List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2014

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NOTE: The following tab shows a list of lawsuits, by state, that were filed against statewide ballot measures aiming for the 2014 ballot. Click the "show" link to read about specifics of a particular lawsuit.

Alaska

Alaska Bristol Bay Mining Ban, Ballot Measure 4 (2014)

Hughes vs. Treadwell et al.

In January 2013, Richard Hughes, a mining engineer, filed a lawsuit against the initiative's certification by Lt. Gov Mead Treadwell (R) in the Alaska Fourth Judicial District. The Alaska Miners Association and the Council of Alaska Producers joined as plaintiffs. Hughes and plaintiffs argued that the initiative would, according to the court's summary, "(1) enact local or special legislation in violation of article XI, section 7 of the Alaska Constitution; (2) violate separation of powers under article XII, section 11 of the Alaska Constitution; and (3) appropriate state assets in violation of article XI, section 7 of the Alaska Constitution." Judge Paul Lyle ruled against all three points made by Hughes. However, Hughes appealed the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.[1]

The Supreme Court issued their order on June 23, 2014. The court affirmed the superior court ruling made by Judge Paul Lyle.[1]

Matt Singer, a lawyer for Hughes, said they were disappointed. He noted, "[T]he decision reflects the court's evolving preference for refraining from pre-election review."[2]

Arkansas

Arkansas Elected Officials Ethics, Transparency and Financial Reform Amendment, Issue 3 (2014)

Rich et al. lawsuit
On August 1, 2014, Yvonne Rich, Frederick Scott and Kathleen Wikstrom filed a lawsuit against Issue 3 arguing the measure was misleading by telling voters it would set term limits when it would actually be extending already existing limits. Secretary of State Mark Martin's office stated its attorneys would review the case.[3] The lawsuit asked the court not to allow the secretary of state's office to count or certify any votes on the issue. It also alleged that mixing the term limits issue with the ethics measures of Issue 3 was "manifest fraud."[4]

Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative, Issue 4 (2014)

Opponents of the measure filed a lawsuit over the petition signature deadline controversy, hoping to have the measure thrown off the ballot. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Citizens for Local Rights on September 5, 2014. The plaintiffs claimed the state's petition deadline of July 7 was three days too late in order to be submitted at least four months before the election, as required by state law. Four months to the day before the November election was the Fourth of July, a national holiday. The plaintiffs also argued that the ballot title was insufficient.[5]

David Couch, an attorney who assisted Let Arkansas Decide in placing Issue 4 on the ballot, said, “In addition it has been the Secretary of State's standard practice since Amendment 7 went into effect in 1925 to roll the deadline for accepting petitions to the following business day. The Sponsor and the people of the state of Arkansas had a right to rely upon the Election Calendar and the nearly 100 year history of the Secretary of State's office in rolling the deadline until the next business day when the deadline was on a holiday.” However, opponents of the measure argued the deadline delay in light of holidays "is statutory law, not constitutional law."[6][5] The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the issue on October 9, 2014. The court ultimately ruled that the measure should appear on the ballot. Since the deadline occurred on a federal holiday, the Fourth of July, the court agreed that, based on election law, the deadline must be "the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday."[7][8][9]

Arkansas Minimum Wage Initiative, Issue 5 (2014)

Opponents of the measure filed a lawsuit over the petition signature deadline controversy, hoping to have the measure thrown off the ballot. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jackson Thomas Stevens Jr. of Pulaski County. The plaintiff claimed the state's petition deadline of July 7 was three days too late in order to be submitted at least four months before the election, as required by state law. Four months to the day before the November election was the Fourth of July, a national holiday.[10][11]

The Arkansas Supreme Court court ultimately ruled that the measure should appear on the ballot. Since the deadline occurred on a federal holiday, the Fourth of July, the court agreed that, based on election law, the deadline must be "the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday."[7][8][12][11]

California

California Proposition 48, Referendum on Indian Gaming Compacts (2014)

North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians lawsuit

In March 2013, the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians filed a lawsuit in the Madera County Superior Court challenging the veto referendum. The petitioners put forward two legal arguments against the measure: (1) AB 277 is final because federal law allows tribes to own and operate casinos, as long as state law does not prohibit casino gambling. However, a compact, like AB 277, must be signed by the Governor and approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Thus, they argued, a ratified compact cannot be challenged via veto referendum because the compact has been approved by the federal government pursuant to federal law; (2) A contract between a state and a tribe may not be subject to the initiative and referendum process.[13]

California Proposition 49, Amendment to Overturn Citizens United Ruling Question (2014)

HJTA lawsuit

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) filed a lawsuit against the referendum's placement on the ballot on July 23, 2014. A legislatively-referred advisory question is an illegitimate use of the ballot since the ballot is used for law making, according to the HJTA. Jon Coupal, president of the association, said, "Legislative power can be exercised in numerous ways but this is not one of those."[14] He also equated the referendum to a public opinion poll. Coupal cited American Federation of Labor v. Eu as the basis for the lawsuit, noting, "If the people can’t do it, certainly the Legislature can’t do it, either."[15]

Derek Cressman, director of Yes on 49, responded, saying, "They are worried they can’t win this debate on substance so they are trying to prevent this debate from happening. It frankly looks like censorship."[14]

Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) called for a judicial decision to be made before August 11, the day voter information guides go into print.[16]

On July 31, 2014, the California Third District Court of Appeal tossed out the lawsuit in a 2 to 1 vote without comment.[17]

Michele Sutter, chairperson of Yes on 49, issued a response to the ruling. She said, "We’re delighted that voters will have a chance to collectively speak out against big money in politics with their votes. How ironic it would have been for courts to tell us that billionaire campaign spending is free speech but that Californians can’t even speak back with our votes."[17]

On August 11, 2014, however, the California Supreme Court ordered Secretary of State Bowen to remove the proposition from the ballot pending court review. Bowen asked staff to remove the measure from voter information guides.[18]

California Referendum on AB 1266, Transgender Student Participation Based on Gender Identity (2014)

Gina Gleason vs. Debra Bowen

Debra Bowen, the California Secretary of State, said that about 5,000 signatures submitted in Mono County and Tulare County on Tuesday, November 12 were filed after the November 10 deadline. Those attempting to qualify the referendum for the ballot filed a lawsuit against that decision by Bowen. In early January 2014, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge, Allen Sumner, ruled against Bowen and said that the signatures must be accepted. The reason for this is that November 10 was a Sunday, and November 11 was Veteran's Day, a holiday, and the election offices in the two counties were closed. The judge wrote, "Ever since the voters enacted the referendum power in 1911, courts have liberally construed its provisions to protect the voters' power. The fact that the deadline for submitting petitions falls on a weekend preceding a holiday, or the county registrar closes a noon on Friday, should not prevent Petitioner from having her petition signatures accepted."[19]

California Pension Reform Initiative (2014)

Chuck Reed vs. Kamala Harris

Chuck Reed (D) announced that he will challenge the ballot summary, specifically the first line, as inaccurate and misleading in the Sacramento Superior Court.[20]

Reed argued, “Most people reading [the ballot summary] would believe that we're eliminating vested rights protections and benefits that workers have accrued, and the measure clearly doesn't do that. But using the word 'eliminate,' according to the union polling, apparently is a nice negative term to have in there. It shows a clear bias.” He also described using "nurses, teachers and peace workers" to describe public employees as "loaded and unfair." A statement from the Attorney General’s office disagreed, noting, “The Attorney General has issued an accurate title and summary, and we stand by it.”[21][22]

On March 13, 2014, Judge Allen H. Sumner ruled that Reed failed to provide sufficient evidence that Harris' ballot title and summary were false or misleading.[23] Judge Sumner's ruling can be summarized into the following statements:[24]

  • “Petitioners argue the word “eliminates” implies the initiative is deleting a provision of the Constitution. In fact, the summary states the initiative eliminates “constitutional protections,” not that it eliminates “Constitutional provisions.” There is nothing false or misleading here.” Petitioners also argue the word “eliminates” is likely to create prejudice because it “fosters a visceral negative response from voters.” Petitioners cite a public opinion poll. This poll is irrelevant. The Attorney General is charged with preparing a summary that is true and impartial; not a summary that polls well… Petitioners argue the fact voters have a negative response to the word “eliminates” proves the summary is not impartial. It does not. Voters may have negative responses to many words and phrases, for example “raises taxes” or “sex-offender.”
  • “Petitioners argue the phrase “constitutional protections” is similarly false and misleading. They maintain the California Rule is not constitutionally based, but rather a common law rule created by “language in certain appellate court decisions” suggesting state statutes governing public pensions create a contract between government agencies and their employees. Who are these unnamed appellate courts, with their imprecise language creating misleading suggestions? The California Supreme Court. Petitioners believe the California Rule is flawed and the California Supreme Court got it wrong. Petitioners are free to disagree with the California Supreme Court. They may ask the voters to change the law. The voters may agree. However, Supreme Court has the last word on what California law is. If the California Supreme Court says the California Rule’s protections are constitutionally based, they are. There is nothing false or misleading about the Attorney General’s summary of current California law.”
  • “Petitioners argue the word “vested” is false and misleading. Petitioners use the word to mean only benefits that have already been earned through past service -- not benefits yet to be earned through future service. Petitioners argue the Attorney General’s use of the term “vested” will mislead voters into believing the initiative would interfere with benefits already earned. The Attorney General’s summary does not. The summary twice informs voters the initiative deals with benefits “for future work.” This is accurate.”
  • “Petitioners challenge the Attorney General’s use of the phrase “including teachers, nurses, and peace officers” to describe who the initiative will effect. Petitioners object the description is not impartial because it singles out three very popular groups of public employees. The summary states the initiative applies to “current public employees.” It is certainly true that teachers, nurses and peace officers are public employees. Is it argumentative to cite these professions? The Attorney General responds teachers, nurses and peace officers make up close to half of all public employees. Her summary thus accurately and concisely identifies for the voters the employees affected.”


