Tagballot measure

Before the 19th Amendment, the women’s suffrage movement campaigned for 54 ballot measures in 30 states

The 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920. The 19th Amendment prohibited the government from denying or abridging the right to vote on account of sex, meaning that women were guaranteed the right to vote in the U.S. Constitution.

Before the 19th Amendment, the women’s suffrage movement also campaigned for changes to state constitutions to provide women with a right to vote. Suffragists Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler, in their book Woman Suffrage and Politics (1923), wrote that state ballot measures “spun the main thread of suffrage activity” in the movement’s earlier years and were seen as stepping stones to national suffrage. “I don’t know the exact number of States we shall have to have,” said Susan B. Anthony, “but I do know that there will come a day when that number will automatically and resistlessly act on the Congress of the United States to compel the submission of a federal suffrage amendment.” When asked about federal support for women’s suffrage in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt told the suffrage movement to “Go, get another State.”

Until 1869, the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) was the leading suffragist organization in the United States. AERA dissolved due to disagreements over strategies and the 15th Amendment, which addressed race, but not gender, and the right to vote. From AERA came the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which aimed to win suffrage for women on a state-by-state basis, and the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), which aimed to achieve suffrage through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. AWSA and NWSA reconsolidated in 1890, with the new organization focused on both state referendums and a federal amendment for women’s suffrage.

Between 1867 and August 18, 1920, 54 ballot measures to grant women’s suffrage were on the ballot in 30 states. Fifteen (15) of the ballot measures were approved, giving women the right to vote in 15 states. Since women did not have suffrage until after the ballot measures were approved, male voters decided the outcome of suffrage ballot measures.

In 1867, Kansas became the first state to vote on a state constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage. The constitutional amendment was rejected by 69% to 31%.

From 1867 to 1889, male voters in Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington rejected ballot measures for women’s suffrage. Voters in Wyoming, however, approved their first state constitution in 1889, and one of the provisions provided for women’s suffrage. Wyoming became the first state to give women the right to vote.

In 1893, Colorado became the first state to pass a standalone constitutional amendment on women’s suffrage. The male electorate approved the amendment 55% to 45%.

Utah (1895) and Idaho (1896) followed Colorado, with voters in both states passing ballot measures that addressed women’s right to vote. Between 1896 and 1910, the movement lost at the ballot box on 10 occasions.

Victories accumulated west of the Great Plains. Washington (1910), California (1911), Arizona (1912), Oregon (1912), Montana (1914), and Nevada (1914) passed constitutional amendments. In Arizona, the male electorate voted 68% to 32%, which was the largest margin to approve a women’s suffrage amendment. In 1917, Montana elected the first woman to Congress—Jeannette Rankin, who was president of the Montana Women’s Suffrage Association and an organizer for the ballot measure campaigns in Washington and Montana.

With the exception of New Mexico, which never voted on a women’s suffrage ballot measure, the map of states that endorsed women’s suffrage and states that did not set up a west-east divide. While 11 states east of the Mississippi voted on women’s suffrage ballot measures, just two approved them. New York passed an amendment in 1917, and Michigan passed one in 1918.

Most of the states that provided women with the right to vote before the 19th Amendment did not do so on their first attempts. Nine of the 15 states voted on women’s suffrage more than once before passing an amendment. Voters in Oregon and South Dakota even voted on the issue six times.

According to the National Women’s History Museum, the beginning of the U.S. women’s suffrage movement is dated as 1848. At the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, which was the first women’s rights convention in the United States, organizers declared that men and women are created equal and, therefore, have the same civic rights and privileges, including “the inalienable right to the elective franchise.” The women’s suffrage movement era concluded 72 years later in 1920.

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New York environmental bond removed from the November ballot, with governor citing an unstable financial situation

On July 30, 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that a $3.00 billion bond measure related to environmental projects was removed from the general election ballot.

