Tagballot measures

Minneapolis group submits signatures for Nov. 2 initiative to replace police department with department of public safety

On April 30, Yes 4 Minneapolis submitted over 20,000 signatures for an initiative to repeal and replace provisions in the city charter governing the police department. This initiative would remove language concerning the city’s police department from the city charter, including provisions requiring minimum funding for the department and giving the mayor control over the department. It would replace the police department with a department of public safety. Under the initiative, the mayor would nominate—and the city council would appoint—the commissioner of the public safety department.

A total of 11,906 valid signatures—5% of votes cast in Minneapolis in the last statewide general election—are required to put the initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot. The city clerk has 10 days to verify signatures after the city’s charter review commission considers the measure at its May 5 meeting.

The city council is also considering a potential 2021 charter amendment concerning the structure of the city’s police department.

In 2020, the city council approved a measure for the ballot to remove the police department from the city charter and replace it with the department of community safety and violence prevention. The 2020 measure would have given the city council, rather than the mayor, control of the department. The Minneapolis Charter Commission did not send the proposal back to the city council until after the city council’s deadline to add the measure to the November 2020 ballot. This effectively blocked the measure.

In 2021, Ballotpedia is covering local ballot measures concerning police oversight, the powers and structure of oversight commissions, police practices, law enforcement department structure and administration, reductions in or restrictions on law enforcement budgets, law enforcement training requirements, and body and dashboard camera footage. Ballotpedia has tracked five certified measures in 2021 so far. 

Voters in Austin and San Antonio, Texas, decided police-related measures on May 1. Austin voters approved a measure to authorize the city council to determine how the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed or removed. San Antonio voters rejected a measure that would have repealed local authority for collective bargaining with the San Antonio Police Officers Association to negotiate wages, healthcare, leave, and other policies. 

In 2020, Ballotpedia identified 20 notable police-related measures in 10 cities and four counties within seven states that appeared on local ballots. All 20 were approved.

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Voters pass measure making Lubbock, Texas, the largest city in Texas to ban abortions

Voters in Lubbock, Texas, approved Proposition A by a vote of 62% to 38% on May 1. The measure amended city ordinances to ban abortions within the city and to declare Lubbock a Sanctuary City for the Unborn.

Twenty-two other cities in Texas and two in Nebraska have also banned abortions by city ordinance. Lubbock is the largest city and the only city with an active abortion clinic to do so. 

Proposition A was put on the ballot through a citizen initiative signature petition. Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn needed 3,651 signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. On October 13, 2020, the group submitted 4,526 valid signatures.

At least three states—Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana—will vote on statewide ballot measures concerning abortion in 2022.

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Arkansas passes bill with multiple restrictions on the ballot initiative process

On April 29, Arkansas Senate Bill 614 became law (Act 951). The bill added several restrictions to the state’s ballot initiative and veto referendum process, including to:

• ban paying signature gatherers based on the number of signatures gathered, a payment method called pay-per-signature;

• require circulators to be state residents and citizens;

• add certain offenses that disqualify a person from being a signature gatherer, including assault, battery, intimidation, threatening, sexual offenses, trespassing, vandalism, and theft (in addition to the existing list of any felony, election law violations, fraud, forgery, and identity theft);

• require initiative sponsors to certify that signature gatherers do not have any disqualifying conviction and put the burden of proof on initiative sponsors with regard to lawsuits and administrative proceedings;

• make it a felony for petition sponsors or their representatives to knowingly pay a circulator for or submit petitions for which the circulator did not personally witness all signatures; and

• make it a felony for a circulator to not report another circulator that provides a false affidavit that they personally witnessed all signatures.

The state House passed an amended version of the bill on April 14 by a vote of 72-18. The Senate passed it on April 22 by a vote of 27-5. In the House, 72 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and 17 Democrats and one Republican voted against it. In the Senate, 26 Republicans and one Democrat voted in favor of the bill, and four Democrats and one independent voted against it. It became law after the governor’s five-day window to veto bills passed. Arkansas has a Republican state government trifecta. 

Provisions in Senate Bill 614 about disqualifying offenses for signature gatherers and the responsibilities of initiative sponsors regarding those offenses would replace the state’s previous background check requirements that were overturned by the Arkansas Supreme Court on March 11. The ruling upheld a lower court decision that blocked the enforcement of the state’s background check requirements for paid circulators. The lower court ruled that the sections of state law requiring that information from a federal background check be included were impossible for sponsors to comply with since there was no way to obtain a federal background check. During appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court, Secretary of State John Thurston (R) argued that requirements for state police background checks could be left in place while blocking federal background check requirements. The supreme court ruled that the federal and state background check provisions could not be separated.

