Bruce Ramge, the longest-serving Nebraska Department of Insurance director, retired on April 9. Former Gov. Dave Heineman (R) appointed him director in November 2010.
According to a press release from Gov. Pete Ricketts’ (R) office, Ramge served the department for 36 years, first joining in 1984 as an employee of the Market Conduct Division. He was then promoted to chief of market regulation in 1999, which was later followed by his appointments to deputy director and director in 2008 and 2010, respectively.
According to Nebraska’s constitution, Gov. Ricketts is responsible for appointing Ramge’s replacement with the consent of a majority of the state legislature. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Ricketts appointed Eric Dunning to the position on April 2, with an effective start date of April 19.
The insurance commissioner is a state-level position in all 50 states. The duties of the position vary from state to state, but their general role is as a consumer protection advocate and insurance regulator. The position is elected in 11 states and appointed in 39. The office is nonpartisan in 38 states. The 12 states in which the position is partisan include the 11 states where the insurance commissioner is elected, as well as Ohio. Of the 12 states where the insurance commissioner has a partisan affiliation, the office is held by a Democrat in three and a Republican in nine.
An effort is underway in Lincoln, Nebraska, to recall Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and city council members James Michael Bowers, Richard Meginnis, Jane Raybould, and Tammy Ward. Petitions were filed with the Lancaster County election commissioner on October 26. Each official is given 20 days to submit a statement of defense, after which the election commissioner has five days to approve the petitions for circulation. Recall organizers will then have 30 days to gather signatures.
The recall effort is organized by a group called LNK Recall in response to the appointment of Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez on August 17, 2020. The Lincoln City Council suspended city charter rules that give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the appointment, allowing for an immediate vote to appoint Lopez as health director.
Petition language against Baird states, “Mayor Baird sought out and obtained open-ended authoritarian control and used it to attack our liberty, usurp legislative authority, silence our voices, misuse our police, destroy our small businesses, sow discord in our community and allowed vandalism in our city. We the people do hereby intend to stop her assault on the citizens and Good Life of Lincoln.”
Petition language against the council members states, “City Council ignored them (Lincoln citizens) and voted to suspend councils own rules anyway, in order to cancel the remaining required hearing and vote immediately, silencing the voice of Lincoln citizens.”
In response to the recall effort, Baird said, “I am focused every minute on doing the job that the people of Lincoln elected me to do. Right now, that includes working with the City Council and our Health Department to lead the city through an unprecedented global pandemic. I am not going to be distracted by a small group of people who want to divide our community.”
The number of valid signatures required to force a recall election is 35% of the total votes cast for the office in the last general election. To put the recall elections on the ballot, petitioners would need 21,652 valid signatures against Baird, 4,864 valid signatures against Bowers, 8,009 valid signatures against Meginnis, 5,362 valid signatures against Raybould, and 2,495 valid signatures against Ward.
In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.
In addition to electing their next representative on Nov. 3, two battleground U.S. House districts will also decide which presidential candidate gets one of their state’s Electoral College votes.
While 48 states give all their electoral votes to the statewide winner of the presidential contest, Maine and Nebraska distribute some of their electoral votes to the winners of each congressional district. Each state awards two of its electoral votes to the statewide presidential election winner. Maine distributes its two remaining electoral votes to the winner(s) of its two congressional districts. And Nebraska distributes its three remaining electoral votes to the winner(s) of its three congressional districts.
Maine’s 2nd and Nebraska’s 2nd are two of the 41 battleground U.S. House races Ballotpedia is following.
Incumbent Jared Golden (D), Dale Crafts (R), and write-in candidates Daniel Fowler (D) and Timothy Hernandez (D) are running.
Golden was first elected in 2018. He defeated incumbent Bruce Poliquin (R) 50.6% to 49.4%. That was the first general election in Maine for which ranked-choice voting was law. It was also the first congressional election in U.S. history to use ranked-choice voting to decide the winner.
The 2nd District is one of 30 Democratic-held U.S. House districts that Donald Trump (R) won in the 2016 presidential election.
• Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (D) 51% to 41% in the 2nd District. Poliquin won the House race 55% to 45% that year.
• Barack Obama (D) won the district in the 2012 and 2008 presidential elections with 53% and 55%, respectively. Mike Michaud (D) won the House elections those years.
