The Tuesday Count: Lawsuits and elections beginning to dominate measure headlines

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September 18, 2012

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By Al Ortiz and Eric Veram

Campaign season is upon us, and with that, the Tuesday Count stands at 185 ballot measures on 38 state ballots. 173 of those measures will be decided on November 6, 2012 in 37 states.

Before then, however, there is one more ballot measure election slated for voters.

It is a rare sight to see a statewide ballot measure on a September ballot, but deep down south, that's exactly what voters are going to get.

The Alabama Medicaid Amendment will appear on the September 18, 2012 special election ballot today in the state of Alabama. This legislatively-referred constitutional amendment would authorize the transfer of $145.8 million from an oil and gas trust fund to the General Fund for the state Medicaid budget, prisons, courts and other non-education functions of government.

Although the measure is the only item on the special election ballot in the state, it has been garnering much heated attention from both supporters and opponents.

The main argument that supporters are making is that without the enactment of the amendment, the state Medicaid Agency and the Department of Corrections could have significant cuts that could have a negative impact on health care and public safety.

Proponent Robert Bentley, Governor of Alabama, stated that the measure is needed to cover major funding shortfalls in the state's budget that begins on October 1, 2012.

On the other side of the argument, opponents say that Alabama legislators are delaying a funding issue that will rear its head again in three years when the Trust Fund money runs out.

According to State Senator Paul Sanford, “I’m against the amendment. I and the people I talk to don’t see the willingness to trust that the government is going to do the responsible thing...One of my bills that passed this year consolidated two agencies: Department of Labor and Department of Industrial Relations. I think we need to do more measures like that and curtail some cost. A lot of these suggestions have been put on the desk and are collecting dust.”[1]

Election results will be posted on this page and on Amendment 1's ballot measure page when polls close at 7 p.m. CST and numbers begin to come in.

Arkansas casino backers not folding cards just yet

It has been a bumpy road for supporters of a citizen-initiated casino amendment in the state of Arkansas.

Legal action and signature gathering debacles have plagued a proposal that would allow the operation of casinos in Arkansas, as supporters are nearing the end of what has been a complicated matter in the Natural State.

Featured campaign quotes:
Oklahoma SQ 762 - Support
Speaker of the State House Kris Steele
Letting the governor focus on parole recommendations for violent crimes is a critical component of Oklahoma’s recent progress to build a stronger, more effective criminal justice system.[2]

Oklahoma SQ 762 - Opposition
State Representative Jason Murphey
When you take the governor out of [the parole] process [for non-violent crimes] the people of Oklahoma have no one to hold accountable...[2]

On June 28, 2012, supporters of the measure stated that they had more than 70,000 signatures on hand, enough to send the measure to the ballot, if enough valid signatures were counted. Organizers of the measure turned in signatures by the state's petition drive deadline.[3]

On July 23, 2012, secretary of state spokesman Alex Reed stated that the initiative had fallen short of the required amount of signatures needed to make the ballot. According to reports, the initiative effort had 30 days to collect those additional signatures.[4]

Then, the group behind the measure submitted new ballot language after the Arkansas Secretary of State claimed the language was insufficient. The supporting group stated that the new language did not alter the law, so signatures should still be counted when submitted by the deadline. Additional signatures were then filed by the deadline.

However, the Arkansas Secretary of State rejected the newly submitted language, causing a lawsuit to be filed by Nancy Todd, supporter of the measure, with the Arkansas Supreme Court.[5]

The lawsuit was filed on August 24, which stated: "The secretary of state's threatened refusal to carry out this legal duty is a violation of his statutory obligations to the petitioners and the people and an abridgement of their rights under Amendment 7."[6]

While the lawsuit was being reviewed, election officials stated on September 14 that the initiative collected the required amount of signatures to make the ballot, pending the legal challenge.[7]

A ruling on the case is expected soon.

Quick hits

Polls released for several Michigan ballot measures: An EPIC-MRA poll conducted on September 8-11, 2012, found that 48 percent were in support of Proposal 2, while 43 percent were opposed, and another 9% were undecided. The results are based on a poll of 600 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. The same poll found found that 47 percent were in support of Proposal 6, while 44 percent were opposed, and another 9% were undecided.[8]

Polling information released on Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative: A SurveyUSA poll conducted on September 9-12, 2012, found that 51 percent were in support of Amendment 64, while 40 percent were opposed, and another 8% were undecided. The results are based on a poll of 615 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.[9]


Local Oregon voters flock to polls for light rail measure election

In last week's Tuesday Count report, the Spotlight highlighted an extraordinary local measure in Oregon that will appear on the November 6 ballot in Multnomah County.

However, that isn't the only measure that will appear on a local Oregon ballot this year, as today, September 18, voters in Clackamas County, Oregon will chime in on a light rail question.

This measure seeks to provide for a law requiring that any decision on a light rail in the county would have to be approved by public vote.

This measure was brought to the ballot through a successful petition drive by residents, who obtained 9,728 valid signatures when 9,378 were needed. Proponents of the measure want to allow for voter approval of the local TriMet project which would contribute $1.5 billion to the Portland-Milwaukie light rail project. According to reports, supporters did not think it fair for the county to invest so much money without voter approval first.

On the other hand, opponents say that this measure would halt the county's contribution to the TriMet program.

The Tuesday Count Spotlight highlights notable developments from local ballot measures across the country as well as international ballot measures.

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Lawsuit aimed at delaying Colorado's blue book dismissed: On September 13, 2012, Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt dismissed a lawsuit filed by supporters of Colorado Amendment 64. The lawsuit sought to delay the printing of the state's ballot information booklet, know as the blue book, because, according to the plaintiffs, the legislative committee struck final draft key language in the section describing arguments in support of the initiative. The lawsuit was, reportedly, dismissed due to a "jurisdictional issue."[10]

Supporters of the North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative sue for ballot access: Supporters of the measure filed a lawsuit directly with the North Dakota Supreme Court on Friday, September 14, 2012, asking that the measure be placed on the ballot. The measure was previously kicked off the ballot after North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger determined that a number of the signatures were faked by petition gatherers. Supporters claim that Secretary Jaeger failed to follow constitutional and statutory legal requirements by rejecting whole pages of petitions containing fraudulent signatures rather than investigating each name.[11]

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