Tagballot measure

Coloradans will decide a ballot initiative in November that would prohibit abortions after 22 weeks gestational age

Initiative #120, sponsored by Due Date Too Late, was designed to prohibit abortions after a fetus reaches 22 weeks gestational age as calculated from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period (LMP). To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required. Sponsors submitted 114,647 valid signatures on the March 4 deadline and were allowed to collect additional signatures during a 15-day cure period. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced that the measure qualified for the ballot on June 8, 2020, after finding that proponents submitted an additional 38,557 valid signatures, bringing the total number of valid signatures submitted to 153,204.

Under the initiative, performing a prohibited abortion would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine except for in cases where an abortion is required immediately to save the life of the pregnant woman. Medical professionals who are found to have performed a prohibited abortion would have their medical licenses suspended by the Colorado Medical Board for at least three years. A woman who has a prohibited abortion could not be charged with a crime under the initiative.

Seven states—Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont—and Washington, D.C., do not restrict abortion after a certain point in a pregnancy. The other 43 states restrict abortion at a certain point in pregnancy based on varying criteria.

In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Roe v. Wade, finding that state laws criminalizing abortion before fetal viability violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The high court held that states can regulate and/or prohibit abortions (except those to preserve the life or health of the mother) once a fetus reaches the point of viability.

One state bans abortion at 20 weeks from LMP, 17 states ban abortion at 22 weeks from LMP, and four states ban abortion at 24 weeks from LMP. Twenty states ban abortion at viability, which is around 24-28 weeks from LMP and varies by pregnancy. One state, Virginia, bans abortion in the third trimester, or around 25 weeks from LMP.

Measure sponsor Erin Behrens said, “We are going to put a very reasonable limit of 22 weeks, which is about five months into pregnancy. And we think that this reasonable limit will pass overwhelmingly in Colorado, and we will finally be brought into the 21st century. We will finally be among all the other states that have reasonable limits, and we will finally not be the late-term abortion capitol of the United States.”

Jack Teter, Colorado’s political director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said, “This measure has no exceptions for rape and incest, it has no exceptions for maternal health, and that is cruel and unconscionable and that’s an abortion ban voters aren’t going to support.”

Bob Enyart, a spokesman for Colorado Right to Life, told Rewire.News, “Our misguided pro-life allies have presided over decades of regulating child-killing. You don’t regulate crime; you deter crime. … Their immoral initiative seeks to protect children ‘who can survive outside the womb.’ But what about the rest of them?”

Coalition for Women and Children, which operates Due Date Too Late and supports the initiative, reported $63,849 in contributions and $44,400 in cash expenditures according to the most recent campaign finance reports, which covered through May 27. The largest donors to the initiative’s support committee were Donald Hood and Kevin Heringer, who gave $10,000 each.

Abortion Access for All, which is registered to oppose the initiative, reported contributions of $105,000 and expenditures of $2,600. The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado was the largest donor, providing $30,000.

Voters in Colorado defeated citizen-initiated constitutional amendments in 2008, 2010, and 2014 that attempted to define person to include unborn human beings from the moment of fertilization.

Four other measures are on the ballot in Colorado:

  • A veto referendum determining whether to join Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) and awarding Colorado’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote if the NPVIC goes into effect;
  • An initiative to amend the Colorado Constitution to state that only a citizen of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections, instead of the existing language that says every citizen of the U.S. can vote;
  • An initiative to reintroduce gray wolves on public lands; and
  • A bond issue to authorize the state to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs)—a specific type of bond debt—in the amount of $1.837 billion with no increase to taxes.

Fifteen initiatives have been cleared for signature gathering in Colorado with 124,632 valid signatures due by August 3, 2020, to secure a place on the ballot on November 3, 2020.

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Louisiana Legislature sends five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot and a sports betting measures to the governor’s desk

The Louisiana State Legislature adjourned its 2020 regular session on June 1, 2020, and immediately started a special session to consider the state’s annual budget bill for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

During the 2020 regular session, the state legislature referred five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot for voter approval or rejection:

  • House Bill 267 would allow the Louisiana State Legislature, through a two-thirds vote in each chamber, to use up to one-third of the revenue in the Budget Stabilization Fund to cover the state’s costs associated with a federally-declared disaster.
  • Senate Bill 272 would authorize a property tax exemption for property that is subject to an agreement with local government and would allow certain property owners to make payments instead of paying property taxes.
  • House Bill 360 would allow the presence or production of oil or gas to be taken into account when assessing the fair market value of an oil or gas well for ad valorem property tax purposes.
  • House Bill 464 would change the state’s expenditures limit growth formula.
  • House Bill 525 would increases the income limit from $50,000 to $100,000 for those who qualify for the special assessment level for residential property receiving the homestead exemption.