Three independent election forecasters rate the 2020 House race Likely or Solid Democratic.
Incumbent Don Bacon (R), Kara Eastman (D), and Tyler Schaeffer (L) are running. The race is one of 56 U.S. House rematches from 2018. In 2018, Bacon defeated Eastman 51% to 49%. Bacon defeated incumbent Brad Ashford (D) in 2016, 49% to 48%.
Presidential election results in recent cycles were as follows:
• Trump defeated Clinton 48% to 46% in the 2nd District in 2016.
• In 2012, Mitt Romney (R) defeated Obama 53% to 46% in this district. In 2008, Obama defeated John McCain (R) 50% to 49%. Lee Terry (R) won the House elections both years.
Three election forecasters rate the 2020 House race a Toss-up.
All 435 seats in the House are up for election. Democrats currently have a 232 to 198 majority over Republicans in the chamber.
Brad Ashford (D), the former representative of Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, endorsed incumbent Don Bacon (R) on October 7. Bacon defeated Ashford for the seat in 2016. Ashford said Bacon “demonstrated time and again … that he will put people above party to find bipartisan solutions.”
Ashford ran again in 2018, losing to Kara Eastman in the Democratic primary. Ashford previously ran for the district in the 1994 Republican primary. He was elected in 2014 as a Democrat. Ashford served in the nonpartisan Nebraska Unicameral legislature from 1987 to 1995 and again from 2007 to 2015. In 2011, he announced having changed his registration from Republican to independent.
Bacon, Eastman, and Tyler Schaeffer (L) are running for the 2nd District this year. Eastman defeated Ann Ashford, wife of Brad, in the 2020 Democratic primary.
State Sen. John McCollister (R) endorsed Eastman on October 9. McCollister has been critical of President Donald Trump and said Bacon had voted in favor of the president’s policies more than 90% of the time. He said Bacon was not independent and that Eastman wouldn’t “buckle under any pressure from the Democrat Party.”
On October 7, Roll Call named Bacon the most vulnerable House member of the 2020 election cycle, citing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s 7-point lead among district voters in a recent poll and spending by national Democrats. As of October 8, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Campaign Committee had each spent $1.2 million in the 2nd District.
Biden endorsed Eastman in the race.
In 2018, Bacon defeated Eastman 51% to 49%. Bacon won the 2016 election against Ashford 49% to 48%.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R) donated $100,000 to Gambling with the Good Life, the campaign opposing Initiatives 429, 430, and 431. Together, the initiatives would authorize, regulate, and tax gambling at licensed horse racetracks. Gambling with the Good Life reported receiving over $139,000 in cash contributions. The other top two donors to the campaign were the Archdiocese of Omaha and Cornhusker Bank.
Explaining his opposition, Governor Pete Ricketts said, “There are all sorts of social problems that come along with expanding gambling, which is why Nebraskans have historically rejected expanding gambling here in the state. I certainly support rejecting expanded gambling and would encourage other Nebraskans to support rejecting it as well.”
Initiatives 429, 430, and 431 are sponsored by Keep the Money in Nebraska, which reported receiving a total of $3.4 million in contributions from Ho-Chunk, Inc., a developer owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
Initiative 429 would amend the Nebraska Constitution to allow the enactment of Initiative 430, which would authorize and regulate gambling at licensed horse racetracks, and Initiative 431, which would impose an annual tax of 20% on gross gambling revenue. Without the approval of Initiative 429, Initiatives 430 and 431 would not take effect.
Mike Newlin, general manager of Horsemen’s Park and Lincoln Race Course, said, “[If this measure passes], we’d finally be able to reap the rewards that we’ve been giving our neighbor states in entertainment and gambling dollars. The overall impact is not only the tax revenue but the jobs that would be created. The ancillary work that would come with casino gambling, increased horse racing, and things like that will have a huge economic effect.”
Initiative 431 would impose an annual tax of 20% on gross gambling revenue of licensed gaming operators. The tax revenue would be distributed as follows:
70% to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund
25% to the counties where gambling is authorized at licensed racetracks,
2.5% of tax revenue to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund, and
2.5% to the General Fund.
In 2019, Missouri had the highest gross gaming revenue ($1.73 billion) and taxes generated ($997.8 million) among the states bordering Nebraska. The average amount of taxes generated among the five states bordering Nebraska with commercial gaming was $469.3 million. South Dakota had the lowest flat tax rate with 9% on gross gaming revenue, and Kansas had the highest with 27%.