The Arkansas Legislature also referred a constitutional amendment to the November 2022 ballot that would require 60% supermajority voter approval to adopt future constitutional amendments (legislatively referred and citizen-initiated) and citizen-initiated state statutes.

2021 ballot measure law changes context

Ballotpedia has tracked 180 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 37 states in 2021 legislative sessions. At least 16 have been approved, and 12 have been defeated or have died.

Legislatures in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah have approved bills to restrict the ballot initiative processes in their states.

Notable topics among bills introduced in 2021 sessions include supermajority requirement increases, signature requirement and distribution requirement increases, single-subject rules, pay-per-signature bans, residency requirements and other circulator restrictions, fiscal impact statement and funding source requirements, and ballot measure campaign contribution restrictions.

Ballotpedia recently published an analysis of the effect of certain policy changes on the ease or difficulty of the ballot initiative and veto referendum processes. The analysis is based on generic concepts taken from proposed and approved laws that Ballotpedia has tracked since 2010. Twenty-six states have a process for either ballot initiatives, veto referendums, or both.

The analysis does not take into consideration the intention behind any proposed policy changes. It does not consider any other effects beyond the difficulty or ease with which ballot initiative or veto referendum sponsors can place their measures on the ballot, pass them, and see them enforced. Bills proposing these changes are not necessarily designed with the purpose of making the initiative process harder or easier. Ballotpedia is not endorsing any position on the policy changes listed in the analysis. The analysis covers topics including signature requirements and deadlines, a variety of restrictions on petition circulators, ballot and petition language requirements, petition formatting, legislative alteration, and supermajority requirements.

Click here to see the full list of policy changes.

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Austin voters approve five of eight measures, including a sit-lie ordinance, changes to police oversight office, ranked-choice voting

On May 1, voters in Austin approved five measures and defeated three.

Proposition A was approved 81% to 19%. It requires the city and firefighters association to participate in binding arbitration.

Proposition B was approved 58% to 42%. It prohibits and creates criminal penalties for sitting, lying down, sleeping outdoors, and soliciting money at certain times and in certain areas of the city.

Proposition C was approved 63% to 37%. It gave the city council authority to determine who appoints the Office of Police Oversight. Currently, the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed by and reports to the city manager. Proponents of Proposition C said that it would allow the city council to make the office more independent.

Proposition D was approved 66.5% to 33.5%. It moves mayoral elections to presidential election years.

Proposition E was approved 58% to 42%. It establishes ranked-choice voting for city elections if ranked-choice voting is allowed by state law. Currently, Texas cities hold runoff elections when no candidate reaches the required majority vote threshold for victory. According to the Austin Law Department, ranked-choice voting is not permitted under Texas state law. A spokesperson for the department said, “Ranked-choice voting would not be implemented in Austin until or unless the Texas Constitution was amended and/or until the state Legislature amended the Texas Election Code to allow it.”

Proposition F was defeated 14% to 86%. It would have changed the city from a council-manager system, with the city manager as the chief executive officer, to a strong mayor-council system, with the mayor as the chief executive officer.

Proposition G was defeated 43% to 57%. It would have added a city council member and a new council district. Proposition F and G were designed to work together to keep the city council the same size since the mayor is currently a member of the city council but Proposition F would have removed the mayor from the city council.

Proposition H was defeated 43% to 57%. It would have created a public campaign finance system that provided up to two $25 vouchers to each registered voter to contribute to the campaigns of any qualified candidate.

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Tennessee legislature sends right-to-work amendment to voters in 2022

On April 29, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would make it illegal for workplaces to require mandatory labor union membership as a condition for employment. This type of policy is known as right-to-work. Tennessee enacted a right-to-work statute in 1947.

Sen. Brian Kelsey (R), the sponsor of the amendment, said, “The Tennessee right-to-work law states that workers cannot be hired or fired, or in any way discriminated against based on whether or not they are a member of a union. I think that this right is an important enough civil right that it belongs in our state constitution.”

Sen. Sara Kyle (D), who voted against the measure, said, “Right-to-work is a false slogan. The true effect of this legislation is to destroy the freedom and power of collective bargaining. Collective bargaining has lifted millions of workers out of poverty and provided families with health care and dignity in retirement. That gives big corporations the upper hand.”

The Tennessee State Legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot for gubernatorial general elections. The Tennessee Constitution requires the legislature to approve a constitutional amendment during two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. There are two different vote requirements for the first session and the second. During the first session, the legislature must approve a constitutional amendment by a simple majority (50%+1) vote in each legislative chamber. During the second legislative session, the legislature must approve a constitutional amendment by a two-thirds (66.67%) vote in each chamber. In the state Senate, that amounts to 17 votes during the first session and 22 votes during the second session, assuming no vacancies. In the state House, that amounts to 50 votes during the first session and 66 votes during the second session.