In April 2020, as part of the state budget bill, the New York State Legislature passed a provision for the bond measure. Gov. Cuomo proposed the bond issue, titled the “Environmental Bond Act of 2020 Restore Mother Nature,” during his State of the State Address on January 8, 2020. The budget bill also included a provision empowering the New York Director of the Budget to remove the bond measure from the ballot should the budget department decide that there would be an adverse effect on the state’s finances.

Revenue from the bond issue would have been distributed to flood risk reduction, coastal rehabilitation, shoreline restoration, and ecological restoration projects; projects designed to mitigate the impacts of climate change; land conservation and recreation plans; and wastewater infrastructure. The ballot measure would have required that the department make every effort practicable to ensure that 35% of the bond revenue was used to benefit environmental justice communities (EJCs). The ballot measure would have defined EJCs as “minority or low-income [communities] that may bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies.”

Bill Ulfelder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New York, responded to the news, saying, “While it is clear that the pandemic has had a serious impact on the economy of our state and the nation, this measure was an opportunity to create jobs and conserve the clean water, clean air, and natural resources our children and grandchildren depend on.”

With the removal of the bond measure from the ballot for November 3, 2020, there will be no statewide ballot measures in New York in 2020. “The financial situation is unstable. I don’t think it would be financially prudent to do it at this time,” said Gov. Cuomo. He said that he hoped voters would decide the bond measure in the future: “We’re going to postpone the environmental bond issue hopefully one year to next.” The New York State Legislature would need to pass the bond measure again. Gov. Cuomo also cited the proposed HEALS Act in the U.S. Senate, stating that some of the provisions regarding where people are taxed would “have a very negative effect on New York City.”

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Oklahoma voters to decide initiative to prevent sentencing enhancements due to previous non-violent felonies in November

State Question 805 qualified for the ballot on July 29, after the state supreme court had found that the campaign submitted 248,521 valid signatures and after the 10-day challenge period ended on July 28 without any signature validity challenges filed. Yes on 805, sponsors of the amendment, turned in 260,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on June 1.

The measure would amend the state constitution to prohibit a convicted person’s former felony convictions, except for violent felonies, from being used to “enhance the statutorily allowable base range of punishment.” In other words, the measure would not allow a convicted person’s sentence to be made longer or harsher due to past felony convictions.

The measure would not apply to those who have ever been convicted of a violent felony. Such offenses include assault, battery, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, human trafficking, burglary, robbery, child abuse, rape, rioting, arson, terrorism, and more.

The initiative would provide for sentence modifications for persons convicted of a felony with a sentence that was enhanced due to former felony convictions and which resulted in a sentence that is greater than the maximum sentence currently allowed for such felonies.

The Yes on 805 campaign said, “Repeat sentence penalties, marketed as so-called ‘sentence enhancements’ during the tough-on-crime era, became popular when it was thought longer sentences would deter people from crime and lower recidivism, but data have shown that is just not true. The best research shows that long sentences do not make us safer and reducing these sentences will strengthen our economy and reunite families without weakening public safety. We already have evidence this reform will work in Oklahoma. SQ 780, which passed in 2016, lowered sentence lengths for several property offenses such as theft. Since then, property crime has fallen 3% while Oklahoma’s prison population declined by 10%.”

State Question 780, on the ballot in 2016, changed certain non-violent drug- and theft-related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, which come with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of $1,000. The measure reduced the number and duration of state prison sentences for those crimes. The measure was approved by a vote of 58% to 42%. The prison cost savings brought about by State Question 780 were earmarked according to the companion initiative, State Question 781. State Question 781, which was also approved, allocated the funds made available by the prison cost savings to counties in proportion to their population. The funding could be claimed by privately-run rehabilitative organizations that provide drug and mental health treatment, job training, and education programs.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which describes its mission as “advancing principles and policies that support free enterprise, limited government, individual initiative, and personal responsibility,” conducted a fiscal analysis of State Question 805. The group concluded that the measure would “reduce Oklahoma’s prison population by 8.5% over the next 10 years. That would reduce state expenses between $45 million and $186 million, with expected savings of at least $142 million. Taxpayer savings of up to $27 million per year would continue indefinitely into the future.”

