2. In explaining why he’s co-chairing the initiative, Sen. Morfeld said, “We are quickly being surrounded by states that have sensible laws on medical marijuana, and we do not. A lot of Nebraskans are looking to other states—to Utah and Missouri—and saying, ‘Wow, these are also conservative states and they have much more reasonable policies about this than we do.’”

In Nebraska, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated constitutional amendment for the ballot is equal to 10% of registered voters as of the deadline for filing signatures. According to the July 2020 voter registration report, there were a total of 1,222,741 registered voters in Nebraska. This means that a total of 122,274 valid signatures were required to qualify this initiative for the ballot. Nebraska law also features a distribution requirement mandating that petitions contain signatures from 5% of the registered voters in each of two-fifths (38) of Nebraska’s 93 counties. The secretary of state verified that 135,055 signatures were valid and that 48 out of 93 counties had at least 5% of registered voters sign the petition. The signature validity rate for the petition was approximately 74.2%.

There are two committees registered with the state in support of the initiative—Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis and Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana. According to the latest campaign finance reports, Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis raised a total of $14,609.38 in contributions, and the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana raised a total of $1.7 million. Ballotpedia has not identified any committees registered in opposition to the initiative. The next campaign finance reports are due October 5, 2020.

As of August 2020, 33 states and Washington, D.C., had passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Additionally, 15 states had legalized the use of cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—for medical purposes.

On November 3, Nebraska voters will also decide on an initiative that would limit interest rates that payday lenders charge to 36 percent per year, a constitutional amendment that would remove language allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishments, and a constitutional amendment that would increase the repayment period for tax increment financing from 15 to 20 years for extreme blight.

Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six ballot measures appeared on the ballot.  Voters approved 53% of the 73 ballot measures that appeared on ballots between those years.

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Ranked-choice voting and redistricting commission initiatives blocked from Arkansas ballot

On August 27, two Arkansas citizen-initiated measures—one that would have established a redistricting commission (Issue 4) and another that would have established ranked-choice voting (Issue 5)—were blocked by the Arkansas Supreme Court from appearing on the November ballot. The measures were provisionally certified for the ballot on August 21, 2020.

The redistricting measure, sponsored by Arkansas Voters First, would have created the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission for state legislative and congressional redistricting. The commission would have been comprised of nine commissioners who are registered Arkansas voters and would have replaced the Board of Apportionment, which is currently responsible for state legislative redistricting in Arkansas. The current Board of Apportionment is comprised of the governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general. Currently, in Arkansas, the state legislature is responsible for congressional redistricting. The measure would have also established criteria for drawing district maps.

Sponsored by Open Primaries Arkansas, the ranked-choice voting measure would have (a) changed primary elections so that all candidates for an office are listed on a single primary ballot, rather than on separate partisan ballots, and (b) created a top-four ranked-choice voting system for general elections for federal congressional office, state general assembly, and statewide elected offices, including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer of State, Auditor of State, Attorney General, and Commissioner of State Lands.

The campaigns each submitted around 100,000 signatures on July 6. To qualify for the ballot, 89,151 valid signatures were required.

Secretary of State John Thurston (R) found on July 14 that signatures for the initiatives were insufficient on the grounds that petition circulators’ background check certifications did not comply with state law.

Under Arkansas Code § 7-9-601(b)(3), sponsors are required to certify to the Secretary of State that each paid canvasser passed a state and federal criminal background check. Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas campaigns submitted certifications stating that the background checks were acquired but did not say they were passed. The statements of insufficiency for the two measures came a day after Special Master Mark Hewett determined signatures submitted on January 31 for an optometry law referendum were invalid for the same reason. Hewett’s report was filed with Arkansas Supreme Court for a final determination.

The campaigns asked the state Supreme Court on July 17 to order Secretary of State John Thurston to give the campaigns at least 30 days to collect additional signatures. In Arkansas, if petitioners fail to meet the signature requirement, but the petitioners have gathered at least 75% of the valid signatures needed, petitioners have 30 days to collect additional signatures or demonstrate that rejected signatures are valid. The campaigns were granted a provisional 30-day cure period. Arkansas Voters First reported submitting an additional 50,000 signatures on August 5. Open Primaries Arkansas reported submitting an additional 59,000 signatures on August 20.