The amendment was first introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 648 (SJR 648) during the 2020 legislative session. On February 10, 2020, the state Senate passed SJR 648 in a vote of 24-5. Of the 25 Republicans in the Senate, 24 voted in favor of SJR 648, and one voted against it. All four Democrats voted against it. On June 17, 2020, the state House passed SJR 648 in a vote of 68-22. The vote was along party lines with Republicans in the majority and Democrats in the minority.

During the 2021 legislative session, the amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2). The state Senate passed the amendment on March 8, 2021, by a vote of 24-7. The vote was along party lines with one Republican joining the minority. On April 29, the state House passed the amendment in a vote of 67-24 with one present and not voting. One Republican joined the Democratic minority.

Twenty-seven states have enacted right-to-work statutes. In 2018, Missouri voters decided Proposition A, a referendum to repeal the state’s recently enacted right-to-work statute. The vote margin was 67.47% in favor of repealing the law and 32.53% in favor of upholding the law. Nine states have adopted right-to-work constitutional amendments. Virginia was the last state to vote on a right-to-work constitutional amendment in 2016. It was defeated with 53.62% opposing the measure.

The Tennessee amendment will be the first amendment certified for the ballot in the state since 2014. Tennessee voters approved 100% of the 11 statewide ballot measures appearing on ballots between 1995 and 2014.

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Florida to vote in 2022 on abolishing the Florida Constitution Revision Commission

The Florida State Legislature gave final approval to SJR 204 on April 27, 2021. The measure, which will appear on the November 2022 ballot in Florida, would abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission if approved by 60% of voters.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is a 37-member commission provided for in the state constitution that convenes every 20 years to review and propose changes to the Florida Constitution. The CRC refers constitutional amendments directly to the ballot for a public vote. Florida is the only state with a commission that can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot. The CRC convenes every 20 years on the following schedule: 1977, 1997, 2017, 2037, 2057, and so on. Beyond what is required in Section 2 of Article XI of the Florida Constitution, the CRC sets its own rules and procedures.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) of 2017-2018 proposed changes to the state constitution for voters to approve or reject in the November 2018 general election. The CRC received 2,013 proposals from the public and 103 from the commission’s members. The CRC referred eight measures to the 2018 ballot. All of the amendments were approved except for Amendment 8, which was blocked from appearing on the ballot by a court ruling.

Plaintiffs argued that the measure combined three separate and unrelated measures and that the ballot language was misleading. The court ruled that the measure’s ballot language was misleading and the measure was kept off the ballot. Seven of the eight CRC referrals had been targeted in lawsuits with plaintiffs alleging that the amendments combined multiple subjects and/or had misleading or unclear ballot language.

The amendment to abolish the CRC was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 204 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R) on December 7, 2020. On March 25, 2021, the state Senate passed the measure in a vote of 27-12. All 24 Senate Republicans voted in favor of the measure. Of the 16 Senate Democrats, 12 voted against, three voted in favor, and one did not vote but voted against the measure after the official vote was tallied. The measure was passed in the House on April 27, 2021, by a vote of 86-11 with six members not voting. Of House Republicans, 75 voted in favor, none voted against, and three did not vote. Of House Democrats, 11 voted in favor, 28 voted against, and 11 did not vote.

In 1980, the legislature referred to the ballot a constitutional amendment to abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. Voters rejected the amendment by a vote of 56.5% to 43.5%.

In 1988, the legislature referred a constitutional amendment to create a Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission (TBRC), which voters approved. Like the Constitution Revision Commission, the TBRC meets every 20 years and has the power to refer constitutional amendments to voters. However, the TBRC only addresses issues related to taxation and the budgetary process.

The legislature also referred a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would authorize the state legislature to pass laws prohibiting flood resistance improvements to a home from being taken into consideration when determining a property’s assessed value for property tax purposes.

A total of 78 measures appeared on the Florida ballot between 2000 and 2020, including six measures that appeared on the statewide ballot in odd-numbered years. From 2000 to 2020, an average of about seven measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Florida. Between 2000 and 2020, 71.79% (65 of 78) of statewide measures were approved by voters, and 28.21% (22 of 56) were defeated.

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Arkansas Legislature sends third and final constitutional amendment concerning religious freedom to November 2022 ballot

On April 27, the Arkansas State Legislature passed a third constitutional amendment titled the “Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment,” which will appear on the state’s November 2022 ballot.