In 2020, three states will be voting on four measures related to gambling.
Colorado Amendment 77 would allow voters in Central, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek Cities — the only towns where gaming is legal in Colorado — to (1) approve a maximum single bet limit of any amount and (2) expand allowable game types in addition to slot machines, blackjack, poker, roulette, and craps.
Colorado Amendment C would amend the state constitution to lower the number of years an organization must have existed before obtaining a charitable gaming license from five years to three years and to allow charitable organizations to hire managers and operators of gaming activities so long as they are not paid more than the minimum wage.
Maryland Question 2 would authorize sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities with state revenue intended to fund public education.
South Dakota Constitutional Amendment B would amend the state constitution to authorize the South Dakota State Legislature to legalize sports betting within the city limits of Deadwood, South Dakota, with all net municipal proceeds (defined) dedicated to the Deadwood Historic Restoration and Preservation Fund.
On September 10, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the Medical Marijuana Initiative violated the state’s single-subject rule and ordered the secretary of state to remove it from the November ballot.
The court’s ruling came after the secretary of state received written objections to the ballot language of the initiative from several Nebraskan residents. The objectors argued that the initiative violated the state’s single-subject rule because the initiative would allow individuals with serious medical conditions to use marijuana, allow private entities to provide marijuana for medical use, and treat those 18 years or older differently than those 18 years and younger. The objectors argued that there was “no natural and necessary connection” between the provisions. The letter also argued that the initiative “creates confusion and serious doubt regarding the exact nature of the actions that a vote cast in favor of the amendment would authorize.”
On August 28, the Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) determined the initiative was legally sufficient. He said, “The production and sale of medical cannabis has a natural and necessary connection to legalization of medical cannabis for individual use, which is the primary purpose of the Amendment.” Evnen also argued that the initiative did not need to define “serious medical condition” because the initiative required medical professionals to make that determination.
After Sec. Evnen certified the initiative for the ballot, Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner filed a lawsuit against the secretary’s determination on the same grounds as the written objections. The state Supreme Court disagreed with the secretary’s determination and ruled that the initiative violated the single-subject rule. The Court said:
“As proposed, the [initiative] contains more than one subject–by our count, it contains at least eight subjects. In addition to enshrining in our constitution a right of certain persons to produce and medicinally use cannabis under subsections (1) and (2), in subsections (3) and (4), the [initiative] would enshrine a right and immunity for entities to grow and sell cannabis; and in subsections (6), (7), and (8), it would regulate the role of cannabis in at least six areas of public life. These secondary purposes are not naturally and necessarily connected to the [initiative’s] primary purpose.”
Justices Jonathan Papik and Lindsey Miller-Lerman dissented arguing the initiative did not violate the single-subject rule. In his dissenting opinion, Papik said, “All the details of the [initiative] relate to the same general subject—providing a right to individuals with serious medical conditions to use cannabis to alleviate those conditions. … I am concerned that today’s decision has squeezed the concept of single-subject in art. III, § 2, such that the people’s right to initiative has been diminished.”
The amendment, sponsored by Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, would have allowed adults, with the recommendation of a licensed physician or nurse practitioner, to use, possess, purchase, and produce marijuana to alleviate a serious medical condition. The initiative would have also allowed children (under 18 years of age), with the recommendation of a licensed physician or nurse practitioner and permission of a parent or legal guardian who is responsible for their healthcare decisions, to use marijuana to alleviate a serious medical condition. Parents of children who use medical marijuana would have been allowed to possess, purchase, and produce marijuana to alleviate their child’s medical condition.
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the sponsors of the initiative, submitted over 182,000 unverified signatures. The secretary of state verified that 135,055 signatures were valid or approximately 74.2%. About 122,000 valid signatures were required.
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana responded to the ruling saying, “We agree with the Supreme Court’s dissenting opinion, Secretary of State, and Revisor of Statutes that our initiative that nearly 200,000 Nebraskans signed is legally sufficient and should be on the ballot in November.”
The state Supreme Court also ruled on Thursday that a trio of gambling initiatives did not violate the state’s single-subject rule and ordered the secretary of state to place them on the November ballot. The initiatives had been withheld from the ballot by the secretary of state. The initiatives would authorize, regulate, and tax gambling at horse racetracks.