Colorado

Colorado Mandatory Labeling of GMOs Initiative, Proposition 105 (2014)

Biotech, pesticide and grocery corporations challenged the measure; however, the Colorado Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of Colorado Right to Know, allowing supporters to move forward in their attempts to land the initiative on the November 2014 ballot.[25]

Illinois

Illinois Term Limits for Legislators Amendment (2014)

Unconstitutionality Lawsuit

On April 29, 2014, a lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to prevent the term limits measure, as well as the Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment, from being placed on the ballot. The suit was filed by a group of business and nonprofit leaders. It alleged that placing term limits on legislators is unconstitutional. In 1994, the state supreme court struck down a term limits measure in a 4-3 decision. Supporters of the 2014 measures were anticipating legal challenges but felt confident that their respective measures would make the ballot. Mark Campbell of the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits said, "Illinois citizens across all spectrums are demanding change in Springfield and want a return to real public service by citizen legislators and an end to the era of career politicians in Springfield." According to the lawsuit, the formal complaint by the plaintiffs states the following:[26]

This taxpayer action seeks to restrain the expenditure of public funds to consider the propriety of two petitions proposing multiple amendments to the Legislative Article of the Illinois Constitution which should be enjoined because each of these proposed petitions fails to comply with the constitutional requirements of Section 3 of Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution for such amendments. One of the petitions (the "Term Limits Initiative") proposes amendments that are invalid for several reasons, most obvious that it imposes term limits on members of the Illinois General Assembly, which the Illinois Supreme Court already held to be an improper subject for amendments to Article IV.[27]

—Plaintiffs, [28]

On June 27, 2014, Judge Mary Mikva threw both the term limits amendment and the redistricting amendment off the ballot, saying they were unconstitutional. However, unlike supporters of the redistricting measure, those promoting the term limits amendment vowed to appeal Mikva's ruling, saying her decision was politically motivated. "These court decisions are really about whether the voters of Illinois live in the state of Illinois or the ‘People’s Republic of Illinois'. There is no legitimate legal reason to keep the term limits initiative off the ballot. At this level we think it’s strictly been done for political reasons. You can’t find a judge in Cook County that’s not connected to that political organization....We think she’s a fine judge, but we just don’t think that based in this environment that we were going to get anything other than the ruling that we got," said Campbell.[29]

On August 20, 2014, the Illinois First District Appellate Court upheld the lower court's ruling that the term limits amendment was unconstitutional. Rauner filed an immediate appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. He said, "The Illinois Supreme Court should not ignore the people of Illinois. We are hopeful that the Illinois Supreme Court will find in favor of the citizens of Illinois." Two decades ago, the supreme court ruled against legislative term limits. The appeals court cited this in its decision, with Judge Maureen Connors saying, "The (Supreme) Court characterized term limits as a matter of eligibility or qualifications of an individual legislator, which ‘do not involve the structure or the legislature as an institution.’"[30]

The Illinois Supreme Court rejected Rauner's request that it quickly consider the issue. The State Board of Elections went ahead and issued the official November ballot without the amendment.[31]

Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment (2014)

Unconstitutionality Lawsuit

On April 29, 2014, a lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to prevent the redistricting measure, as well as the Illinois Term Limits for Legislators Amendment, from being placed on the ballot. The suit, which many thought would go all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, was filed by a group of business and nonprofit leaders. Supporters of the measures were anticipating legal challenges and felt confident that their respective measures would make the 2014 ballot. Michael Kolenc, of "Yes for Independent Maps," said, "Our coalition is confident that the independent maps proposal meets the structural and procedural requirements to amend the Illinois Constitution. Legal experts across the state agree with our position." According to the lawsuit, the formal complaint by the plaintiffs stated the following:[26]

This taxpayer action seeks to restrain the expenditure of public funds to consider the propriety of two petitions proposing multiple amendments to the Legislative Article of the Illinois Constitution which should be enjoined because each of these proposed petitions fails to comply with the constitutional requirements of Section 3 of Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution for such amendments. [...] The other petition (the "Redistricting Initiative") is likewise invalid for several reasons, including that it contains not a single structural or procedural change to Article IV, and in fact reaches far beyond Article IV to impose new eligibility requirements on all legislative, executive and judicial branch officeholders.[27]

—Plaintiffs, [32]

Maine

Maine Bear Hunting Ban Initiative, Question 1 (2014):

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting filed a lawsuit against the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) over its role in ads in opposition of Question 1. The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in Portland and challenged the legality of the ads, claiming that IF&W misused public funds and taxpayer money to advocate for one side of the issue.[33]

A spokesperson for the Maine Attorney General's Office released a written statement saying:

We will defend the right of members of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and other public officials to speak out on issues of public interest within their regulatory authority and expertise, as permitted by recent case law.

[27]

In addition to the ads, the lawsuit highlighted private fundraisers attended by IF&W employees where Commissioner Chandler Woodcock urged the defeat of Question 1. The lawsuit also challenged IF&W's withholding of government records around its own campaign activities.[34]

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting filed an emergency injunction against IF&W on October 8, 2014, to prevent employees of IF&W from using taxpayer resources to oppose Question 1. The group said the request was necessary because the state bear biologists and game wardens had not ended their campaign against the measure and had not responded to a Freedom of Access request about their campaign activities. As of October 9, 2014, a hearing on the injunction had not been scheduled.[35]

In response to the emergency injunction, IF&W announced that it would expend no "additional funds or resources" to create new videos or visual media projects relating to the measure. The organization also admitted that while "biologists and game wardens shown in the advertisements may have appeared during work hours...no further expenditures on the part of (DIF&W) would be incurred."[36]

On October 22, 2014, Justice Joyce Wheeler refused to issue the requested emergency injunction, saying that Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting did not demonstrate that the opposition expressed by IF&W caused "irreparable injury" and that the views of the department's employees were protected under the First Amendment. While Justice Wheeler ruled in their favor, she ordered IF&W to disclose records concerning its political activities. No appeal was filed.[37][38]

Michigan

Michigan Use Tax and Community Stabilization Share, Proposal 1 (August 2014)

Fouts lawsuit

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts (I) filed a lawsuit against Proposal 1 on August 8, 2014, three days after the proposal was approved by voters. Fouts said he would use his own money to overturn the measure. He claimed the ballot language was "blatantly unlawful and fraudulent," "confusing," "one-sided" and "prejudiced."[39] According to Fouts, Proposal 1 proponents used a "sales pitch" to garner votes. He took issue with phrases like, "helping small business grow and create jobs,” “modernize the tax system,” “police safety, fire protection and ambulance emergency services” and “aid to local school districts.” He said the proposal itself used positive phrases, rather than negative phrases, such as, "tax cuts for large manufacturers."[40] He continued, "I am defending the taxpayers from being hoodwinked. I think the overall, larger issue here is to protect the honesty and integrity of the ballot process by not allowing misleading or confusing language."[39]

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokesperson for Citizens for Strong and Safe Communities, replied, "I would say the mayor has the prerogative to take any action he feels is appropriate, but the majority of his own constituents did vote in favor of Proposal 1 on Tuesday."[39]

Mayor Fouts, in return, argued voters did not understand Proposal 1. He said, "[Voters] thought they were voting for police and fire. They did not know they were voting for a new tier of government. They did not know they were voting for a new tax. They did not know they were voting to take money away from their local government."[39]

On December 11, 2014, Judge Deborah Servitto of the Michigan Second District Court of Appeals tossed out the lawsuit, arguing:

Plaintiff takes issue with the proposal’s references to business growth, job creation and support for public safety and for school districts. However, this Court concludes that these references do not create prejudice and are not defects that would (be) likely to mislead the voters such that the outcome of the election should be nullified.[27]

—Judge Deborah Servitto[41]


Michigan Natural Resources Commission Referendum (2014)

Humane Society v. Johnson et al.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected filed a federal lawsuit with Judge Robert Cleland of the Eastern Michigan District Court. The groups asked the court to strike down a state statute requiring petition circulators to be residents of Michigan. Sherri Ferrell, a resident of Florida, desired to help circulate a petition for the referendum, but could not. She alleged, as did the appealing organizations, that her legal inability to do so infringes upon her free speech. The lawsuit stated, "Michigan’s state residency requirement for petition circulators severely restricts the abilities of non-Michigan-residents – including volunteer members of HSLF and Sherri Ferrell – to engage in core political speech in Michigan and to associate with the organizations and Michigan residents who support the initiatives." The lawsuit named Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R), Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) and Colleen Pero, chairperson of the Board of State Canvassers, as defendants.[42]

The ACLU deemed circulator residency requirements to be unconstitutional. They noted that similar laws have been struck down by federal judges.[43] The Local Initiative and Referendum Initiative, which was circulated in Michigan, but did not make the ballot, would have eliminated residency requirements.