The measure would amend the state constitution to provide that “government shall not burden a person’s freedom of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” The amendment would provide an exception to this requirement if the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both the Arkansas State Senate and the Arkansas House of Representatives. The Arkansas Legislature is able to refer up to three constitutional amendments to the ballot for each general election.

The amendment was passed in the Senate on April 22, 2021, by a vote of 27-4 with four members absent or not voting. The House passed the amendment on April 27, 2021, by a vote of 75-19 with six members absent or not voting. The measure was passed along party lines with most Republicans in favor and Democrats against it. Republican Representative Josh Miller was the only Republican legislator to vote against the amendment. Larry Teague was the only Democratic legislator to vote in favor of the amendment.

One of the other referred amendments would require 60% supermajority voter approval to ratify constitutional amendments (legislatively referred and citizen-initiated) and citizen-initiated state statutes. The other amendment would allow the state legislature to call itself into special sessions. Arkansas is one of 14 states where only the governor can call a special session.

A total of 44 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in even-numbered years between 2000 and 2020. During even-numbered years between 2000 and 2020, 73% (32 of 44) of statewide ballot measures in Arkansas were approved by voters, and 27% (12 of 44) were defeated.

The amendments to prohibit government burdens on religious freedom and to allow the state legislature to call itself into special session were proposed at least partially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions and government responses. Ballotpedia has tracked at least seven statewide measures put on the ballot in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related regulations. Ballotpedia is also tracking seven potential statewide measures proposed in response to COVID-19.

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Montana State Legislature sends ballot measure to change the state supreme court election process to 2022 ballot

Voters will decide in 2022 on a measure to change the election of state supreme court justices in Montana from nonpartisan statewide elections to by-district elections. The measure would not remove any sitting state supreme court justice. Associate justices would be assigned district numbers according to their seat number, and the chief justice would be assigned the seventh district. Associate justices could seek re-election in the district assigned to them or resign from their current district to file to run in another district under the proposed change to state law. The Montana State Legislature would be required to review the districts after the decennial census to ensure the districts contain approximately the same number of residents without dividing counties. The change would take effect after the 2024 general election.

In Montana, a simple majority is required in both chambers of the state legislature to place a legislatively referred state statute on the ballot.

This measure was introduced as House Bill 325 (HB 325) on February 4, 2021, by Rep. Barry Usher (R). The Montana House of Representatives approved HB 325 in a vote of 63-36 with one absent on February 19. It was introduced in the Montana State Senate on February 20, 2021. The Senate passed the measure with amendments on April 23 by a vote of 29-21. The House concurred on April 26 by a vote of 65-34 with one absent. The votes were largely along party lines with four Republican legislators joining the Democratic minority.

Currently, Montana Supreme Court justices serve eight-year terms following a statewide nonpartisan election. In the case of a mid-term vacancy, the governor may appoint an interim justice. If the governor does not select a nominee in time, the chief justice must make the appointment. The appointment must be confirmed by the Senate. If the Senate is not in session, the recess appointee serves until the next session. Once confirmed by the Senate, the judge holds office until the next general election.  Any incumbent judge who is running unopposed in a general election is subject to a retention election.

As of January 2021, four sitting judges were elected in nonpartisan elections, two judges were appointed by a Democratic governor, and one judge was appointed by a Republican governor.

Rep. Barry Usher (R), the sponsor of the measure, said that the change would mean that voters are better represented in the supreme court.

The 2022 measure is similar to a ballot measure that was removed from the ballot prior to the June 2012 primary election. Senate Bill 268 (SB 268), also known as LR-119, was placed on the ballot by the state legislature in largely partisan votes. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 30-20, and the House approved the bill by a vote of 59-40 with one absent. 

A group of voters filed a lawsuit against the measure arguing that the measure deprived Montana voters of the right to vote for all state supreme court justices. District Court Judge James Reynolds ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and removed the measure from the ballot. Judge Reynolds said that the measure, which required supreme court candidates to live inside proposed regional districts, would contradict the state constitution. The ruling was upheld in the state supreme court in a 6-1 ruling. The 2022 measure would not require candidates for the supreme court to live in the same district they wish to represent.

The ballot measure is the third to be sent to the 2022 ballot in Montana. Voters will also be deciding on a constitutional amendment that would require a search warrant to access electronic data or electronic communications and a state statute that requires medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an attempted abortion by classifying them as a “legal person” with “the right to appropriate and reasonable medical care and treatment.”

Between 1996 and 2020, about 64.6% (42 of 65) of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 35.4% (23 of 65) were defeated.