On November 3, Nebraska voters will also decide on an initiative to cap interest rates that payday lenders charge to 36 percent per year, a constitutional amendment removing language allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishments, and a constitutional amendment that increases the repayment period for tax increment financing from 15 to 20 years for extreme blight.
On September 10, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that a trio of initiatives that would authorize, regulate, and tax gambling at horse racetracks did not violate the state’s single-subject rule and ordered they be placed on the November ballot.
Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) announced on August 25 that the Constitutional Amendment to Allow Laws Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative, Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative, and the Tax on Gaming at Racetracks Initiative would not be on the November ballot because they were legally insufficient, although proponents collected the required number of verified signatures. The determination came after the secretary received objections to the initiative from three Nebraskan residents regarding the constitutionality and clarity of the ballot language. The secretary agreed with the objectors’ argument that the initiated constitutional amendment violated the single-subject rule. Sec. Evnen said, “The Constitutional Initiative effectively puts forth dual proposals: (1) authorizing expanded gambling at tribal casinos and (2) authorizing expanded gambling at racetracks by authorized operators. But the first proposal is hidden from the voters and impossible to ascertain from the text of the proposal. Putting forth dual propositions in a single proposal violates the single-subject rule as it does not permit voters to express a clear preference on dual propositions.” The secretary also said that the provision in the tax initiative that provides for property tax relief constituted logrolling because it required voters to expand gambling to obtain tax relief. Keep the Money in Nebraska, the sponsors of the initiatives, appealed the secretary’s decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court.
The Court reversed the secretary’s determination and ruled that each initiative is legally sufficient. The Court argued that the “purpose of the single-subject rule is to avoid forcing voters to vote for or against the whole package even though they would have voted differently had the propositions been submitted separately.” The Court determined since the three initiatives will be voted on separately they do not violate the single-subject rule.
Initiative 429, Constitutional Amendment to Allow Laws Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: The initiative would amend the Nebraska Constitution to allow the enactment of laws that authorize and tax gambling conducted by licensed gaming operators and held at licensed racetrack enclosures.
Initiative 430, Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: The initiative would allow games of chance by authorized operators in licensed racetrack enclosures; establish a Nebraska Gaming Commission to regulate games of chance; and exempt gaming at racetracks from rules and penalties that govern other forms of gambling.
Initiative 431, Tax on Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: This initiative would enact a 20% tax on gambling revenue from games of chance operated at licensed racetracks and allocated 75% of the revenue from the tax to state funds for property tax relief and the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund and 25% to the county or local jurisdictions in which the racetracks are located.
Keep the Money in Nebraska submitted over 465,000 signatures for the three petitions to the secretary of state on July 2. The campaign attempted to place the three initiatives on the ballot in 2016 but failed to collect the required number by the deadline. As of August 31, the campaign had received $3.1 million in cash and in-contributions from Ho-Chunk, Inc., an economic development corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
The state Supreme Court also ruled on Thursday that the Medical Marijuana Initiative violated the state’s single-subject rule and removed it from the November ballot. The court argued that the initiative contained two constitutional rights that were not necessarily connected to the initiative’s general purpose—the right to use medical marijuana and the right to grow and sell marijuana. Of the 26 states that allow for the initiative process, 15 states have a single-subject rule.
On November 3, Nebraska voters will decide six statewide ballot measures including the gambling initiatives. The Remove Slavery as Punishment for Crime Amendment would repeal language allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishment. The Tax Increment Financing Repayment Amendment would increase the repayment period for tax increment financing from 15 to 20 years for extreme blight. The Payday Lender Interest Rate Cap Initiative would limit the interest rate that payday lenders charge to 36 percent per year.
Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six ballot measures appeared on the ballot. Voters approved 53% of the 73 ballot measures that appeared on ballots between those years.
The deadline to register to vote online or by mail is October 16, and the deadline to register in person is October 23. Early voting begins October 5 and ends November 2. Polls will be open from 8 am to 8 pm CST on election day.
On August 28, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) announced that the Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative had qualified for the ballot despite objections filed with the secretary of state’s office regarding the ballot language.