Judge Cleland dismissed the lawsuit on March 31, 2014, because the legislature passed a law, known as House Bill 5152, that permitted out-of-state circulators on March 27, 2014. Cleland said, "It appears to the court that, upon the Governor’s anticipated approval, the Plaintiffs’ case will become moot. In view of this impending change in the law, the parties have agreed to dismiss this matter."[44]

Missouri

Missouri Right to Bear Arms, Amendment 5 (August 2014)

The ballot language of Amendment 5 was challenged in court by opponents who argued the wording was insufficient and unfair. In the case, the opponents asked the judge to rewrite the ballot language. The defense, a gun-control activist and the St. Louis police chief represented by Chuck Hatfield, argued that for the judge to do so would be a violation of the separation of powers. They asked, instead, for the judge to send the measure back to the legislature for a rewrite of the summary, if it was found to be lacking.[45] On July 1, 2014, Missouri 19th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem dismissed the lawsuit by ruling the ballot summary of this measure and another regarding a temporary tax increase to fund transportation were sufficient and fair.[46]

Judge Beetem dismissed the case due to a state law that provided courts no authority to order issues to be placed on the ballot less than six weeks before an election. Legal representatives challenging Amendment 5 said that the law does not apply in this case because the measure was already on the ballot, and appealed the ruling. The case was scheduled to go before the Missouri Supreme Court on July 14.[47] On July 18, 2014, the Supreme Court dismissed the case citing the same state law which forbids courts from changing ballot language within six weeks of an election.[48]

Missouri Temporary Sales and Use Tax Increase for Transportation, Amendment 7 (August 2014)

On June 12, 2014, the Missouri Association for Social Welfare filed a lawsuit challenging the ballot language for Amendment 7. The group was represented by Gaylin Rich Carver, an attorney with Carver & Michael, LLC in Jefferson City. Gov. Nixon's wife, Georganne Wheeler Nixon, was listed on the Carver & Michael law firm's website as their PC of Counsel. The lawsuit contended that the cost estimate provided was insufficient. It also claimed that the summary failed to include that the measure would also raise the state use tax. It further posited that the ballot language should note the current sales tax rate of 4.225 percent.[49] Supporters of the measure claimed that the lawsuit was an effort to confuse voters. According to the Associated Press, using lawsuits to challenge ballot measure language has been common in Missouri over the last 10 years. While some have been successful in forcing ballot language changes, "many have not."[49]

On July 1, 2014, Missouri 19th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem dismissed the lawsuit by ruling the ballot summary of this measure and another regarding the right to bear arms sufficient and fair.[50]

Missouri Campaign Contributions Cap Amendment (2014)

Rex Sinquefield v. Jason Kander

Rex Sinquefield, a retired financier and frequent contributor to campaigns and candidates in Missouri, filed a lawsuit to block the Campaign Contributions Cap Amendment from appearing on the 2014 ballot.[51]

Sinquefield and lobbyist Travis Brown were both listed as plaintiffs. They claimed that "the initiative doesn’t adequately measure the financial impact of the amendment, unfairly restricts free speech and freedom of association and contains unfair language that could manipulate voters." Brown told the Missouri Times, "This ultimately is about freedom of expression and speech. An individual should have the right to express themselves by support or opposition to a candidate or committee." Sec. of State Jason Kander responded, saying he believed the language of the measure would be upheld in court. Courts have historically struck down attempts to limit campaign contributions, saying that the ability to donate money to campaigns and candidates is a form of free expression, which is protected by the first amendment.[51]

Montana

Montana Late Voter Registration Revision Measure, LR-126 (2014)

MEA-MFT, et al. v. Fox

On December 3, 2013, the MEA-MFT, AFL-CIO, Montana Public Employees Association, Montana Human Rights Network, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, Montana Women Vote and Western Native Voice filed a lawsuit with the Montana Supreme Court in an attempt to remove LR-126 from the ballot. The petitioners claimed LR-126’s title language to be false, as one line read, “ENSURING COMPLIANCE WITH THE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT [NVRA].” They noted, “Nothing in LR-126 is required in any way by the NVRA.” The “inaccurate language” was returned by the Attorney General to the Secretary of State without proper review, according to the petitioners. Therefore, the measure “is legally insufficient as a ballot measure.”[52] The ACLU, League of Women Voters, AARP and the Montana Conservation Voters all filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the petitioners.[53] The Attorney General, the respondent, stated, “Petitioners’ argument fails because LR-126 does contain language regarding the NVRA that is accurately summarized in the referendum’s title and addresses a concern raised by legislative staffers.”[54]

On February 5, 2014, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in a 5-1 decision that LR-126 would stay on the ballot. Justice Michael Wheat was the lone dissenter. He said, "It is undeniable that same-day voter registration has absolutely nothing to do with compliance with the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act). Thus, the statement in the title of LR-126 to the contrary is a fatal defect that cannot be cured." Chief Justice Mike McGrath, writing for the majority, said, "[W]e are reluctant to take the extraordinary step of nullifying its placement on the ballot. [Supreme Court precedents] counsel in favor of allowing the measure to proceed to a vote."[55] The court did, however, declare the contested sentence in the ballot statement to be incorrect and ordered it to be rewritten. The original statement said that the referendum's approval was necessary to ensure compliance with a federal law, the National Voter Registration Act. According to the court, LR-126's intent is not required by the NVRA.[56]

Montana Primary Election Revision Measure, LR-127 (2014)

MEA-MFT, et al. v. Fox

On November 27, 2013, the MEA-MFT, AFL-CIO, Montana Public Employees Association, Montana Human Rights Network and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers filed a lawsuit with the Montana Supreme Court in an attempt to remove LR-127 from the ballot. The petitioners claimed that LR-127’s title language was too long, as Montana statute limits the titles of referred statutes to 100 words. The measure’s title was 196 words long. Furthermore, they argued that LR-127 contained more than one subject as the measure would have both adopted an open primary system and a top two primary system. Therefore, the measure was “legally insufficient as a ballot measure.”[57] The Attorney General, the respondent, stated, “Since Petitioners have failed to allege untruth, partiality, argumentation, or prejudice in the ballot statement, and because they did not provide an alternate ballot statement pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. § 13-27-316(3)(b), the Court should reject their arguments regarding the statement of purpose and implication.”[58]

On March 24, 2014, the Montana Supreme Court ruled, in a 6 to 1 decision, to remove LR-127 from the ballot. They ruled that the title "does not comply with the plain meaning of the Legislature’s 100-word limit." Chief Justice Mike McGrath said, "The Legislature chose to place the 100-word limitation into the statute and must comply with its own law when referring a matter to the people for the vote. Furthermore, the title of LR-127 is not a mere technical violation of the statute, but is substantially in excess of the 100-word limit imposed by the Legislature." The Supreme Court also found the measure's title "complicated and confusing." Attorney General Tim Fox's spokesperson, John Barnes, stated, "Based on this new guidance from the Montana Supreme Court, the Legislature will need to revisit its rules governing the submission of referendums to voters."[59]

Montana Cable Company Property Tax Initiative (2014)

MEA-MFT v. Fox

The MEA-MFT, a union representing educators and government employees, filed a lawsuit with the Montana Supreme Court asking the court to invalidate the ballot summary for the Cable Company Property Tax Initiative. The MEA-MFT argues that Attorney General Tim Fox (R) should not have approved the initiative for petition circulation. The union deemed the ballot summary as "systematically untrue and argumentative." MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver said, "Bottom line, we will do what we can to prevent Charter from assaulting Montana’s tax code for its exclusive self-interest."

Big Sky Broadband Coalition for Lower Taxes, who supports the amendment, called the lawsuit a "standard political tactic."[60] Attorney General Fox responded, "Since petitioner (MEA-MFT) has failed to show untruth, partiality, argumentation or prejudice in the ballot statement, the court should reject their arguments, regarding the statement of purpose and implication."[61]

In a 5 to 0 decision, the Montana Supreme Court dismissed the case. The court stated, "We have made clear in several recent opinions that the attorney general’s legal sufficiency review does not authorize him to withhold a proposed ballot measure from the ballot for an alleged substantive constitutional infirmity. We conclude these principles clearly apply here. Therefore, we decline to disturb the attorney general’s legal sufficiency determination on the grounds that the initiative is unconstitutional."[62]

Nebraska

Nebraska Horse Race Wagering Amendment (2014)

Gambling with the Good Life lawsuit

Patricia Loontjer, Director of Gambling with the Good Life, filed a lawsuit against the measure in the Nebraska Supreme Court on July 28, 2014. Gambling with the Good Life argued that the ballot measure effectively asked two questions:[63]

  1. Should wagering or gambling on live, delayed or replayed horse races at licensed racetracks be legalized?
  2. Should revenue from taxes on gambling be spent on education, property tax relief, and for the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund?