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R), said, “Trying to put this into our state’s constitution, it peels back enhancements for DUIs, human trafficking, domestic violence — some of the things I don’t think we need to put into our constitution.” Candida Manion, executive director of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said, “When abusers aren’t held accountable, the violence escalates and that’s when they end up killing someone. In Oklahoma, we don’t hold offenders accountable already, but whatever was there, [SQ 805] will remove that, making it worse.”

One other measure is certified for the ballot in Oklahoma: State Question 814. The measure would decrease appropriations made to the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Fund and direct the legislature to make appropriations to secure federal matching funds for the state’s Medicaid program. State Question 802, which expanded Medicaid in the state, was approved by voters in June.

Two other 2020 initiatives were cleared for circulation in Oklahoma. State Question 808 would create a constitutional right to consume cannabis and require those convicted of marijuana offenses to be exonerated and/or released from incarceration. It faces a signature deadline of August 3. State Question 812 would decriminalize certain marijuana-related offenses. It faces a signature deadline of September 4 to qualify for the 2020 ballot and October 5 to qualify for a later election ballot. To qualify, 177,958 valid signatures are required.



Signatures submitted for Colorado initiative allowing voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to vote to expand gaming types and increase max bets

Local Choice Colorado, sponsors of Initiative #257, reported submitting over 200,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on July 28. To qualify for the November ballot, 124,632 valid signatures are required by August 3. The secretary of state verifies signatures through a random sample of 5% of submitted signatures. If the sampling projects between 90% and 110% of required valid signatures, a full check of all signatures is required. If the sampling projects more than 110% of the required signatures, the initiative is certified. If less than 90%, the initiative fails.

The initiative would amend the state constitution to allow voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to vote to allow additional game types and increase the maximum single bet to any amount. The measure would amend state statute to make conforming changes.

Local Choice Colorado, the sponsoring committee for Initiative #257, reported $1.7 million in contributions and $1.05 million in expenditures according to reports that covered information through June 24, 2020. Penn National Gaming, which owns or operates 41 gaming and racing properties in 19 states, gave $750,000. Monarch Casino & Resort, Inc., which operates Monarch Black Hawk Casino, gave $200,000.

Currently, authorized games include physical and electronic slot machines, craps, roulette, and poker and blackjack card games. Colorado voters approved legalized gambling in the cities of Black Hawk, Central, and Cripple Creek through Initiative 4 in 1990. Statewide voters approved the measure in a vote of 57.31% to 42.39%. Gaming in the cities became legal on October 1, 1991.

Currently, the maximum single bet is $100. The maximum single bet was raised to $100 in 2008 under Amendment 50. Prior to Amendment 50, the maximum single bet was $50. Amendment 50 also allowed Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek voters to add roulette and craps as authorized games. The first 80% of the new revenue attributed to the expansions and maximum bet increase was designed to go to the casinos. Of the remaining 20%, 78% was to be distributed for community college student financial aid and classroom instruction and 22% was designed to be distributed to the cities where limited gaming exists for gaming impacts.

This 2020 initiative would amend state statute to include programs to improve student retention and increase credential completion in the revenue distributions to community colleges.

As of July 28, 2020, seven statewide ballot measures were certified to appear on the November ballot in Colorado:

1. A veto referendum determining whether Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is on the ballot. States in the NPVIC agree to give their electoral votes for the presidential candidate that wins the most votes nationwide if the compact goes into effect.
2. Voters will decide on three citizen initiatives. One initiative would specify in the constitution that only U.S. citizens may vote. Similar measures are on the ballot in Alabama and Florida. One initiative would reintroduce gray wolves on public lands. One initiative would prohibit abortions after 22 weeks gestational age.

3. 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. The legislature also referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment, giving the legislature more control of property tax rates.



