Laws governing the initiative process in Wyoming (archive)

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Wyoming voters can create new state laws through the initiative process, but they cannot amend their constitution.

Section 52 of Article 3 of the Wyoming Constitution lays out the general shape of Wyoming's laws allowing initiated state statutes. Section 52 has itself been amended several times, in 1968, 1986, and 1998.

The Wyoming State Legislature passed a law in 1998 making it harder for initiatives to qualify for the ballot; since that time, no initiative sponsors have succeeded in navigating the state's complex and burdensome process.

How to begin the process

The first step for initiative proponents is to submit their application for an initiative to the Wyoming Secretary of State, along with $500. After the application is filed, the Secretary of State will hold a conference with the sponsors to discuss problems with the format or contents, fiscal impact to the state, and the initiative amendment process. The sponsor may then amend the initiative language. If the proposed bill will not be amended, the committee of sponsors shall submit the names, signatures, addresses and the date of signing of one hundred (100) qualified electors to act as sponsors supporting the application in its final form to the Secretary of State. If the application meets all constitutional and statutory requirements, the Secretary of State will certify the application as filed. If the application is denied, the Secretary of State will notify the committee in writing of the grounds for denial. Denial of certification is subject to judicial review if any aggrieved person files an application within 30 days of the notification.

Key features of process

Single-subject rule

Wyoming has a single-subject rule.

Deadlines

Initiative language can be filed at anytime. The signatures must be filed one day prior to the convening of the Wyoming State Legislature. The deadline for filing signatures for the 2008 November ballot was February 11, 2008.[1] See petition drive deadlines in 2008.

Signature requirements

Main article: Wyoming signature requirements

The signature requirement in Wyoming is based on the number of votes cast in the state's most recent general election--held every two years. However, in most I&R states, the number of signatures required is based on gubernatorial elections--almost always held every four years. As a result of Wyoming's atypical system, the number of signatures changes significantly every two years due to the fact that voter turnout for presidential elections is generally much higher than in mid-term elections.

More specifically, initiated state statutes and veto referendums require signatures equal to 15% of the total ballots cast in the previous general election. This is the highest signature requirement of any state, even considering requirements for initiating constitutional amendments. Citizen-initiated amendments are not allowed in Wyoming.

 Year  Votes cast in most recent general election Initiated statute Veto referendum
2014 250,701 37,606 37,606
2012 190,822 28,623 28,623
2010 256,035 38,406 38,406
2008 196,217 29,433 29,433
2006 245,789 36,899 36,899
2004 188,028 28,204 28,204

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Wyoming Constitution, Article 3, Section 52(c)

Distribution requirement

Wyoming has a distribution requirement: 15% of total votes cast in the last election from at least two-thirds of the state's 23 counties, according to Wyoming Amendment B (1998). Wyoming Constitutional Amendment B (2008) sought unsuccessfully to amend that 1998 law.

Signature verification process

The Secretary of State's office checks every signature to make sure they match a registered voter. The signatures are not matched to those on the voter registration cards.

Laws governing petition circulators

Residency

Main article: Residency requirements for petition circulators

Wyoming has a residency requirement for petition circulators. However, the December 2008 decision of the Tenth Circuit in the case of Yes on Term Limits v. Savage could mean that Wyoming's residency law is unconstitutional.

Ban on pay-per-signature

See also: Laws governing petition circulators, Pay-per-signature

In Wyoming, it is illegal to pay petition circulators on a per-signature basis. However, it is legal to pay circulators a salary. The exact wording of Wyoming Statute §22-24-125 is:

"A circulator of an initiative or a referendum petition or a person who causes the circulation of an initiative or a referendum petition may not receive payment for the collection of signatures if that payment is based upon the number of signatures collected. Nothing in this section prohibits a circulator of an initiative or a referendum petition or a person who causes the circulation of an initiative or a referendum petition from being paid a salary that is not based upon the number of signatures collected."[2]

Determination of ballot title

Wyoming is one of several states where the ballot title is not determined until after the signatures have been collected and certified. The ballot title is drawn up by the Wyoming Secretary of State. The applicable rule says:[3]

Within 60 days after the filing of the petition, the Secretary of State will notify the committee of whether or not enough valid signatures had been obtained. If so, the Secretary of State will prepare a proposition and ballot title summarizing the proposed law.

Changes to law in 1998

After a majority (but not a double majority) of Wyoming voters approved the Wyoming Term Limits Initiative in 1996, the Wyoming State Legislature made it harder to qualify an initiative for the ballot by:

Ann Robinson, a former member of the Wyoming State Legislature from district 58, says that the laws were changed after the near-success of the term limits measure in 1996 because the legislature "really wanted to make it impossible to do an initiative."[4]

Proposed changes

2011

Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures

No laws have been proposed in 2011.

2010

Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures

The following proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the Wyoming Legislature:


Campaign finance

Main article: Campaign finance requirements for Wyoming ballot measures
  • Wyoming treats groups in support or opposition of a ballot measure the same like other political action committees.
  • Wyoming allows groups in support or opposition of a ballot measure to communicate its stance on behalf of a candidate or a state/local party organization.
  • Individual contributors are limited to $25,000 over a two year period, while corporations, labor unions, party organizations, and other PAC's have no limits.
  • Wyoming allows corporations and labor unions to donate to Political Action Committees in support or opposition of a ballot measure.
  • Wyoming requires the first campaign finance report to be filed within 10 days of qualifying a ballot measure.
  • Wyoming bans advertising agencies from charging more than the fair market value for placing advertisements.

External links

References