As of 2014, the Nebraska Constitution contains a provision against asking constituents to answer two questions in just one vote.[64]

The Nebraska Supreme Court heard the case on August 27, 2014.[65] On September 5, 2014, the court ruled in favor of Gambling with the Good Life. The court agreed that the measure asked more than one question, and it was removed from the ballot.[66]

New York

New York Independent Redistricting Amendment, Proposal 1 (2014)

Common Cause lawsuit

On August 19, 2014, Common Cause New York initiated a lawsuit against the measure's wording. The group asked a judge to order the proposal's language be rewritten. Common Cause argued that the word "independent" did not accurately describe the proposed redistricting committee.[39]

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-New York, said, "This is a commission that is independent in name only... Too many people will walk into the polling place, they'll get their ballot and it will be the first they've heard about this. That's why the language needs to be neutral, so voters have a reasonable opportunity to make up their own minds."[39]

The case was heard by the New York Supreme Court on September 12, 2014.[67]

On September 17, 2014, Judge Patrick McGrath ruled that the word "independent" must be struck from the measure's text. He said, "[T]he commission cannot be described as 'independent' when eight of 10 members are the handpicked appointees of the legislative leaders and the two additional members are essentially political appointees by proxy."[68]

Neil Steiner, the lawyer for Common Cause New York, responded, "To exercise the right to vote – the very core of our democracy – voters must be given fair and accurate information. We're pleased that the court recognized that describing the proposed commission as "independent", when it so clearly is not, unfairly tilted the playing field, and stopped the Board of Elections from doing so."

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Gaming at Newport Grand, Question 1 (2014)

Arnold et al. v. Mollis Deborah Arnold, Elizabeth P. de Ramel and Charles Weishar, all residents of Newport, Rhode Island, filed a lawsuit against Question 1 in the Rhode Island Superior Court. They asked the court to remove the measure from the ballot.[39]

Arnold, de Ramel and Weishar called the question’s approval process an “unconstitutional procedure.” In 2012, Question 2, which authorized casino games at Newport Grand, was approved. Following, Newport constituents rejected the proposal in a separate vote. Question 1 of 2014 followed a different process. Rather than having one statewide measure and one local measure, the measure was simultaneously posed as a statewide and local question. The Newport Canvassing Authority was responsible for counting local results. The three residents argued that the process would confuse voters and “dilute their vote and unlawfully tilt the election in favor of approval."[39]

Furthermore, Section 22 of Article VI of the Rhode Island Constitution reads:

No act expanding the types of gambling which are permitted within the state or within any city or town therein or expanding the municipalities in which a particular form of gambling is authorized shall take effect until it has been approved by the majority of those electors voting in a statewide referendum and by the majority of those electors voting in a referendum in the municipality in which the proposed gambling would be allowed.[27]

The lawsuit largely revolved around how to interpret the constitution: does Section 22 of Article VI permit one measure to be both a statewide and local measure, or does it call for two separate ballot measures, one statewide and one local?[39]

The petitioners argued that having one versus two measures had a practical effect as well. Their document stated, "Clearly, there is a material number of Newport electors who voted only on the local referendum and passed on voting on the statewide question. The most obvious explanation is that there are Newport voters who simply do not vote on statewide ballots and restrict their attention to local candidates and issues."[39]

NOTE: Each lawsuit against proposed 2014 ballot measures includes a basis, or reason, as to why plaintiffs filed the lawsuit. For example, a reason for a filed lawsuit, or "topic," could include arguments that a measure's ballot text is insufficient.

Ballot text

Arkansas

Arkansas Elected Officials Ethics, Transparency and Financial Reform Amendment, Issue 3 (2014)

Rich et al. lawsuit

On August 1, 2014, Yvonne Rich, Frederick Scott and Kathleen Wikstrom filed a lawsuit against Issue 3 arguing the measure was misleading by telling voters it would set term limits when it would actually be extending already existing limits. Secretary of State Mark Martin's office stated its attorneys would review the case.[69] The lawsuit asked the court not to allow the secretary of state's office to count or certify any votes on the issue. It also alleged that mixing the term limits issue with the ethics measures of Issue 3 was "manifest fraud."[70]

California

California Pension Reform Initiative (2014)

Chuck Reed vs. Kamala Harris

Chuck Reed (D) announced that he will challenge the ballot summary, specifically the first line, as inaccurate and misleading in the Sacramento Superior Court.[71]

Reed argued, “Most people reading [the ballot summary] would believe that we're eliminating vested rights protections and benefits that workers have accrued, and the measure clearly doesn't do that. But using the word 'eliminate,' according to the union polling, apparently is a nice negative term to have in there. It shows a clear bias.” He also described using "nurses, teachers and peace workers" to describe public employees as "loaded and unfair." A statement from the Attorney General’s office disagreed, noting, “The Attorney General has issued an accurate title and summary, and we stand by it.”[72][73]

On March 13, 2014, Judge Allen H. Sumner ruled that Reed failed to provide sufficient evidence that Harris' ballot title and summary were false or misleading.[74] Judge Sumner's ruling can be summarized into the following statements:[75]

  • “Petitioners argue the word “eliminates” implies the initiative is deleting a provision of the Constitution. In fact, the summary states the initiative eliminates “constitutional protections,” not that it eliminates “Constitutional provisions.” There is nothing false or misleading here.” Petitioners also argue the word “eliminates” is likely to create prejudice because it “fosters a visceral negative response from voters.” Petitioners cite a public opinion poll. This poll is irrelevant. The Attorney General is charged with preparing a summary that is true and impartial; not a summary that polls well… Petitioners argue the fact voters have a negative response to the word “eliminates” proves the summary is not impartial. It does not. Voters may have negative responses to many words and phrases, for example “raises taxes” or “sex-offender.”
  • “Petitioners argue the phrase “constitutional protections” is similarly false and misleading. They maintain the California Rule is not constitutionally based, but rather a common law rule created by “language in certain appellate court decisions” suggesting state statutes governing public pensions create a contract between government agencies and their employees. Who are these unnamed appellate courts, with their imprecise language creating misleading suggestions? The California Supreme Court. Petitioners believe the California Rule is flawed and the California Supreme Court got it wrong. Petitioners are free to disagree with the California Supreme Court. They may ask the voters to change the law. The voters may agree. However, Supreme Court has the last word on what California law is. If the California Supreme Court says the California Rule’s protections are constitutionally based, they are. There is nothing false or misleading about the Attorney General’s summary of current California law.”
  • “Petitioners argue the word “vested” is false and misleading. Petitioners use the word to mean only benefits that have already been earned through past service -- not benefits yet to be earned through future service. Petitioners argue the Attorney General’s use of the term “vested” will mislead voters into believing the initiative would interfere with benefits already earned. The Attorney General’s summary does not. The summary twice informs voters the initiative deals with benefits “for future work.” This is accurate.”
  • “Petitioners challenge the Attorney General’s use of the phrase “including teachers, nurses, and peace officers” to describe who the initiative will effect. Petitioners object the description is not impartial because it singles out three very popular groups of public employees. The summary states the initiative applies to “current public employees.” It is certainly true that teachers, nurses and peace officers are public employees. Is it argumentative to cite these professions? The Attorney General responds teachers, nurses and peace officers make up close to half of all public employees. Her summary thus accurately and concisely identifies for the voters the employees affected.”


Colorado

Colorado Mandatory Labeling of GMOs Initiative, Proposition 105 (2014)

Biotech, pesticide and grocery corporations challenged the measure; however, the Colorado Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of Colorado Right to Know, allowing supporters to move forward in their attempts to land the initiative on the November 2014 ballot.[25]


Michigan

Michigan Use Tax and Community Stabilization Share, Proposal 1 (August 2014)

Fouts lawsuit

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts (I) filed a lawsuit against Proposal 1 on August 8, 2014, three days after the proposal was approved by voters. Fouts said he would use his own money to overturn the measure. He claimed the ballot language was "blatantly unlawful and fraudulent," "confusing," "one-sided" and "prejudiced."[39] According to Fouts, Proposal 1 proponents used a "sales pitch" to garner votes. He took issue with phrases like, "helping small business grow and create jobs,” “modernize the tax system,” “police safety, fire protection and ambulance emergency services” and “aid to local school districts.” He said the proposal itself used positive phrases, rather than negative phrases, such as, "tax cuts for large manufacturers."[76] He continued, "I am defending the taxpayers from being hoodwinked. I think the overall, larger issue here is to protect the honesty and integrity of the ballot process by not allowing misleading or confusing language."[39]

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokesperson for Citizens for Strong and Safe Communities, replied, "I would say the mayor has the prerogative to take any action he feels is appropriate, but the majority of his own constituents did vote in favor of Proposal 1 on Tuesday."[39]

Mayor Fouts, in return, argued voters did not understand Proposal 1. He said, "[Voters] thought they were voting for police and fire. They did not know they were voting for a new tier of government. They did not know they were voting for a new tax. They did not know they were voting to take money away from their local government."[39]