Retired Circuit Judge John Fogleman was appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court on July 24 as a special master to resolve the disputes between Arkansas Voters First, Open Primaries Arkansas, and the secretary of state concerning petition circulator background check certifications and signature validity. Fogleman’s report was submitted to the state Supreme Court on August 10, 2020. Fogleman concluded that the Supreme Court needed to decide whether or not the campaigns’ background check certifications comply with Arkansas Code § 7-9-601(b)(3).

On August 21, Secretary of State John Thurston certified both measures for the ballot “for coding purposes and preparation purposes only, pending the outcome of the litigation.” Under Arkansas Code § 7-5-204, if the secretary of state has not determined a petition’s sufficiency by the 75th day before the general election or if a measure is being challenged in court, the measure must be placed on the ballot. If the measure is later declared insufficient or invalid, votes for the measure will not be counted or certified.

On August 27, 2020, Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of John Thurston. Associate Justice Robin Wynne, who wrote the majority opinion, said, “Simply acquiring or obtaining a background check is not sufficient under the plain language of the statute. The results of the background checks are not required to be filed with the Secretary of State, and the certification is the only assurance the public receives that the paid canvassers ‘passed’ background checks.” The state Supreme Court ruled, “In sum, we hold that petitioners did not comply with Arkansas Code Annotated section 7-9-601(b)(3) when they failed to certify that their paid canvassers had passed criminal background checks. Accordingly, the initiative petitions at issue are insufficient and petitioners are not entitled to a cure period or any other relief.” Justice Josephine Linker Hart dissented, writing, “Today, the majority has disenfranchised more than 90,000 citizens. By signing the petition, these registered voters clearly manifested their desire to have these issues placed on the ballot. … there is no evidence that the certification language directly affected the validity of even a single petition part.”

The campaign managers for Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas said they were exploring their legal options for keeping the measures on the ballot.

Two measures on the 2018 ballot in Arkansas were declared invalid by the state Supreme Court and votes for the measures were not counted. Similarly, in 2016, the supreme court declared two measures on the ballot to be invalid and votes were not counted.

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Court rules that Maine GOP-backed referendum on presidential ranked-choice voting will appear on ballot

On August 24, a Maine Superior Court ruled that voters will decide a veto referendum on a law that established ranked-choice voting (RCV) for presidential primaries and general elections. Maine was slated to use RCV for the presidential election on November 3, 2020. Since the veto referendum qualified for the ballot, however, the law is suspended until voters decide to either uphold or repeal it. Therefore, RCV will not be used to elect the president in Maine this year.

The Superior Court’s ruling came after Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D) determined that not enough signatures were valid to place the referendum on the ballot. Judge Thomas McKeon disagreed with Dunlap’s interpretation of a constitutional provision, which states that circulators’ names must appear on voter registration rolls. Dunlap invalidated 988 signatures from two circulators, also known as signature gatherers, who were not registered to vote while collecting signatures. However, the two circulators were registered to vote when signatures were submitted to the state for review. According to Judge McKeon, a circulator being registered at the time of signature submission, rather than while collecting signatures, was sufficient to meet the constitutional requirement. Dunlap could appeal the court’s decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

In 2019, the Maine State Legislature passed the bill that expanded RCV to presidential elections. Gov. Janet Mills (D) held LD 1083 until 2020. By holding the bill until the next legislative session, LD 1083 did not go into effect until after the state’s presidential primary on March 3, 2020.

The Maine Republican Party is backing the veto referendum campaign, which is known as Repeal RCV. Through August 18, Repeal RCV had raised $706,410, including $639,430 from the Maine GOP and $50,000 from Gary Bahre and Robert Bahre. Demi Kouzounas, chairperson of the state GOP, is also chairperson of Repeal RCV.