The state legislature also passed Senate Bill 130, which would ask the voters in each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes whether to authorize sports betting within the parish. If a majority of voters in the parish support authorizing sports betting, sports betting would be allowed in the parish after state laws are passed providing for the regulation of such activities. Governor John Bel Edwards (D) is expected to sign the bill, which would then place a referendum on the ballot in each parish.

The legislature referred one other constitutional amendment to the November 2020 ballot during the 2019 legislative session. It would add language to the Louisiana Constitution stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

From 1995 through 2018, 185 constitutional amendments were placed on the ballot by the state legislature. About 10 constitutional amendments were on the ballot in Louisiana during even-numbered years. A total of 139 of the measures (75%) were approved and 46 of the measures (25%) were defeated.

Voters approve $130 million bond issue for Fort Wayne, Indiana, Community Schools

In Allen County, Indiana, voters approved a $130 million bond issue for the Fort Wayne Community Schools district, which is the second-largest school district in the state. The measure was approved 74 percent to 26 percent on June 2.

The ballot measure allowed the school district to issue bonds to fund repairs and renovations to 37 buildings. It was estimated to increase the property tax rate by $148.60 per $100,000 in assessed value, replacing expiring debt service property taxes.

The measure, known as REPAIR FWCS 2020, was the third measure in a series of three public votes concerning Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) School Basic Renewal/Restoration and Safety Projects. The first phase of the school renovations (known as REPAIR FWCS) was approved by voters in May of 2012. The second phase of the school renovations (known as REPAIR Phase 2) was approved by voters in May of 2016.

Kansas City, MO, voters approve a ballot measure to increase the sales tax for fire department operations

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Kansas City Question 1 was approved on June 2. The measure received 55 percent of the vote. Question 1 was designed to increase the sales tax by 0.25 percentage points, bringing the total city-levied sales tax to 3.25 percent (in addition to county and state sales taxes). Under Question 1, revenue from the sales tax increase will be used for Kansas City Fire Department operations.

Question 1 was put on the ballot through a 10-2 vote of the Kansas City Council on January 23, 2020.

Voters in the West Ada School District, Idaho, rejected a ballot measure to renew a $14 million property tax levy

Voters in West Ada School District, located in Ada and Canyon Counties, Idaho, rejected a ballot measure to renew a $14 million per year supplemental property tax levy for the period between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2022. According to results released on June 2, 54 percent of voters rejected the ballot measure.

The two-year supplemental levy has been renewed four times since 2012. The renewal would not have increased the total levy raised by the school district. At the time of the election, the existing total levy rate was $351 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

This measure was put on the ballot for the May 19 election, but the absentee ballot return deadline was delayed to June 2 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which meant results weren’t available until Tuesday.

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Philadelphia voters approve two charter amendment ballot measures

Voters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, approved two amendments to the city’s charter on June 2.

Question 1 created a Philadelphia Department of Labor, along with a Board of Labor Standards, to administer and enforce citywide labor laws and collective bargaining agreements. According to election night results, Question 1 had 80 percent of the vote.

Question 2 changed the city’s charter to state that appointed officers and employees can volunteer for statewide candidates. Before Question 2, the city’s charter said that appointed officers and employees could not take part in the management or affairs of a political campaign but did not specify how that relates to non-managerial volunteer activity. Question 2 was approved by 65 percent of voters.

Both Question 1 and Question 2 were placed on the ballot through a unanimous vote of the Philadelphia City Council.

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Sponsors of Oklahoma State Question 805 turned in 260,000 signatures on Monday

Yes on 805, sponsors of proposed Oklahoma State Question 805, turned in 260,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on June 1. State Question 805 would prohibit a convicted person’s former felony convictions from being used to “enhance the statutorily allowable base range of punishment, including but not limited to minimum and maximum terms.” The initiative would provide for sentence modifications for eligible persons.

Yes on 805 President Sarah Edwards said, “Oklahoma has an incarceration crisis. This crisis separates families, damages communities and hurts our state’s chances of success. For several years, legislators have tried to pass legislation that would rein in sentence enhancements and reduce extreme sentences. These efforts have failed despite widespread support from state leaders and Oklahoma voters. This campaign is a continuation of recent criminal justice reform efforts, acknowledging that much more still needs to be done to address this crisis.”

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R), who opposes the initiative, 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.”