On December 11, 2014, Judge Deborah Servitto of the Michigan Second District Court of Appeals tossed out the lawsuit, arguing:

Plaintiff takes issue with the proposal’s references to business growth, job creation and support for public safety and for school districts. However, this Court concludes that these references do not create prejudice and are not defects that would (be) likely to mislead the voters such that the outcome of the election should be nullified.[27]

—Judge Deborah Servitto[77]

Missouri

Missouri Right to Bear Arms, Amendment 5 (August 2014)

The ballot language of Amendment 5 was challenged in court by opponents who argued the wording was insufficient and unfair. In the case, the opponents asked the judge to rewrite the ballot language. The defense, a gun-control activist and the St. Louis police chief represented by Chuck Hatfield, argued that for the judge to do so would be a violation of the separation of powers. They asked, instead, for the judge to send the measure back to the legislature for a rewrite of the summary, if it was found to be lacking.[78] On July 1, 2014, Missouri 19th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem dismissed the lawsuit by ruling the ballot summary of this measure and another regarding a temporary tax increase to fund transportation were sufficient and fair.[79]

Judge Beetem dismissed the case due to a state law that provided courts no authority to order issues to be placed on the ballot less than six weeks before an election. Legal representatives challenging Amendment 5 said that the law does not apply in this case because the measure was already on the ballot, and appealed the ruling. The case was scheduled to go before the Missouri Supreme Court on July 14.[80] On July 18, 2014, the Supreme Court dismissed the case citing the same state law which forbids courts from changing ballot language within six weeks of an election.[81]

Missouri Temporary Sales and Use Tax Increase for Transportation, Amendment 7 (August 2014)

On June 12, 2014, the Missouri Association for Social Welfare filed a lawsuit challenging the ballot language for Amendment 7. The group was represented by Gaylin Rich Carver, an attorney with Carver & Michael, LLC in Jefferson City. Gov. Nixon's wife, Georganne Wheeler Nixon, was listed on the Carver & Michael law firm's website as their PC of Counsel. The lawsuit contended that the cost estimate provided was insufficient. It also claimed that the summary failed to include that the measure would also raise the state use tax. It further posited that the ballot language should note the current sales tax rate of 4.225 percent.[49] Supporters of the measure claimed that the lawsuit was an effort to confuse voters. According to the Associated Press, using lawsuits to challenge ballot measure language has been common in Missouri over the last 10 years. While some have been successful in forcing ballot language changes, "many have not."[49]

On July 1, 2014, Missouri 19th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem dismissed the lawsuit by ruling the ballot summary of this measure and another regarding the right to bear arms sufficient and fair.[82]

Montana

Montana Late Voter Registration Revision Measure, LR-126 (2014)

MEA-MFT, et al. v. Fox

On December 3, 2013, the MEA-MFT, AFL-CIO, Montana Public Employees Association, Montana Human Rights Network, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, Montana Women Vote and Western Native Voice filed a lawsuit with the Montana Supreme Court in an attempt to remove LR-126 from the ballot. The petitioners claimed LR-126’s title language to be false, as one line read, “ENSURING COMPLIANCE WITH THE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT [NVRA].” They noted, “Nothing in LR-126 is required in any way by the NVRA.” The “inaccurate language” was returned by the Attorney General to the Secretary of State without proper review, according to the petitioners. Therefore, the measure “is legally insufficient as a ballot measure.”[83] The ACLU, League of Women Voters, AARP and the Montana Conservation Voters all filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the petitioners.[84] The Attorney General, the respondent, stated, “Petitioners’ argument fails because LR-126 does contain language regarding the NVRA that is accurately summarized in the referendum’s title and addresses a concern raised by legislative staffers.”[85]

On February 5, 2014, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in a 5-1 decision that LR-126 would stay on the ballot. Justice Michael Wheat was the lone dissenter. He said, "It is undeniable that same-day voter registration has absolutely nothing to do with compliance with the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act). Thus, the statement in the title of LR-126 to the contrary is a fatal defect that cannot be cured." Chief Justice Mike McGrath, writing for the majority, said, "[W]e are reluctant to take the extraordinary step of nullifying its placement on the ballot. [Supreme Court precedents] counsel in favor of allowing the measure to proceed to a vote."[86] The court did, however, declare the contested sentence in the ballot statement to be incorrect and ordered it to be rewritten. The original statement said that the referendum's approval was necessary to ensure compliance with a federal law, the National Voter Registration Act. According to the court, LR-126's intent is not required by the NVRA.[87]

Montana Primary Election Revision Measure, LR-127 (2014)

MEA-MFT, et al. v. Fox

On November 27, 2013, the MEA-MFT, AFL-CIO, Montana Public Employees Association, Montana Human Rights Network and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers filed a lawsuit with the Montana Supreme Court in an attempt to remove LR-127 from the ballot. The petitioners claimed that LR-127’s title language was too long, as Montana statute limits the titles of referred statutes to 100 words. The measure’s title was 196 words long. Furthermore, they argued that LR-127 contained more than one subject as the measure would have both adopted an open primary system and a top two primary system. Therefore, the measure was “legally insufficient as a ballot measure.”[88] The Attorney General, the respondent, stated, “Since Petitioners have failed to allege untruth, partiality, argumentation, or prejudice in the ballot statement, and because they did not provide an alternate ballot statement pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. § 13-27-316(3)(b), the Court should reject their arguments regarding the statement of purpose and implication.”[89]

On March 24, 2014, the Montana Supreme Court ruled, in a 6 to 1 decision, to remove LR-127 from the ballot. They ruled that the title "does not comply with the plain meaning of the Legislature’s 100-word limit." Chief Justice Mike McGrath said, "The Legislature chose to place the 100-word limitation into the statute and must comply with its own law when referring a matter to the people for the vote. Furthermore, the title of LR-127 is not a mere technical violation of the statute, but is substantially in excess of the 100-word limit imposed by the Legislature." The Supreme Court also found the measure's title "complicated and confusing." Attorney General Tim Fox's spokesperson, John Barnes, stated, "Based on this new guidance from the Montana Supreme Court, the Legislature will need to revisit its rules governing the submission of referendums to voters."[59]

Montana Cable Company Property Tax Initiative (2014)

MEA-MFT v. Fox

The MEA-MFT, a union representing educators and government employees, filed a lawsuit with the Montana Supreme Court asking the court to invalidate the ballot summary for the Cable Company Property Tax Initiative. The MEA-MFT argues that Attorney General Tim Fox (R) should not have approved the initiative for petition circulation. The union deemed the ballot summary as "systematically untrue and argumentative." MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver said, "Bottom line, we will do what we can to prevent Charter from assaulting Montana’s tax code for its exclusive self-interest."

Big Sky Broadband Coalition for Lower Taxes, who supports the amendment, called the lawsuit a "standard political tactic."[90] Attorney General Fox responded, "Since petitioner (MEA-MFT) has failed to show untruth, partiality, argumentation or prejudice in the ballot statement, the court should reject their arguments, regarding the statement of purpose and implication."[91]

In a 5 to 0 decision, the Montana Supreme Court dismissed the case. The court stated, "We have made clear in several recent opinions that the attorney general’s legal sufficiency review does not authorize him to withhold a proposed ballot measure from the ballot for an alleged substantive constitutional infirmity. We conclude these principles clearly apply here. Therefore, we decline to disturb the attorney general’s legal sufficiency determination on the grounds that the initiative is unconstitutional."[92]

New York

New York Independent Redistricting Amendment, Proposal 1 (2014)

Common Cause lawsuit

On August 19, 2014, Common Cause New York initiated a lawsuit against the measure's wording. The group asked a judge to order the proposal's language be rewritten. Common Cause argued that the word "independent" did not accurately describe the proposed redistricting committee.[39]

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-New York, said, "This is a commission that is independent in name only... Too many people will walk into the polling place, they'll get their ballot and it will be the first they've heard about this. That's why the language needs to be neutral, so voters have a reasonable opportunity to make up their own minds."[39]

The case was heard by the New York Supreme Court on September 12, 2014.[93]

On September 17, 2014, Judge Patrick McGrath ruled that the word "independent" must be struck from the measure's text. He said, "[T]he commission cannot be described as 'independent' when eight of 10 members are the handpicked appointees of the legislative leaders and the two additional members are essentially political appointees by proxy."[68]

Neil Steiner, the lawyer for Common Cause New York, responded, "To exercise the right to vote – the very core of our democracy – voters must be given fair and accurate information. We're pleased that the court recognized that describing the proposed commission as "independent", when it so clearly is not, unfairly tilted the playing field, and stopped the Board of Elections from doing so."

Campaign contributions

Constitutionality

Alaska

Alaska Bristol Bay Mining Ban, Ballot Measure 4 (2014)

Hughes vs. Treadwell et al.