Missouri voters will decide on Medicaid expansion August 4

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

The following populations are currently eligible for Medicaid in Missouri:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oil and gas ballot measures won’t appear on 2020 ballot in Colorado; signatures for other initiatives due on August 3

On Friday, July 24, 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) announced that he would oppose ballot measures related to oil and gas in 2020 and 2022 on both sides to allow Senate Bill 181 of 2019 to take full effect. SB 181 was designed to make changes to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, create “additional public welfare protections,” and implement new rules related to oil and gas operations.

Multiple initiatives concerning oil and gas regulations were filed targeting the 2020 ballot.

Protect Colorado, proponents of initiatives #284, agreed to withdraw the measure following the compromise with Polis. The measure would have prohibited laws limiting use and installation of natural gas. Protect Colorado was also behind #304, which would have required fiscal impact statements to appear on the ballot for future initiatives. The group withdrew #304 as part of the compromise as well. On July 15, the group reported having collected around 140,000 signatures for each of the measures targeting the 2020 ballot; 124,632 valid signatures are required to qualify for the ballot.

Safe and Healthy Colorado proposed Initiative #174 for the 2020 ballot. It would have created setbacks for new oil, gas, and fracking projects. The campaign ceased signature gathering on July 2 after the Colorado Supreme Court blocked Polis’ executive order allowing remote signature gathering. Anne Lee Foster, who filed the initiative, said, “[Polis] is just speaking completely out of turn. We have absolutely not taken the option of a 2022 ballot initiative off the table.”

Initiative #312 was designed to prohibit the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from amending or repealing certain rules—including those regarding safety, aesthetics and noise control, reporting, and emissions. Proponents withdrew the measure.

Polis said, “In recent years, those conflicts [between the oil and gas industry and environmental groups] resulted in expensive, divisive fights at the ballot box and the courtroom, which did not satisfy homeowners, environmentalists, or the oil and gas industry. There are no real winners in these fights, and for most of this election season it looked like we might see another round of the oil and gas ballot wars in 2020. But today, I’m very proud to report that we have a path before us to make those divisive oil and gas ballot fights a thing of the past.”

Joe Salazar, executive director of Colorado Rising, the group that sponsored Proposition 112 of 2018, said, “I don’t know what [Polis] means by a truce. We are keeping everything on the table — we are not saying yes and we are not saying no.”

In 2018, Protect Colorado spent $26.4 million opposing Proposition 112, which would have mandated 2,500-foot setbacks for new oil, gas, and fracking projects from occupied buildings. Gov. Polis also opposed the measure. Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Noble Engery Inc., PDC Energy, Colorado Petroleum Council, and Extraction Oil & Gas were the top donors to the opposition campaigns. It was defeated by a vote of 55% to 45%.

Protect Colorado also spent $10.8 million supporting Amendment 74 on the 2018 ballot, which would have required that property owners be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations. According to the executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, Chad Vorthmann, Amendment 74 was designed to “[protect] Colorado’s farmers and ranchers from extremist attempts to enforce random setback requirements for oil and natural gas development.”

The Sixteen Thirty Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, and Conservation Colorado were top donors to the Amendment 74 opposition campaign. Amendment 74 was also defeated by a vote of 55% to 45%.

The Colorado Constitution requires petition circulators to gather signatures in person. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on May 17, 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Executive Order D 2020 065, which authorized the Colorado Secretary of State to establish temporary rules allowing for ballot initiative petitions to be signed remotely through mail and email.

The Colorado Supreme Court rejected that provision of the order on July 1, holding that the governor cannot suspend constitutional requirements by executive order, and thereby requiring initiative proponents to gather signatures in person.

The executive order also suspended Colorado law that required signatures to be submitted within six months after ballot language is finalized, instead, allowing signatures to be submitted by the deadline set in the constitution, which is August 3, 2020.