To qualify for the ballot, 177,958 valid signatures are required. Proponents had collected more than 260,000 signatures as of early March. On March 17, 2020, Sarah Edwards, president of Yes on 805, made the following statement regarding COVID 19: “Effective immediately, Yes on 805 will suspend all of its public activities, including signature gathering. The health and safety of our signature collectors and the public at large is our number one priority. We are doing our part to protect and support our communities by taking steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’re confident in the status of the campaign and the strength of our movement, and look forward to fulfilling the will of Oklahoma voters by filing the signatures needed to put State Question 805 on the 2020 ballot.”

On March 18, 2020, the Oklahoma Secretary of State tolled the signature gathering deadline for initiative petitions until the governor lifts the state’s emergency declaration, which meant the window for signature gathering for each initiative was pushed forward instead of continuing to run during the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. On May 7, 2020, Yes on 805 filed a petition with the Oklahoma Supreme Court asking for Oklahoma Secretary of State Michael Rogers to accept the more than 260,000 signatures the group had already collected. Sarah Edwards, president of Yes on 805 said, “It’s imperative we place State Question 805 on a 2020 ballot. People who are serving excessive sentences can’t wait another year. Their families can’t wait. We hope this legal move will prompt quick action from the Secretary of State to ensure the thousands of Oklahomans who signed our petition to place SQ 805 on the ballot have their voices heard.”

Secretary of State Michael Rogers said he would not accept the signatures until the state’s emergency declaration ends, which was set to end at the start of June. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on May 26, 2020, that the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office must accept the signatures within 10 business days. Sponsors submitted signatures to the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office on June 1, 2020.

A signature count was expected to begin on Wednesday. It was not known how long the count was expected to take. After the count is complete, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will determine the sufficiency or insufficiency of the number of signatures as counted by the Secretary of State. At this time, the state attorney general will review the ballot title and make any changes deemed necessary.

Signature validity and ballot title changes could be challenged legally within ten days after the Secretary of State publishes the signature count and final ballot title. Once all legal objections are resolved, the governor places the state question on the ballot.

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Second version of California split roll tax initiative qualifies for November ballot

On May 29, the office of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced that enough signatures were deemed valid for the second version of a ballot initiative to require commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on their market value. In California, the proposal to assess taxes on commercial and industrial properties at market value, while continuing to assess taxes on residential properties based on purchase price, is known as split roll.

Proposition 13 (1978) requires that residential, commercial, and industrial properties be taxed based on their purchase price. The tax is limited to no more than 1 percent of the purchase price (at the time of purchase), with an annual adjustment equal to the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is lower. According to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, market values in California tend to increase faster than 2 percent per year, meaning the taxable value of commercial and industrial properties is often lower than the market value.

The first version of the split-roll tax ballot initiative qualified for the November 2020 ballot in October 2018. In August 2019, the campaign Schools and Communities First, which is behind the proposal, announced that signatures would be collected for a revised version of the ballot initiative. Tyler Law, a campaign spokesperson, said that the campaign would not withdraw the qualified initiative from the ballot until the revised initiative qualifies. Law said, “The committee’s got the money. We’re going to get it on the ballot.”

About 1.75 million signatures were filed for the second version on April 2, 2020. At least 997,139 (57.02 percent) of the signatures needed to be valid. Based on a random sample of submitted signatures, 74.60 percent were projected to be valid.

Both versions of the ballot initiative would create a process in the state constitution for distributing revenue from the revised tax on commercial and industrial properties. First, the revenue would be distributed to (a) the state to supplement decreases in revenue from the state’s personal income tax and corporation tax due to increased tax deductions and (b) counties to cover the costs of implementing the measure. Second, 60 percent of the remaining funds would be distributed to local governments and special districts, and 40 percent would be distributed to school districts and community colleges (via a new Local School and Community College Property Tax Fund).

Whereas the first version would have taxed property whose business owners have $2.00 million or more in holdings in California and operate on a majority of the property, the second version eliminated the majority-operation requirement and increased the threshold to $3.00 million.

The second version also redefined the exception for small businesses. The first version would have continued to tax businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees based on purchase price. The second version would likewise define small businesses as those with 50 or fewer full-time employees but would also require businesses to be independently owned and operated and own real estate in California to be exempted from the change.

Other changes involve replacing the state’s existing funding distribution formula for schools and colleges with a new formula for distributing the revenue from the ballot initiative. The second version would also give retail centers, whose occupants are 50 percent or more small businesses, more time before being taxed at market value.

Since the campaign Schools and Communities First will withdraw the first version of the ballot initiative, the qualification won’t change the number of measures on the ballot in California. As of May 31, six citizen-initiated measures have qualified for the ballot (excluding the first version of the split roll tax initiative). Three more ballot initiatives are pending signature verification. The verification deadline is June 25, 2020. June 25 is also the last day that the California State Legislature can place measures on the November ballot.