In January 2013, Richard Hughes, a mining engineer, filed a lawsuit against the initiative's certification by Lt. Gov Mead Treadwell (R) in the Alaska Fourth Judicial District. The Alaska Miners Association and the Council of Alaska Producers joined as plaintiffs. Hughes and plaintiffs argued that the initiative would, according to the court's summary, "(1) enact local or special legislation in violation of article XI, section 7 of the Alaska Constitution; (2) violate separation of powers under article XII, section 11 of the Alaska Constitution; and (3) appropriate state assets in violation of article XI, section 7 of the Alaska Constitution." Judge Paul Lyle ruled against all three points made by Hughes. However, Hughes appealed the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.[1]

The Supreme Court issued their order on June 23, 2014. The court affirmed the superior court ruling made by Judge Paul Lyle.[1]

Matt Singer, a lawyer for Hughes, said they were disappointed. He noted, "[T]he decision reflects the court's evolving preference for refraining from pre-election review."[94]

California

California Proposition 48, Referendum on Indian Gaming Compacts (2014)

North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians lawsuit

In March 2013, the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians filed a lawsuit in the Madera County Superior Court challenging the veto referendum. The petitioners put forward two legal arguments against the measure: (1) AB 277 is final because federal law allows tribes to own and operate casinos, as long as state law does not prohibit casino gambling. However, a compact, like AB 277, must be signed by the Governor and approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Thus, they argued, a ratified compact cannot be challenged via veto referendum because the compact has been approved by the federal government pursuant to federal law; (2) A contract between a state and a tribe may not be subject to the initiative and referendum process.[95]

California Proposition 49, Amendment to Overturn Citizens United Ruling Question (2014)

HJTA lawsuit

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) filed a lawsuit against the referendum's placement on the ballot on July 23, 2014. A legislatively-referred advisory question is an illegitimate use of the ballot since the ballot is used for law making, according to the HJTA. Jon Coupal, president of the association, said, "Legislative power can be exercised in numerous ways but this is not one of those."[14] He also equated the referendum to a public opinion poll. Coupal cited American Federation of Labor v. Eu as the basis for the lawsuit, noting, "If the people can’t do it, certainly the Legislature can’t do it, either."[96]

Derek Cressman, director of Yes on 49, responded, saying, "They are worried they can’t win this debate on substance so they are trying to prevent this debate from happening. It frankly looks like censorship."[14]

Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) called for a judicial decision to be made before August 11, the day voter information guides go into print.[97]

On July 31, 2014, the California Third District Court of Appeal tossed out the lawsuit in a 2 to 1 vote without comment.[17]

Michele Sutter, chairperson of Yes on 49, issued a response to the ruling. She said, "We’re delighted that voters will have a chance to collectively speak out against big money in politics with their votes. How ironic it would have been for courts to tell us that billionaire campaign spending is free speech but that Californians can’t even speak back with our votes."[17]

On August 11, 2014, however, the California Supreme Court ordered Secretary of State Bowen to remove the proposition from the ballot pending court review. Bowen asked staff to remove the measure from voter information guides.[98]

Illinois

Illinois Term Limits for Legislators Amendment (2014)

Unconstitutionality Lawsuit

On April 29, 2014, a lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to prevent the term limits measure, as well as the Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment, from being placed on the ballot. The suit was filed by a group of business and nonprofit leaders. It alleged that placing term limits on legislators is unconstitutional. In 1994, the state supreme court struck down a term limits measure in a 4-3 decision. Supporters of the 2014 measures were anticipating legal challenges but felt confident that their respective measures would make the ballot. Mark Campbell of the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits said, "Illinois citizens across all spectrums are demanding change in Springfield and want a return to real public service by citizen legislators and an end to the era of career politicians in Springfield." According to the lawsuit, the formal complaint by the plaintiffs states the following:[26]

This taxpayer action seeks to restrain the expenditure of public funds to consider the propriety of two petitions proposing multiple amendments to the Legislative Article of the Illinois Constitution which should be enjoined because each of these proposed petitions fails to comply with the constitutional requirements of Section 3 of Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution for such amendments. One of the petitions (the "Term Limits Initiative") proposes amendments that are invalid for several reasons, most obvious that it imposes term limits on members of the Illinois General Assembly, which the Illinois Supreme Court already held to be an improper subject for amendments to Article IV.[27]

—Plaintiffs, [99]

On June 27, 2014, Judge Mary Mikva threw both the term limits amendment and the redistricting amendment off the ballot, saying they were unconstitutional. However, unlike supporters of the redistricting measure, those promoting the term limits amendment vowed to appeal Mikva's ruling, saying her decision was politically motivated. "These court decisions are really about whether the voters of Illinois live in the state of Illinois or the ‘People’s Republic of Illinois'. There is no legitimate legal reason to keep the term limits initiative off the ballot. At this level we think it’s strictly been done for political reasons. You can’t find a judge in Cook County that’s not connected to that political organization....We think she’s a fine judge, but we just don’t think that based in this environment that we were going to get anything other than the ruling that we got," said Campbell.[29]

On August 20, 2014, the Illinois First District Appellate Court upheld the lower court's ruling that the term limits amendment was unconstitutional. Rauner filed an immediate appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. He said, "The Illinois Supreme Court should not ignore the people of Illinois. We are hopeful that the Illinois Supreme Court will find in favor of the citizens of Illinois." Two decades ago, the supreme court ruled against legislative term limits. The appeals court cited this in its decision, with Judge Maureen Connors saying, "The (Supreme) Court characterized term limits as a matter of eligibility or qualifications of an individual legislator, which ‘do not involve the structure or the legislature as an institution.’"[100]

The Illinois Supreme Court rejected Rauner's request that it quickly consider the issue. The State Board of Elections went ahead and issued the official November ballot without the amendment.[31]

Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment (2014)

Unconstitutionality Lawsuit

On April 29, 2014, a lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to prevent the redistricting measure, as well as the Illinois Term Limits for Legislators Amendment, from being placed on the ballot. The suit, which many thought would go all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, was filed by a group of business and nonprofit leaders. Supporters of the measures were anticipating legal challenges and felt confident that their respective measures would make the 2014 ballot. Michael Kolenc, of "Yes for Independent Maps," said, "Our coalition is confident that the independent maps proposal meets the structural and procedural requirements to amend the Illinois Constitution. Legal experts across the state agree with our position." According to the lawsuit, the formal complaint by the plaintiffs stated the following:[26]

This taxpayer action seeks to restrain the expenditure of public funds to consider the propriety of two petitions proposing multiple amendments to the Legislative Article of the Illinois Constitution which should be enjoined because each of these proposed petitions fails to comply with the constitutional requirements of Section 3 of Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution for such amendments. [...] The other petition (the "Redistricting Initiative") is likewise invalid for several reasons, including that it contains not a single structural or procedural change to Article IV, and in fact reaches far beyond Article IV to impose new eligibility requirements on all legislative, executive and judicial branch officeholders.[27]

—Plaintiffs, [101]

Nebraska

Nebraska Horse Race Wagering Amendment (2014)

Gambling with the Good Life lawsuit

Patricia Loontjer, Director of Gambling with the Good Life, filed a lawsuit against the measure in the Nebraska Supreme Court on July 28, 2014. Gambling with the Good Life argued that the ballot measure effectively asked two questions:[102]

  1. Should wagering or gambling on live, delayed or replayed horse races at licensed racetracks be legalized?
  2. Should revenue from taxes on gambling be spent on education, property tax relief, and for the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund?

As of 2014, the Nebraska Constitution contains a provision against asking constituents to answer two questions in just one vote.[103]

The Nebraska Supreme Court heard the case on August 27, 2014.[104] On September 5, 2014, the court ruled in favor of Gambling with the Good Life. The court agreed that the measure asked more than one question, and it was removed from the ballot.[105]

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Gaming at Newport Grand, Question 1 (2014)

Arnold et al. v. Mollis

Deborah Arnold, Elizabeth P. de Ramel and Charles Weishar, all residents of Newport, Rhode Island, filed a lawsuit against Question 1 in the Rhode Island Superior Court. They asked the court to remove the measure from the ballot.[39]

Arnold, de Ramel and Weishar called the question’s approval process an “unconstitutional procedure.” In 2012, Question 2, which authorized casino games at Newport Grand, was approved. Following, Newport constituents rejected the proposal in a separate vote. Question 1 of 2014 followed a different process. Rather than having one statewide measure and one local measure, the measure was simultaneously posed as a statewide and local question. The Newport Canvassing Authority was responsible for counting local results. The three residents argued that the process would confuse voters and “dilute their vote and unlawfully tilt the election in favor of approval."[39]

Furthermore, Section 22 of Article VI of the Rhode Island Constitution reads:

No act expanding the types of gambling which are permitted within the state or within any city or town therein or expanding the municipalities in which a particular form of gambling is authorized shall take effect until it has been approved by the majority of those electors voting in a statewide referendum and by the majority of those electors voting in a referendum in the municipality in which the proposed gambling would be allowed.[27]

The lawsuit largely revolved around how to interpret the constitution: does Section 22 of Article VI permit one measure to be both a statewide and local measure, or does it call for two separate ballot measures, one statewide and one local?[39]

The petitioners argued that having one versus two measures had a practical effect as well. Their document stated, "Clearly, there is a material number of Newport electors who voted only on the local referendum and passed on voting on the statewide question. The most obvious explanation is that there are Newport voters who simply do not vote on statewide ballots and restrict their attention to local candidates and issues."[39]

Circulators

Michigan

Michigan Natural Resources Commission Referendum (2014)

Humane Society v. Johnson et al.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected filed a federal lawsuit with Judge Robert Cleland of the Eastern Michigan District Court. The groups asked the court to strike down a state statute requiring petition circulators to be residents of Michigan. Sherri Ferrell, a resident of Florida, desired to help circulate a petition for the referendum, but could not. She alleged, as did the appealing organizations, that her legal inability to do so infringes upon her free speech. The lawsuit stated, "Michigan’s state residency requirement for petition circulators severely restricts the abilities of non-Michigan-residents – including volunteer members of HSLF and Sherri Ferrell – to engage in core political speech in Michigan and to associate with the organizations and Michigan residents who support the initiatives." The lawsuit named Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R), Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) and Colleen Pero, chairperson of the Board of State Canvassers, as defendants.[106]

The ACLU deemed circulator residency requirements to be unconstitutional. They noted that similar laws have been struck down by federal judges.[107] The Local Initiative and Referendum Initiative, which was circulated in Michigan, but did not make the ballot, would have eliminated residency requirements.