Secretary Evnen received the objections on August 26 from attorney Mark Fahleson representing several Nebraskans. The objections argued that the ballot language violated the state’s single-subject rule that requires ballot initiatives to address a single issue or subject. Fahleson argued that the right to use marijuana to treat serious medical conditions is not necessarily connected to the right of providers to produce marijuana. In his letter determining the legal sufficiency of the initiative, Secretary Evnen responded to this argument saying, “The production and sale of medical cannabis has a natural and necessary connection to legalization of medical cannabis for individual use, which is the primary purpose of the Amendment.”
Fahleson also argued that the initiative’s provision that allows individuals to personally grow marijuana violates the medicinal purposes of the initiative. Secretary Evnen responded that another provision in the amendment closes this loophole because it authorizes the state to establish laws and rules to regulate marijuana.
Fahleson also objected to the amendment’s use of the phrase “serious medical condition” because it was not defined. Secretary Evnen argued that “placing the determination in the hands of medical professionals is sufficiently clear.”
The amendment, sponsored by Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, would allow adults, with the recommendation of a licensed physician or nurse practitioner, to use, possess, purchase, and produce marijuana to alleviate a serious medical condition. The initiative would also allow children (under 18 years of age), with the recommendation of a licensed physician or nurse practitioner and permission of a parent or legal guardian who is responsible for their healthcare decisions, to use marijuana to alleviate a serious medical condition. Parents of children who use medical marijuana would be allowed to possess, purchase, and produce marijuana to alleviate their child’s medical condition.
State Senators Adam Morfeld (D-46) and Anna Wishart (D-27) are the campaign’s co-chairs. After a two-month suspension of their signature drive due to the coronavirus pandemic, the campaign reported submitting 182,000 unverified signatures to the secretary of state on July 2. In explaining why he’s co-chairing the initiative, Sen. Morfeld said, “We are quickly being surrounded by states that have sensible laws on medical marijuana, and we do not. A lot of Nebraskans are looking to other states—to Utah and Missouri—and saying, ‘Wow, these are also conservative states and they have much more reasonable policies about this than we do.’”
In Nebraska, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated constitutional amendment for the ballot is equal to 10% of registered voters as of the deadline for filing signatures. According to the July 2020 voter registration report, there were a total of 1,222,741 registered voters in Nebraska. This means that a total of 122,274 valid signatures were required to qualify this initiative for the ballot. Nebraska law also features a distribution requirement mandating that petitions contain signatures from 5% of the registered voters in each of two-fifths (38) of Nebraska’s 93 counties. The secretary of state verified that 135,055 signatures were valid and that 48 out of 93 counties had at least 5% of registered voters sign the petition. The signature validity rate for the petition was approximately 74.2%.
There are two committees registered with the state in support of the initiative—Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis and Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana. According to the latest campaign finance reports, Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis raised a total of $14,609.38 in contributions, and the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana raised a total of $1.7 million. Ballotpedia has not identified any committees registered in opposition to the initiative. The next campaign finance reports are due October 5, 2020.
As of August 2020, 33 states and Washington, D.C., had passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Additionally, 15 states had legalized the use of cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—for medical purposes.
On November 3, Nebraska voters will also decide on an initiative that would limit interest rates that payday lenders charge to 36 percent per year, a constitutional amendment that would remove language allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishments, and a constitutional amendment that would increase the repayment period for tax increment financing from 15 to 20 years for extreme blight.
Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six ballot measures appeared on the ballot. Voters approved 53% of the 73 ballot measures that appeared on ballots between those years.
On August 25, 2020, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) announced that three initiatives that would authorize and tax gambling at racetracks in Nebraska would not make the ballot after three Nebraskans—Dr. Richard Loveless and Ann and Todd Zohner—submitted written objections regarding the ballot language of the initiatives. The objections were filed on August 7 after Keep the Money in Nebraska, the campaign behind the three initiatives, submitted over 465,000 signatures on July 2 for the three petitions. Secretary Evnen determined that all three petitions were not legally sufficient, thereby disqualifying them from the November ballot. Keep the Money in Nebraska plans to appeal the secretary of state’s decision.