The veto referendum would be the third RCV ballot measure in Maine since 2016. Voters approved Question 5, which established a first-in-the-nation statewide system of RCV, in 2016. In 2017, the legislature passed a bill that was written to postpone and repeal RCV unless the legislature referred and voters approved a constitutional amendment. The Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting, which sponsored Question 5, launched a veto referendum campaign to overturn LD 1646. On the ballot as Question 1, the veto referendum was approved with 53.9 percent of the vote. Therefore, LD 1646 was repealed and RCV remained in effect, except for general elections for state legislative and executive offices. The Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting is again seeking to preserve RCV and launched a PAC, which received $52,570 through August 18, to oppose this year’s referendum.

At the election on November 6, 2018, ranked-choice voting (RCV) was used for the first time in a general election. Both Sen. Angus King (I) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) won their respective seats without the need for ranked-choice tabulations. In Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, the initial vote count showed that incumbent Bruce Poliquin (R) had received 46.3 percent of the vote and challenger Jared Golden (D) received 45.6 percent of the vote. Independents received 8.1 percent of the vote. On November 15, 2018, Dunlap announced that after the lowest vote-getters were eliminated and votes were reallocated, incumbent Rep. Poliquin received 49.4 percent of the vote and challenger Golden received 50.6 percent of the vote. The race was the first in U.S. history where ranked-choice voting was used to decide a congressional election.

In November, voters in Alaska and Massachusetts will decide ballot measures to adopt RCV as well. Voters in Arkansas could also vote on a RCV measure, pending a judicial ruling.



Three initiatives that would authorize and tax gambling at racetracks in Nebraska will not make the November ballot

On August 25, 2020, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) announced that three initiatives that would authorize and tax gambling at racetracks in Nebraska would not make the ballot after three Nebraskans—Dr. Richard Loveless and Ann and Todd Zohner—submitted written objections regarding the ballot language of the initiatives. The objections were filed on August 7 after Keep the Money in Nebraska, the campaign behind the three initiatives, submitted over 465,000 signatures on July 2 for the three petitions. Secretary Evnen determined that all three petitions were not legally sufficient, thereby disqualifying them from the November ballot. Keep the Money in Nebraska plans to appeal the secretary of state’s decision.

• Constitutional Amendment to Allow Laws Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: The initiative would have amended the Nebraska Constitution to allow the enactment of laws that authorize and tax gambling conducted by licensed gaming operators and held at licensed racetrack enclosures. Secretary Evnen argued that the language of the constitutional amendment would mislead voters. He said, “The Constitutional Initiative effectively puts forth dual proposals: (1) authorizing expanded gambling at tribal casinos and (2) authorizing expanded gambling at racetracks by authorized operators. But the first proposal is hidden from the voters and impossible to ascertain from the text of the proposal. Putting forth dual propositions in a single proposal violates the single-subject rule as it does not permit voters to express a clear preference on dual propositions.”
• Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: The initiative would have allowed games of chance by authorized operators in licensed racetrack enclosures; established a Nebraska Gaming Commission to regulate games of chance; and exempted gaming at racetracks from rules and penalties that govern other forms of gambling. The objectors argued that the provisions of the initiative violated the single-subject rule, which requires ballot initiatives to address a single issue or subject, because the initiative concerned regulation and taxation. Secretary Evnen disagreed with the objectors’ reasoning but determined that the initiative violated the single-subject rule because the inclusion of tax breaks for licensees “[does] not have a natural and necessary connection” to the primary purpose of regulating gambling.

• Tax on Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: This initiative would have enacted a 20% tax on gambling revenue from games of chance operated at licensed racetracks and allocated 75% of the revenue from the tax to state funds for property tax relief and the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund and 25% to the county or local jurisdictions in which the racetracks are located. Secretary Evnen argued that “The property tax relief provisions contained in the Tax Initiative constitute logrolling and violate the single-subject rule.”

As of August 26, 2020, three statewide ballot measures were certified for the general election ballot in Nebraska. One is a citizen-initiated measure that would cap the interest rate on payday loans. Two are constitutional amendments referred to the ballot by the state legislature.

The full text of Secretary Evnen’s letter can be found here: https://sos.nebraska.gov/sites/sos.nebraska.gov/files/doc/news-releases/Games%20of%20Chance%20Ballot%20Initiatives%20Determination%20Letter%202020.pdf

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