Judge Cleland dismissed the lawsuit on March 31, 2014, because the legislature passed a law, known as House Bill 5152, that permitted out-of-state circulators on March 27, 2014. Cleland said, "It appears to the court that, upon the Governor’s anticipated approval, the Plaintiffs’ case will become moot. In view of this impending change in the law, the parties have agreed to dismiss this matter."[108]

Deadlines

Arkansas

Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative, Issue 4 (2014)

Deadline lawsuit

Opponents of the measure filed a lawsuit over the petition signature deadline controversy, hoping to have the measure thrown off the ballot. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Citizens for Local Rights on September 5, 2014. The plaintiffs claimed the state's petition deadline of July 7 was three days too late in order to be submitted at least four months before the election, as required by state law. Four months to the day before the November election was the Fourth of July, a national holiday. The plaintiffs also argued that the ballot title was insufficient.[5]

David Couch, an attorney who assisted Let Arkansas Decide in placing Issue 4 on the ballot, said, “In addition it has been the Secretary of State's standard practice since Amendment 7 went into effect in 1925 to roll the deadline for accepting petitions to the following business day. The Sponsor and the people of the state of Arkansas had a right to rely upon the Election Calendar and the nearly 100 year history of the Secretary of State's office in rolling the deadline until the next business day when the deadline was on a holiday.” However, opponents of the measure argued the deadline delay in light of holidays "is statutory law, not constitutional law."[6][5] The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the issue on October 9, 2014. The court ultimately ruled that the measure should appear on the ballot. Since the deadline occurred on a federal holiday, the Fourth of July, the court agreed that, based on election law, the deadline must be "the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday."[7][8][109]

Arkansas Minimum Wage Initiative, Issue 5 (2014)

Deadline lawsuit

Opponents of the measure filed a lawsuit over the petition signature deadline controversy, hoping to have the measure thrown off the ballot. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jackson Thomas Stevens Jr. of Pulaski County. The plaintiff claimed the state's petition deadline of July 7 was three days too late in order to be submitted at least four months before the election, as required by state law. Four months to the day before the November election was the Fourth of July, a national holiday.[110][11]

The Arkansas Supreme Court court ultimately ruled that the measure should appear on the ballot. Since the deadline occurred on a federal holiday, the Fourth of July, the court agreed that, based on election law, the deadline must be "the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday."[7][8][111][11]

California

California Referendum on AB 1266, Transgender Student Participation Based on Gender Identity (2014)

Gina Gleason vs. Debra Bowen

Debra Bowen, the California Secretary of State, said that about 5,000 signatures submitted in Mono County and Tulare County on Tuesday, November 12 were filed after the November 10 deadline. Those attempting to qualify the referendum for the ballot filed a lawsuit against that decision by Bowen. In early January 2014, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge, Allen Sumner, ruled against Bowen and said that the signatures must be accepted. The reason for this is that November 10 was a Sunday, and November 11 was Veteran's Day, a holiday, and the election offices in the two counties were closed. The judge wrote, "Ever since the voters enacted the referendum power in 1911, courts have liberally construed its provisions to protect the voters' power. The fact that the deadline for submitting petitions falls on a weekend preceding a holiday, or the county registrar closes a noon on Friday, should not prevent Petitioner from having her petition signatures accepted."[19]

Fiscal summary

Missouri

Missouri Campaign Contributions Cap Amendment (2014)

Rex Sinquefield v. Jason Kander

Rex Sinquefield, a retired financier and frequent contributor to campaigns and candidates in Missouri, filed a lawsuit to block the Campaign Contributions Cap Amendment from appearing on the 2014 ballot.[51]

Sinquefield and lobbyist Travis Brown were both listed as plaintiffs. They claimed that "the initiative doesn’t adequately measure the financial impact of the amendment, unfairly restricts free speech and freedom of association and contains unfair language that could manipulate voters." Brown told the Missouri Times, "This ultimately is about freedom of expression and speech. An individual should have the right to express themselves by support or opposition to a candidate or committee." Sec. of State Jason Kander responded, saying he believed the language of the measure would be upheld in court. Courts have historically struck down attempts to limit campaign contributions, saying that the ability to donate money to campaigns and candidates is a form of free expression, which is protected by the first amendment.[51]

Labor practices

Motivation of sponsors

Post-certification removal

Redistricting

Single-subject rule

Signature challenges

Voter guide

NOTE: The following tab shows a list of lawsuits, by state, that were filed in 2014 against past ballot measures.

Statewide

Colorado

Colorado Definition of Marriage, Initiative 43 (2006)

On June 25, 2014, a three member panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down bans on gay marriage in the states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. This was the first ruling made by a federal appeals court on this issue, which sets a historic precedent that voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment rights of same-sex couples to equal protection and due process.[112]

The court stated:[113]

We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union. For the reasons stated in this opinion, we affirm. [27]

A recording of the decision can be heard here

Following the ruling by the circuit court, Colorado judge C. Scott Crabtree struck down the marriage ban in Colorado, saying it violates both the state and federal constitutions.[114]

Implementation of the decision was immediately stayed pending anticipated appeals to either the full appeals panel or the United States Supreme Court. Despite the stay, the Boulder County Clerk began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples immediately, and stated that she planned to continue to do so. However, Attorney General John Suthers said that for the time being, the ban on gay marriage remained in effect and that any licenses issued during the stay would be invalid.[115][116]

On October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the case appealing the decision of the federal circuit court, thus allowing the ruling of the Tenth Circuit Court to stand and making same-sex marriage "presumptively legal" in Colorado.[117]

Florida

Florida Definition of Marriage, Amendment 2 (2008)

On July 17, 2014, Judge Luis Garcia of Florida's Sixteenth Circuit Court overturned Amendment 2 ruling that it effectively made same-sex couples second-class citizens. The ruling only applies to Monroe County, but Garcia said that marriage licenses could start being issued there on July 22, 2014.[118] However, due to an appeal filed just shortly after the ruling, a stay has been placed upon Garcia's ruling. This means that licenses will not be available to same-sex couples unless a higher court upholds his ruling.[119]

On July 25, 2014, Judge Sarah I. Zabel of the Florida Eleventh Circuit Court ruled similarly to overturn the ban in Miami-Dade County. Zabel immediately stayed the ruling until appeals are heard, and Attorney General of Florida Pam Bondi (R) filed an appeal on the same day.[120]

On August 5, 2014, a third judge, Judge Dale Cohen of the Broward County Circuit Court, ruled the ban was unconstitutional, as well. Similar to the prior two rulings, this ruling only applies to Broward County, and Cohen placed an immediate stay on his ruling.[121]

Also on August 5, 2014, a fourth judge, Judge Diana Lewis of the Palm Beach County Circuit Court, ruled against the ban in a probate case. This ruling applies only to this specific case which allowed a widower to be the personal representative of the deceased's estate.[122]

On August 21, 2014, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U.S. District Court of Northern Florida ruled the marriage ban unconstitutional, making him the first federal judge to rule on the issue in Florida. The judge claimed that the ban violated the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantees of equal protection and due process and also compared it to laws against interracial marriages. Judge Hinkle stayed his decision, meaning no same-sex marriage licenses could be given, and out of state same-sex marriages were not yet recognized. Attorney General of Florida Pam Bondi (R), who appealed the decisions by the previous four judges, challenged this order.[123][124]

The issue moved on to the Florida Third District Court of Appeal.[120]

Kansas

Kansas Marriage Amendment (2005)

On June 25, 2014, a three member panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down bans on gay marriage in the states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. This was the first ruling made by a federal appeals court on this issue, which sets a historic precedent that voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment rights of same-sex couples to equal protection and due process.[125]

The court states:[126]

We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union. For the reasons stated in this opinion, we affirm. [27]

A recording of the decision can be heard here

Implementation of the decision was immediately stayed pending anticipated appeals to either the full appeals panel or the United States Supreme Court.[127]