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In November, Alaskans will decide two ballot initiatives, one to establish top-four ranked-choice voting and one to increase taxes on North Slope oil fields

At the general election on November 3, 2020, Alaskans will decide at least two citizen-initiated ballot measures.

The campaign Alaskans for Better Elections is supporting a ballot initiative that would make changes to Alaska’s election policies, including (a) requiring additional disclosures for campaign finance contributions, (b) replacing partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices, and (c) establishing ranked-choice voting for general elections, in which voters would rank the four candidates that advanced from the primaries. Former Rep. Jason Grenn (I-22), who is chairperson of the campaign, described the ballot initiative as “kind of a three-pronged attack on making our elections better.” The campaign has received financial backing from the nonprofits Unite America, Action Now Initiative, and Represent.Us

The ballot initiative is the first citizen-initiated measure to establish top-four primaries, as well as the first to couple top-four primaries with ranked-choice voting. Voters in one state—Maine—approved a ranked-choice voting ballot initiative in 2016. Massachusetts and North Dakota could join Alaska in voting on ranked-choice voting in 2020.

Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share is leading the campaign in support of a ballot initiative to increase taxes on oil production fields located in Alaska’s North Slope that have a lifetime output of at least 400 million barrels of oil and an output of at least 40,000 barrels per day in the preceding calendar year. According to Robin Brena, chairperson of the campaign behind the ballot initiative, three oil production fields—Alpine, Kuparuk, and Prudhoe Bay—meet 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. Brena, the campaign’s chairperson, was chairperson of former Gov. Bill Walker’s (I) Transition Subcommittee on Oil and Gas.

With the support of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, ConocoPhillips Alaska, and ExxonMobil, the campaign OneAlaska launched to oppose the ballot initiative.

Both of the Alaska ballot initiatives face lawsuits that could stop them from appearing on the ballot or change their ballot language. Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) and the Alaska Division of Elections (DOE), which oversee state ballot initiatives, argued that the elections-related ballot initiative addressed multiple issues and violated the state’s single-subject rule. In October, Judge Yvonne Lamoureux ruled that the ballot initiative was designed with a single subject—election reform. Meyer and DOE appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share is challenging language that Meyer and DOE wrote for the ballot initiative, arguing that some of the wording “was not true and impartial” as required.

In Alaska, the ballot can also feature veto referendums, for which campaigns have 90 days to collect signatures following the legislature’s adjournment. The Alaska State Legislature adjourned on May 20, 2020, and no veto referendums have been filed as of May 29. The legislature also had the option to place constitutional amendments on the ballot, but no legislative proposals were voted on or approved by the legislature.

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The League of Women Voters of Michigan sues Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) over implementation of Proposal 3’s absentee ballot provision

The League of Women Voters of Michigan sues Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) over implementation of Proposal 3’s absentee ballot provision

In 2018, voters approved Michigan Proposal 3, a citizen-initiated measure that added no-excuse absentee voting to the Michigan Constitution. Before Proposal 3, statute required an excuse related to age, travel, religion, arraignment or trial, or election duties to obtain an absentee ballot. The League of Women Voters of Michigan (LWV), along with state chapters of the ACLU and NAACP, sponsored the proposal.

On May 22, 2020, the LWV sued Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) in the Michigan Court of Appeals over the implementation of Proposal 3’s absentee ballot provision.

Proposal 3 (Article II, Section 4 of the Michigan Constitution) states that electors have a right to vote an absentee ballot in person or via mail during the 40 days before an election. Existing statute says that mail-in absentee ballots need to be received by elections clerks before polls close (at 8 p.m.) on election day to be counted. According to LWV, Proposal 3 rendered the statute unconstitutional.

The lawsuit stated, “For instance, a voter who mails her completed ballot the day before election day will have her ballot rejected if it arrives at the clerk’s office two days later. The received-by deadline thus facially denies voters their express constitutional right ‘to choose’ to submit their absentee ballots ‘by mail’ at any time within 40 days of election day.”

Proposal 3 stated that the constitutional amendment was self-executing and “shall be liberally construed in favor of voters’ rights in order to effectuate its purposes.” In the lawsuit, LWV asked the court to order Secretary Benson to direct local election clerks to count mail-in absentee ballots that were postmarked by election day.

On May 22, a spokesperson for the secretary of state said that the office had no immediate comment while the lawsuit was being reviewed.

Along with creating a state constitutional right to vote by absentee ballot, Proposal 3 established constitutional rights to straight-ticket voting, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and the auditing of election results.

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