To get an initiative on the November ballot, proponents need to collect 124,632 valid signatures. The remaining 13 initiatives that were cleared for signature gathering concern a variety of topics including elections, taxes, education, gambling, and paid family and medical leave.

As of July 24, 2020, seven statewide ballot measures were certified to appear on the November ballot in Colorado:

  1. A veto referendum determining whether Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is on the ballot. States in the NPVIC agree to give their electoral votes for the presidential candidate that wins the most votes nationwide if the compact goes into effect.
  2. Voters will decide on three citizen initiatives. One initiative would specify in the constitution that only U.S. citizens may vote. Similar measures are on the ballot in Alabama and Florida. One initiative would reintroduce gray wolves on public lands. One initiative would prohibit abortions after 22 weeks gestational age.
  3. 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. The legislature also referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment, giving the legislature more control of property tax rates.


First 2022 state ballot measure qualifies in California

The first state ballot measure for 2022 qualified for the ballot in California on July 21, 2020.

The ballot initiative would increase California’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits based on changes in inflation since 1975, which is when the cap on noneconomic damages was enacted. In 2021, the damages cap of $250,000 would increase to around $1.2 million. Thereafter, the ballot measure would require an annual adjustment of the cap based on inflation. The ballot initiative would allow judges and juries to award damages above the cap for catastrophic injuries.

The Fairness for Injured Patients Act Coalition, which is the campaign behind the ballot measure, originally sought to place the citizen-initiated measure on the ballot for November 3, 2020. Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court, whose organization supports the ballot initiative, said the decision to delay filing signatures was due to the coronavirus pandemic. He stated, “This has been a really tough decision, but it’s really foggy out there now, with all the concern about the coronavirus. No one really knows how that will affect the November elections. … The medical negligence cap hasn’t changed in 45 years. We didn’t want to blow our chance.”

The Fairness for Injured Patients Act Coalition filed 910,667 signatures, and the secretary of state’s office projected that 75.56 percent (around 688,010) of them were valid. At least 623,212 of the signatures needed to be valid.

Two PACs—Fairness for Injured Patients Act Coalition and Consumer Watchdog Campaign for the Fairness for Injured Patients Act—were registered to support the ballot initiative. The committees have raised $4.78 million, including $3.65 million from attorney Nicolas Rowley. The Californians to Protect Patients and Contain Health Care Costs PAC was registered to oppose the ballot initiative. The committee has raised $18.32 million, including $9.80 million from The Doctors Company.

In 2014, Consumer Watchdog worked on a similar ballot initiative, titled Proposition 46, which was defeated. Proposition 46 would have increased the cap on noneconomic damages from $250,000 to $1.00 million and required drug and alcohol testing of doctors.

Two other California ballot initiative campaigns are currently collecting signatures to get their proposals on the 2022 general election ballot. Both of the campaigns originally wanted their measures on the 2020 ballot but changed course due to the coronavirus pandemic and related stay-at-home orders. Court orders granted both of the campaigns additional time to collect signatures.

Signatures are due on September 28, 2020, for a 2022 initiative to adopt regulations that reduce the use of product packaging, single-use packaging, and single-use dishes and utensils.

Signatures are due on October 12, 2020, for a 2022 initiative to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California.

Additional reading:
https://ballotpedia.org/California_2022_ballot_propositions
https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_ballot_measure_campaigns,_procedures,_and_policies_in_response_to_the_coronavirus_(COVID-19)_pandemic,_2020



Fate of four initiatives in Arkansas uncertain due to state law requiring signature gatherers to certify that they passed background checks

A veto referendum concerning eye surgeries, which was certified on January 31 to appear on the November ballot, is awaiting a final determination from the Arkansas Supreme Court about whether it will remain on the ballot.

 

Arkansans for Healthy Eyes (opponents of the veto referendum effort) filed a lawsuit on February 28, 2020, alleging that Safe Surgery Arkansas, the sponsors of the veto referendum effort, fraudulently gathered signatures and misled petition signers. On April 2, 2020, the Arkansas Supreme Court appointed Special Master Mark Hewett to conduct a hearing and review petitioners’ claims and to submit a report of his findings to the court.

