State of Elections

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Tag: ballot initiative

California’s Competing Death Penalty Propositions: What Happens if Voters Approve Both?

By: Chelsea Brewer

On November 8th, California voters will be faced with competing propositions affecting the fate of the death penalty in the State. Both propositions operate on “the premise that the system is broken” and claim that justice will be best served if passed. However, the voters’ options regarding the death penalty’s future are in direct conflict with each other.

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The Dollars Behind Direct Democracy

By: Emily Hessler

On November 8, Colorado voters will decide whether to approve a hotly contested measure––Initiative 71––that would make it more difficult to get initiatives on the state’s ballot and to pass proposed constitutional amendments. The so-called “raise the bar” amendment would require that, in order for a constitutional initiative to make it onto the ballot, two percent of voters in each of Colorado’s thirty-five state senate districts sign the supporting petition. Initiative 71 would also require that constitutional initiatives receive fifty-five percent voter approval to pass.

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Taking the Initiative: Coloradans Set to Vote on Proposal to Limit Ballot Initiatives and Constitutional Amendments

By: Emily Hessler

Coloradans looking to limit the number of citizen initiatives on the state’s ballots are using an unlikely tool to achieve their goal: the citizen initiative. Supporters argue that a proposed measure on November’s ballot––Initiative 71––would “raise the bar” by making it more difficult to get citizen initiatives on Colorado’s ballots and by increasing the percentage of votes required to amend the state’s constitution.

Under Article V of the Colorado Constitution, the ballot initiative is a power “the people reserve to themselves.” Pursuant to this constitutional provision, Colorado citizens can petition to include proposals on general election ballots for new legislation––statutory initiatives––or for constitutional amendments––constitutional initiatives. Twenty-four states allow initiatives, but only sixteen permit that constitutional initiatives go directly on the ballot without first being presented to the legislature.

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Winds of Change in the Mount Rushmore State

By: Bethany Bostron

Voters in the unassuming prairie paradise of South Dakota will have the opportunity this fall to decide whether the state should create a new public finance system. The state usually flies under the national radar, so when it peeks its head above, you want to pay close attention. The question will be posed as Initiated Measure 22 – “An instituted measure to revise State campaign finance and lobbying laws, create a publicly funded campaign finance program, create an ethics commission, and appropriate funds.” According to State Attorney General Marty Jackley, the measure revises State campaign finance laws by limiting contribution amounts to political parties, political action committees, and candidates running for legislative, state-wide, or county office. The main portion of the plan creates a state-funded campaign finance program. Statewide and legislative candidates who agree to certain limits on campaign contributions and expenditures are able to participate in the funding program. Each registered voter is then assigned two $50 “credits” that he or she is free to assign to any participating candidate. Funding for the program comes from a “State general-fund appropriation of $9 per registered voter,” which is not allowed to exceed $12 million at any given time. An ethics commission is also created to administer the credit program and enforce state law. An additional measure prohibits high-level officials and government employees from lobbying for two years after leaving the government and limits lobbyists’ gifts to officials. The initiative is effectively an overhaul of the current system and Attorney General Jackley cautions voters that “the measure may be challenged in court on [state] constitutional grounds.”

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PA: The Language of Amending

By: Melissa Rivera

Imagine walking into the voting booth and reading these words: “Should judges be required to retire on the last day of the year they turn 75 years old?” How would you answer? Would the answer depend upon whether the judges already had to retire at age 70 or if you were being asked to add a whole new requirement? This is exactly the consideration voters in Pennsylvania may be facing when they head out to the polls in November.

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The Will of the People: Michigan’s Ballot Initiative to Allow By-Mail Voting

Alexander Hamilton once said, “A share in the sovereignty of the state, which is exercised by the citizens at large, in voting at elections is one of the most important rights of the subject, and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law.” In Michigan, the citizens have incredible power to voice their opinion and influence the sovereignty of their state. Through initiative, Michiganders may propose either a constitutional amendment, which does not require state legislative approval before being placed on the ballot, or state statutes, which must first be submitted to the state legislature for approval before being placed on the ballot. In order to participate in the initiative process, Michigan does not even require that the petitioner register with the state, but rather only requires that the petitioner report campaign contributions in excess of $500. However, petitioners may submit their proposal to the Bureau of Elections in order to greatly reduce the chance that formatting errors will prevent the proposal from being accepted.

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Nebraska’s Death Penalty Saga: Referendum on the Plains

By: Eric Sutton

Background and the Referendum Process

            On Wednesday, May 27th, 2015, the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature eliminated capital punishment through LB 268. The bill was approved over a veto by Governor Pete Ricketts, by a no-votes-to-spare 30-19 margin, and marked the end of State Senator Ernie Chambers’ 39-year effort to end the death penalty in Nebraska. The repeal made Nebraska the first conservative state to eliminate capital punishment in more than 40 years. However, immediately after the repeal, State Senator Beau McCoy, a conservative, expressed his frustration over the vote and announced his intent to pursue a ballot initiative to reinstate the death penalty. Less than one week after the repeal and Sen. McCoy’s statements, a group named Nebraskan’s for the Death Penalty (“NFDP”) filed the appropriate paperwork with the Secretary of State to reinstate the death penalty by referendum.

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California’s Continuing Complicated Relationship with Direct Democracy

By: Aaron Colby

This year, like other states, California worked to complete another midterm election season. Also like other states, this means that candidates participated in major fundraising and spending efforts, to increase their chances of a favorable election result. However, unlike many other states, a great deal of these campaign contributions are going not to a particular candidate, but rather to a specific cause: support of or opposition to a particular ballot initiative. California law requires supporters and opponents of ballot initiatives to form a committee, to which donations are made, and to disclose the amount of the donations they receive. Continue reading

I Know What You Did Last Summer: Signed a Petition in Washington

Last year, female Facebook users around the world updated their status messages with their bra color.  Version 2.0 of this breast cancer awareness marketing strategy ran this year.  Perhaps some things should be kept private.  But what about our politics?  As vast amounts of information goes digital – from individual campaign contributions to the personal communications of our officials – traditional notions of privacy are giving way to an era of sunshine in all aspects of our lives.

Enter (from stage right) Tim Eyman, a veteran ballot initiative activist in the state of Washington.  If state-wide ballot initiatives create a de facto citizen legislature, then Eyman is the conservative Washington citizen’s whip.  To get an idea on the ballot, initiative supporters must sign petitions, and give such information as their home addresses to verify they’re eligible to sign. Continue reading

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