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Florida State Legislature sends constitutional amendment to 2022 ballot concerning flood resistance improvements and property taxes

On April 26, 2021, the Florida State Legislature gave final approval to House Joint Resolution 1377. Voters will decide the constitutional amendment in November 2022.

The measure would authorize the state legislature to pass laws prohibiting flood resistance improvements to a home from being taken into consideration when determining a property’s assessed value for property tax purposes.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60% supermajority vote is required in both the Florida State Senate and the Florida House of Representatives.

The amendment was introduced by Rep. Linda Chaney (R) on February 26, 2021. The amendment was passed by the House on April 21, 2021, by a vote of 118-0 with two Republican representatives absent or not voting and in the Senate by a vote of 40-0 on April 26, 2021.

In November 2022, 60% supermajority voter approval is required for the amendment to be added to the state constitution.

A total of 78 measures appeared on the Florida ballot between 2000 and 2020, including six measures that appeared on the statewide ballot in odd-numbered years. From 2000 to 2020, an average of about seven measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Florida. Between 2000 and 2020, 71.79% (65 of 78) of statewide measures were approved by voters, and 28.21% (22 of 56) were defeated.

The 2020 election gave West Virginia Republican lawmakers the votes needed to place an amendment prohibiting the state judiciary from interfering with impeachments on the 2022 ballot

On April 9, the West Virginia State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would say that no state court has jurisdiction to intercede, intervene in, or interfere with impeachment proceedings of the West Virginia House of Delegates or the state Senate. Currently, the state constitution does not state a role for the state judiciary to participate or review impeachment proceedings, apart from the chief justice of the state supreme court presiding over the proceedings.

The amendment was proposed in response to an investigation and impeachment proceedings for multiple West Virginia Supreme Court Justices in 2018. The justices were accused of misusing over $1 million in state funds for courthouse office renovations; misuse of state vehicles; and illegal payments to senior judges. 

In June 2018, the House of Delegates unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the House Judiciary Committee to conduct an impeachment investigation into the justices. On September 21, 2018, Justice Margaret Workman, one of the impeached justices, filed a motion with the state supreme court arguing the impeachment proceedings violated the state constitution’s separation of powers clause. On October 11, five circuit court judges temporarily assigned to the state supreme court blocked Justice Workman’s impeachment trial from proceeding.

The justices ruled the impeachment proceedings violated the state constitution’s separation of powers clause, arguing the state Senate did not have the authority to impeach Workman. The ruling was later applied to Justices Robin Davis and Allen Loughry.

Between July and November 2018, Justices Menis Ketchum, Robin Davis, and Allen Loughry resigned from the supreme court. The Senate censured Justice Beth Walker but did not remove her from office. Workman served on the court until her retirement in December 2020.

In West Virginia, to put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote is required in both the West Virginia State Senate and the West Virginia House of Delegates, which equates to 23 votes in the state Senate and 67 votes in the state House. 

The state Senate first attempted to place the amendment to limit the state judiciary from intervening in impeachment proceedings on the ballot during the 2020 legislative session. It was defeated along party lines with 20 Republicans favoring the amendment and 13 Democrats opposing it.

In the 2020 general election, Republicans gained the votes they needed to meet the supermajority requirement in both chambers. Republicans gained three seats in the state Senate to increase their majority from 20-14 to 23-11. Republicans also increased their majority in the state House from 58-41 (with one vacancy) to 76-24. The Republican majority increased to 77-23 after Del. Jason Barrett switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in December 2020.

The 2021 amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 2 (HJR 2) on February 11, 2021. On March 2, the state House approved the amendment by a vote of 78-21 with one Republican absent. The vote was largely along party lines with two Democrats joining the voting Republicans in support. On April 9, the state Senate approved the amendment along party lines with a vote of 23-11. West Virginia voters will decide the amendment and at least two others at the 2022 general election.

State Delegate Pat McGeehan (R) said, “[The amendment] has everything to do with restoring the separation of powers. We need to restore our own rightful powers as a legislative branch, because since [the 2018 Workman decision] … the legislative branch has essentially been reduced to a social club. The impeachment powers are the last line of defense that we have in the state constitution. We have to pass this and ensure that we take our place again, to be able to enforce this kind of power and the threat of it.”

Julie Archer, the coordinator of West Virginia Citizens for Clean Elections, which opposes the amendment, said, “This constitutional amendment would make it so that no state court could intervene to protect the right to a fair hearing of a public official facing impeachment, no matter how frivolous the charge or constitutionally flawed the process. In the hands of a partisan majority, this new power could be abused to oust political opponents without cause, thereby eroding existing checks and balances between the three branches of government and undercutting public trust in the political process.”

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