 

Arkansas state law requires sponsors to certify to the Secretary of State that each paid canvasser passed a state and federal criminal background check. Safe Surgery Arkansas certified that the “background check, as well as a 50-state background check, have been timely acquired.”

 

In his report on July 13, Special Master Mark Hewett found that state law—§ 7-9-601(b)(3)—requires sponsors to certify that canvassers passed the background checks and that Safe Surgery Arkansas’ certification said instead that the checks were acquired.

 

Alex Gray of Safe Surgery Arkansas said he was confident that the Supreme Court would allow the signatures to stand. A supreme court ruling is expected in mid to late August.

 

On July 14, 2020, Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston determined that signature petitions for three citizen initiatives for which proponents submitted signatures on July 6 are insufficient based on the requirement that sponsors certify that canvassers passed background checks and said his office was barred from counting the signatures that were submitted.

 

Arkansas Wins in 2020, sponsors of an amendment to authorize 16 additional casinos, did not file the certification. Similarly to Safe Surgery Arkansas, the Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas campaigns submitted certifications stating that the background checks were acquired but did not say they were passed. Arkansas Voters First is supporting an amendment to create an independent redistricting commission. Open Primaries Arkansas is supporting a top-four open primary ranked-choice voting initiative. Safe Surgery Arkansas, Arkansas Voters First, and Open Primaries Arkansas used petition gathering company National Ballot Access to gather signatures.

 

The campaigns asked the state supreme court on July 17 to order Secretary of State John Thurston to count the signatures and give the groups 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.

 

David Couch, attorney for the redistricting and ranked-choice voting measures, said he would file an amicus brief in the veto referendum case that is pending supreme court action.

 

The state legislature has referred three constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot that would (1) make permanent a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund transportation otherwise set to expire in 2023, (2) change term limits for state legislators, and (3) change initiative process and legislative referral requirements.

 

From 1996 through 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 in Arkansas were approved by voters, and 27% (13 of 48) were defeated.

 



Massachusetts voters will decide on ranked-choice voting initiative in November

Voter Choice for Massachusetts, the campaign sponsoring the ranked-choice voting initiative, announced on Twitter on July 10 that Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin had certified the initiative for the November ballot. The secretary of state confirmed that 17,512 of the 25,000 signatures submitted for the second deadline were valid. A total of 13,374 valid signatures was required.

The Massachusetts Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative would enact ranked-choice voting (RCV) for primary and general elections for state executive officials, state legislators, federal congressional and senate seats, and certain county offices beginning in 2022.

RCV is a voting method in which voters rank candidates according to their preferences. The candidate that receives a majority of first-preference votes is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, and the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots are tallied as their first preference in the following round. The process is continued until a candidate wins a simple majority (50%+1) of the vote.

As of 2020, Maine was the only state to use RCV for state-level elections. Currently, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the only jurisdiction in the state to have used the voting system. Amherst and Easthampton have also adopted the system and are working on implementing it.

Voters in Alaska will also decide a ranked-choice voting initiative in November, and proponents of RCV initiatives in Arkansas and North Dakota submitted signatures in early July to qualify their measures for the November ballot.

The power of initiative is indirect in Massachusetts, which means the Massachusetts General Court must consider any successful initiative proposals. Petitions targeting the 2020 ballot had to first be cleared for circulation by the state attorney general before submitting the first round of 80,239 signatures (3 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last election) by December 4, 2019.  Of the 10 initiatives cleared for circulation in September 2019, four initiatives submitted the first round of signatures. Voter Choice for Massachusetts reported submitting 111,268 raw signatures.

The Massachusetts General Court did not act on any of the indirect initiatives by the May 5, 2020 deadline, requiring the four remaining campaigns to submit a second round of signatures (0.5 percent of the votes cast for governor) by July 1, 2020.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent restrictions on social gatherings, the four campaigns filed a joint lawsuit on April 26 against the secretary of state asking the Supreme Judicial Court to allow the campaigns to gather the second round of 13,347 signatures electronically.

