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- See also: Ballot title
An Object Clause is a brief statement of what a ballot proposal will accomplish and must be presented to signers by petition circulators. This term is used in the Nebraska ballot process to describe the statement of purpose for an initiative. The object clause is separate from the ballot title, which is issued by the Attorney General after the measure has been filed for certification.
In some states, such as California, the ballot title or summary is issued prior to circulation and includes a statement of purpose. In Nebraska, however, a petitioner writes and submits the object clause to the secretary of state, along with the text of the proposed initiative.
Initiative filing in Nebraska
The first step in filing an initiative in Nebraska is to submit a copy of the text and the object clause for the petition to the secretary of state's office. The sponsor also needs to supply a sworn list of sponsors when submitting the initiative.
The secretary of state then sends the language to the Nebraska Revisor of Statutes, who reviews the language to see if it fits into the constitution or statutes clearly and uniformly. This process must be completed within 10 days and returned to the secretary of state. Sponsors are informed of the recommended changes by the secretary of state but may choose to accept or reject the office's suggestions. These changes remain confidential for the duration of the five day review but are released as public record after the language is settled.
Once the final form is given to the sponsor, the language of the measure may not be changed or it becomes necessary for the entire process to start again.
Stating the object clause
Every petition form used by the circulator, who is referred to as the affiant in Nebraska state law, contains a mandatory circulator affidavit that must, by law, be signed by each person circulating signatures. This affidavit says that the circulator, or affiant, has witnessed each signature and that to his/her knowledge the date and information written by the signer is correct. The affidavit also says, "that the affiant stated to each signer the object of the petition as printed on the petition before he or she affixed his or her signature to the petition."
The secretary of state interprets this to mean that the circulator must read aloud the object clause of the initiative to each and every signer.
Interpretations by petition managers
In the past, certain petition drive management companies have interpreted this law more loosely, positing that distributing the object clause in written form to potential signers satisfies the legal requirement. This has led some opponents of initiatives to record circulators while they are collecting signatures in order to have evidence that the object clause was not being read out loud to each signer. Opponents would then submit this evidence to the secretary of state or in court in order to invalidate signatures and potentially keep the initiative in question from qualifying for the ballot.
Post-circulation ballot title
States besides Nebraska where the ballot title is determined by the government after the signatures have been collected are:
Pre-circulation ballot title
States where the ballot title is set prior to circulation include:
- North Dakota
- Oregon (In Oregon, the ballot title is set after 1,000 initial sponsorship signatures have been submitted)
- Nebraska Initiative and Referendum process
- Nebraska Secretary of State, "Initiative and Referendum Process Document," accessed March 5, 2014
Examples of object clauses
- Nebraska Secretary of State, "2012 Medical Marijuana Initiative Petition Object Clause," accessed March 5, 2014
- Nebraska Secretary of State, "2014 Firearms Initiative Petition Object Clause," accessed March 5, 2014
- Ballotpedia.org, "Laws governing the initiative process in Nebraska," accessed March 10, 2014
- Nebraska Legislature website, "State Statutes Section 32-628," accessed March 6, 2014
- Secretary of State office, "Initiative and Referendum information document," accessed March 6, 2014
- Brief of Oklahoma petition process';
- Wyoming laws governing the initiative process from the Wyoming Secretary of State
- Idaho petition requirements