• Constitutional Amendment to Allow Laws Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: The initiative would have amended the Nebraska Constitution to allow the enactment of laws that authorize and tax gambling conducted by licensed gaming operators and held at licensed racetrack enclosures. Secretary Evnen argued that the language of the constitutional amendment would mislead voters. He said, “The Constitutional Initiative effectively puts forth dual proposals: (1) authorizing expanded gambling at tribal casinos and (2) authorizing expanded gambling at racetracks by authorized operators. But the first proposal is hidden from the voters and impossible to ascertain from the text of the proposal. Putting forth dual propositions in a single proposal violates the single-subject rule as it does not permit voters to express a clear preference on dual propositions.”
• Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: The initiative would have allowed games of chance by authorized operators in licensed racetrack enclosures; established a Nebraska Gaming Commission to regulate games of chance; and exempted gaming at racetracks from rules and penalties that govern other forms of gambling. The objectors argued that the provisions of the initiative violated the single-subject rule, which requires ballot initiatives to address a single issue or subject, because the initiative concerned regulation and taxation. Secretary Evnen disagreed with the objectors’ reasoning but determined that the initiative violated the single-subject rule because the inclusion of tax breaks for licensees “[does] not have a natural and necessary connection” to the primary purpose of regulating gambling.
• Tax on Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: This initiative would have enacted a 20% tax on gambling revenue from games of chance operated at licensed racetracks and allocated 75% of the revenue from the tax to state funds for property tax relief and the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund and 25% to the county or local jurisdictions in which the racetracks are located. Secretary Evnen argued that “The property tax relief provisions contained in the Tax Initiative constitute logrolling and violate the single-subject rule.”
As of August 26, 2020, three statewide ballot measures were certified for the general election ballot in Nebraska. One is a citizen-initiated measure that would cap the interest rate on payday loans. Two are constitutional amendments referred to the ballot by the state legislature.
On July 31, 2020, the Nebraska Secretary of State completed the signature verification process for the Payday Lender Interest Rate Cap and announced on August 5 that it had qualified for the ballot.
The initiative would limit the annual interest charged for delayed deposit services—also known as payday lending—to 36%. Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have also enacted a 36% rate cap for payday lending. Colorado was the most recent state to approve a 36% limit through a statewide ballot initiative, Proposition 111, in 2018.
Election officials verified 94,468 valid signatures for the Nebraska initiative, 110% of the number required. Nebraskans for Responsible Lending, the committee leading the campaign in support of the initiative, submitted over 120,000 signatures. The estimated signature validity rate for the petition was 78.7%.
Nebraskans for Responsible Lending reported receiving $1.76 million in cash and in-kind contributions. The Sixteen Thirty Fund has contributed the most to the campaign with contributions totaling over $840,000. The Sixteen Thirty Fund was also the largest contributor to the campaign that sponsored Colorado Proposition 111 with over $2 million in contributions. Nebraskans for Responsible Lending had also received contributions from the ACLU, The Fairness Project, Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public, and Fraser Stryker law firm.
In the campaign’s press release announcing the certification, Aubrey Mancuso, a spokesperson for Nebraskans for Responsible Lending, said, “The fact that signatures were verified in 46 counties speaks to broad support for this initiative. Predatory payday lenders have been charging excessive interest to Nebraskans who can least afford it for years, trapping them in long-term debt that is financially devastating. We found overwhelming support from Nebraskans when circulating this petition, and we are very pleased it’s official. We can now move forward with ending these unethical lending practices.”
There is no organized opposition to the initiative so far, but the ballot language of the initiative has been challenged in court. On July 27, 2020, Trina Thomas, the owner of Paycheck Advance, filed a lawsuit in Lancaster County District Court against the ballot language drafted by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson (R). She argued that the term “payday lenders” was not in the statute that the initiative would amend and was “deceptive to the voters as it unfairly casts the measure in a light that would prejudice the vote in favor of the initiative.” In the press release by the state announcing the certification, it acknowledges the lawsuit and says the attorney general will be defending the ballot language in court and the case outcome will be determined soon.
Four other initiative campaigns in Nebraska submitted signatures by the July 3 deadline. Three initiatives concern gambling at licensed horse racetracks, and the other initiative would legalize medical marijuana.
In Nebraska, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated state statute for the ballot is equal to 7% of registered voters as of the deadline for filing signatures, which was 85,628 signatures. The requirement is 10% for initiated constitutional amendments or 122,326 signatures.
Between 1996 and 2018, Nebraska voters approved 53% (39 of 73) and rejected 47% (34 of 73) of ballot measures. An average of six measures appeared on statewide general election ballots during that period.