On April 29, all four active ballot initiative campaigns and Secretary Galvin agreed to a resolution that allowed the campaigns to gather the second round of signatures electronically. Campaigns distributed the petitions online to be electronically signed or printed and mailed back to the respective campaign.

On June 17, 2020, Voter Choice for Massachusetts announced that it had submitted over 25,000 raw signatures for the second round. In the press release from Voter Choice Massachusetts, Cara Brown McCormick, a senior advisor to the campaign, said, “This was the first electronic signature drive to get a citizen’s initiative on the ballot in American history.”

The secretary of state also certified the Massachusetts “Right to Repair” Initiative, which would expand the access to telematics systems for vehicle owners and independent repair shops. Massachusetts voters approved a “right to repair” initiative in 2012. Proponents of the 2020 initiative argue that the 2012 law needs to be updated to account for recent technological advances.

Between 1996 and 2018, an average of three measures appeared on the ballot in Massachusetts during even-numbered election years. A total of 39 measures appeared during that period with 54% of the measures approved.

Additional reading:


Massachusetts to decide “Right to Repair” initiative

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin reported that 17,596 of the 26,000 signatures submitted for an initiative referred to as Right to Repair were valid, certifying the initiative for the November ballot.

The initiative would require manufacturers that sell vehicles with telematics systems in Massachusetts to equip them with a standardized open data platform beginning with the model year 2022 that vehicle owners and independent repair facilities may access to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application.

In 2012, Massachusetts voters approved its first “right to repair” initiative that required automobile manufacturers to provide non-proprietary diagnostic information and safety information needed to repair cars directly to consumers and independent repair facilities. The 2012 law required that such information be made available through an “off-the-shelf personal computer.” The initiative was approved with 87.7% of the vote.

Alan Saks, the owner of Dorchester Tire Service and a supporter of the 2020 initiative, said, “We need to update the Right to Repair law before wireless technologies remove the car owner’s right to get their vehicle repaired at our local, independent shop because the automaker would rather steer them towards one of their more expensive dealers.”

The power of initiative is indirect in Massachusetts, which means the Massachusetts General Court must consider any successful initiative proposals. Petitions targeting the 2020 ballot had to first be cleared for circulation by the state attorney general before submitting the first round of 80,239 signatures (3 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last election) by December 4, 2019.

Of the 10 initiatives cleared for circulation in September 2019, four initiatives submitted the first round of signatures. Right to Repair Massachusetts submitted 103,634 raw signatures on December 4, 2019. The state legislature did not act on the initiative before the May 5, 2020 deadline, requiring the campaign to gather an additional 13,374 signatures (0.5 percent of the votes cast for governor) by July 1, 2020.

On April 26, the four remaining initiative campaigns filed a lawsuit against the secretary of state asking the Supreme Judicial Court to allow the campaigns to gather the second round of 13,347 signatures electronically. On April 29, all four active ballot initiative campaigns and Secretary Galvin agreed to a resolution that allowed the campaigns to gather the second round of signatures electronically. Campaigns distributed the petitions online to be electronically signed or printed and mailed back to the respective campaign.  Right to Repair Massachusetts reported submitting over 26,000 unverified signatures by the July 1 deadline.

The secretary of state also certified the Massachusetts Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative, which would enact ranked-choice voting (RCV) for primary and general elections for state executive officials, state legislators, federal congressional and senate seats, and certain county offices beginning in 2022. Currently, Maine is the only state that uses RCV for state-level elections. Currently, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the only jurisdiction in the state to use the voting system. Amherst and Easthampton have also adopted the system and are working on implementing it.

Between 1996 and 2018, an average of three measures appeared on the ballot in Massachusetts during even-numbered election years. A total of 39 measures appeared during that period with 54% of the measures approved.

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