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Ballot Law Update: Michigan initiatives seek to expand initiative and referendum power

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By Josh Altic

In 2014 legislative sessions so far, there are 71 pending laws concerning ballot measures, of which 67 were carried over from 2013 and 4 were proposed this year. Two have been defeated and one has been approved. The Ballot Law Update is released on the last Wednesday of each month.

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The Tuesday Count: Illinois 2014 ballot - Double the measures, double the fun

Edited by Brittany Clingen

2 certifications
74 measures for 2014

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Illinois 2014 ballot measures
Illinoisans will have at least two measures to cast votes on come November, which is twice the average number over the past five years. The approval of two legislatively-referred constitutional amendments - one addressing the right to vote and the other the rights of crime victims - are the first measures on what could be a crowded ballot, by Illinois' standards. Since 2008, only one measure has appeared on the ballot per even-numbered election year; there have been no measures featured on odd-year ballots. If approved by voters, the Right to Vote Amendment would provide that no person shall be denied the right to register to vote or cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, language, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation or income.[1] Proponents and opponents have suggested that the amendment is meant, in part, to discourage a voter identification card law.[2] House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-22), who was the amendment's primary sponsor during its time in the legislature, said, "The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that all citizens have an opportunity to register and vote and to prevent the passage of inappropriate voter-suppression laws and discriminatory voting procedures."[3] The measure has garnered some bipartisan support, with House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-82) calling on Republicans to support the amendment. He said, "[The state party] had an identity crisis for many years now. Republicans, we're going to win with addition. We need to dispel some of the notions that have been hanging over the GOP for years, that we're a party of white suburban men. For me this was an easy decision."[4]

The second certified amendment, if approved by voters, would strengthen the part of the Illinois Constitution known as the Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. Specifically, the amendment would guarantee a victim’s right to be free from harassment, intimidation and abuse throughout the criminal trial process; a victim’s right to notice and to a hearing before a court ruling on access to any of the victim’s records, information or communications; a victim’s right to be heard at any post-arraignment court proceeding in which a victim’s right is at issue and at any court proceeding involving a post-arraignment release decision, plea or sentencing; a consideration of the safety of the victim and their family in determining bail and conditions of release after arrest and conviction of the defendant; and that the accused does not have standing to assert the rights of a victim.[1] This measure also boasts supporters from both sides of the political aisle.[5]

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Two other measures that have the potential to appear on the ballot in November will likely be significantly more divisive if supporters can gather enough signatures by the May 5, 2014, deadline to put them before voters. The Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment, also known as the "Yes for Independent Maps" campaign, would create an independent, nonpartisan commission, consisting of eleven members, for the purpose of redrawing district lines for the Illinois General Assembly.[6] The measure is sponsored by Yes for Independent Maps.[7] The amendment would also create a process for selecting members of the commission that is open to application by any Illinois citizen.[1] Redistricting has long been a contentious issue in Illinois. Following the 2010 U.S. Census, Illinois faced the responsibility of redrawing legislative district lines in accordance with the state constitution. At that time, several proposals were put forth by the legislature as legislatively-referred constitutional amendments and one by the group Illinois Fair Map Amendment Coalition as an initiated constitutional amendment. Ultimately, none of the proposed constitutional amendments made it to the ballot that year. In 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed the controversial Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011, which required that legislative districts be redrawn to ensure people of "racial and language minorities" were given the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates. Because both the state legislature and the governor's office were controlled by Democrats at that time, many argued that the new redistricting procedures served to protect the Democratic majority and keep incumbents in office.[8]

The second initiated constitutional amendment that will almost certainly stir Illinois' already sticky political pot is the Illinois Term Limits for Legislators Amendment, which is being sponsored by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. The measure would establish eight-year term limits for legislators, reduce the size of the Senate from 59 to 41, increase the size of the House from 118 to 123 and require a two-thirds majority vote in both houses for the legislature to override a governor’s veto.[9] According to Rauner, "Out-of-control spending, record tax hikes, terrible unemployment and a state government controlled by special interests – the career politicians are failing Illinois."[10] Supporters of both initiated amendments must collect at least 298,399 valid signatures to land their measures on the November ballot.

2014 Count
Number: 74 measures
States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming
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