On October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the case appealing the decision of the federal circuit court, thus allowing the ruling of the Tenth Circuit Court to stand and making same-sex marriage "presumptively legal" in Kansas.[128]

On November 4, 2014, United States District Court Judge Daniel D. Crabtree ruled that the state of Kansas cannot prohibit same-sex marriage. Judge Crabtree delayed the ruling from taking effect for a week, allowing state officials to appeal the decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Attorney General Derek Schmidt sought initial en banc review of the case with the Tenth Circuit and asked for a stay of decision while the appeal goes forward.[129] On November 12, 2014, the stay was vacated.[130]

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Marriage Amendment, Question 1 (2006)

In February 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit challenging this constitutional amendment. The lead plaintiffs were Virginia Wolf and Carol Schumacher, who were married in Minnesota. The lawsuit alleged that the ban on same-sex marriage violated due process protections by limiting the right to marry and equal protection based on sexual orientation and gender discrimination.[131] The case was heard in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin by Judge Barbara Crabb.[132]

On June 6, 2014, Judge Crabb ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and overturned the ban put in place by Question 1.[133] In her opinion, Judge Crabb refuted the state's argument regarding the history of "traditional marriages," saying,

As an initial matter, defendants and amici have overstated their argument. Throughout history, the most 'traditional' form of marriage has not been between one man and one woman, but between one man and multiple women, which presumably is not a tradition that defendants and amici would like to continue.[27]

—Judge Barbara Crabb, [134]

Judge Crabb refused a state request made by Attorney General of Wisconsin J.B. Van Hollen to halt marriages from taking place until after an appeal is heard on June 10, 2014.[135]

On September 4, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals declared the marriage ban unconstitutional. The three-judge panel unanimously voted to uphold lower court decisions that reversed marriage restrictions. The decision was stayed, pending action by the United States Supreme Court, as state officials appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.[136]

On October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the case, thus allowing the ruling of the Seventh Circuit Court to stand and legalizing same-sex marriage in Wisconsin.[137]

Local

California

Measure B (condoms)

Kayden Kross, a co-plaintiff in the federal lawsuit to overturn Measure B

A federal lawsuit was filed with the United States District Court for the Central District of California on January 11, 2014 that seeks to have the federal court overturn Measure B, the Los Angeles Porn Actors Required to Wear Condoms Act. The lawsuit was filed by porn production company Vivid Entertainment. Porn stars Kayden Kross and Logan Pierce joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs.[39]

Paul Cambria is the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. He said, "You don’t have to win an Oscar to be protected by the First Amendment."

The lawsuit says that Measure B should be overturned for several reasons. Those reasons include:

  • It violates the First Amendment by imposing an unconstitutional prior restraint on freedom of expression.
  • It attempts to regulate an area (public health) which should exclusively be regulated by state law.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which sponsored Measure B, expressed confidence that the lawsuit would fail. Tom Myers, an attorney for the group, said, "Despite what the adult industry’s lawyers are claiming in this lawsuit, Measure B is not directed at speech and as such their First Amendment claims will likely ring hollow with the court."[39]

Measure L (parcel tax)

A lawsuit was filed against Measure L, the San Leandro Unified School District parcel tax enacted in November 2012 in January 2014 on grounds similar to those in Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District.[138]

Lawsuits were also filed in January 2014 against:

All the lawsuits were filed by David Brillant, the Walnut Creek attorney who successfully argued Borikas.[139]

NOTE: This tab includes lawsuits filed against proposed notable 2014 local ballot measures. To inform Ballotpedia of an important local lawsuit near you, contact ballotmeasures@ballotpedia.org.

Denton, Texas, Fracking Ban Initiative

Less than 12 hours after the initiative was certain to pass on November 4, two lawsuits were filed against this measure. One was filed by the Texas Land Office and a separate suit was filed by the Texas Oil and Gas Association. These are just the first of many lawsuits expected against the contentious fracking ban, with threats of more litigation coming from multiple state lawmakers.[140]

The court cases will boil down to questions of local autonomy and property rights. While state law gives authority and jurisdiction over oil and gas wells to the Railroad Commission, it gives local governments such as Denton the power to impose reasonable health and safety regulations. So the imminent court battles will revolve around where fracking lies with regard to these two powers and whether the initiative eliminates all options for profit from oil and gas drilling, thus violating property rights.[140]

Land Office lawsuit

The Texas General Land Office filed a suit in Travis County court claiming the initiative is unconstitutional, and the confident Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said, “This ban on hydraulic fracturing is not constitutional and it won’t stand.”[140]

Oil and Gas Association lawsuit

Lawyers from the Texas Oil and Gas Association filed a lawsuit in Denton County court claiming that the initiative could shut down all oil and gas operations because of the condition of shale economics, and they argue that this amounts to an unconstitutional violation of property rights for mineral owners.[140]

Tom Phillips, a lawyer with the firm Baker Botts, which is representing the petroleum group, said, “While home-rule cities like Denton may certainly regulate some aspects of exploration and drilling, TXOGA does not believe that they may enact ordinances that outlaw conduct, like hydraulic fracturing, that has been approved and regulated by state agencies."[140]

Responses

Frack Free Denton responded by pointing to the 59 percent voter approval, saying, “They have apparently learned nothing from last night’s landslide vote. Industry could have taken this moment to address why the ban was passed. Instead they’re going to try to squash it.”[140]

Although Texas courts historically tend to side with energy interests, Terrence Welch, a lawyer who has helped write drilling ordinances in several Texas cities, said the outcome of these lawsuits is still very much up in the air. According to Welch, “To say that this is a slam dunk [for oil and gas interests] ... I think that’s painting with an overly broad brush. The property — the mineral estate isn’t left valueless. You can drill, but you just can’t frack.”[140]

Maui County, Hawaii, Genetically Modified Organism Ban

Immediately after the initiative was approved, Monsanto and Dow Chemical, two of the most active opponents of the initiative, filed a lawsuit against it in federal court. The suit claims that the initiative conflicts with state and federal law. This lawsuit was expected, especially as the pro-GMO side was encouraged by a recent court case over a GMO and agricultural regulation law in Kauai County was ruled in favor of agro-chemical companies. That case claimed that Kauai County had no authority to regulate agriculture and GMOs since state and federal law already did so. A similar argument will be made against this Maui County initiative. John Purcell, Monsanto Hawaii's business and technology lead, said, "This local referendum interferes with and conflicts with long-established state and federal laws that support both the safety and lawful cultivation of GMO plants." The Shaka Movement, the group behind the initiative, successfully petitioned the courts to allow it to join the county as a co-defendant against the suit from Monsanto and Dow Chemical.[141][142]

Another suit was filed by initiative proponents against the county in the Maui District of state court in an effort to force the county to enforce the initiative. Proponents have requested federal court to put off ruling until the state court court case has been decided.[141]

Ventura County, California, Pension Reform Initiative

Lawsuit filed

Status: Ruled in favor of plaintiffs, calling for the removal of the initiative from the ballot. Defending proponents decided against appealing the decision.

Immediately after the county supervisors voted to put the initiative on the ballot, the Citizens for Retirement Security filed a lawsuit against the county, making a judge the ultimate arbiter of the legality of the initiative before voters even saw the measure on the ballot.[143]

Deborah Caplan, a lawyer representing initiative opponents, said, “The most significant defect in the initiative is that once the county has opted into the state’s county retirement program, as Ventura County has, it’s subject to continued regulation by the state. Changes require state authorization." Caplan, in this statement, refers to an act from 1937 called the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937, which dictates the county retirement system and the laws that accompany it. This law was accepted by Ventura County voters in 1946.[144]

County Counsel Leroy Smith wrote a 21-page memo announcing that he agreed with opponents of the initiative and did not believe it would pass legal muster. Smith said that because the county had joined the state system, only state legislation could alter the county's pension plan. In the memo, Leroy Smith wrote, “Because the measure proposes only a local ordinance, which cannot by law disestablish the 1937 act plan in the county, the measure is illegal and of no effect. Once accepted, the 1937 act provides no procedure by which a county can disestablish the retirement system or unaccept the retirement law by any subsequent local action, either by the voters or by the board of supervisors." This left the county forced to defend an initiative in court even though the county's attorney did not believe the initiative was legal.[144][145]

The Committee for Pension Fairness, however, was confident in its initiative and was eager to defend it. Jonathan Wilcox, a spokesman for the committee, said, "Their legal challenge is not going to be awarded. They’ve given up trying to persuade people; now they’re going to try to persuade a judge. I think it’s pitiful.” David Grau, chairman of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association, said, "We got a legal opinion first. That was the basic question: Can the voters change the system.” Attorneys for the committee argued that because County Ordinance Number 401, which accepted the 1937 law, was approved by a vote of the people, it can be altered or repealed by a vote of the people as well. Kenneth Lounsbery and James Lough, attorneys representing the committee, wrote, “This measure amends Ventura County Ordinance Number 401 which established the pension program in 1946 by a vote of the people. The power of the people to adopt a measure carries with it the power to repeal by the same means.”[145][144]

Wilcox stated that the committee was dedicated to proving the legality of its initiative in court and putting it before voters. Wilcox said, “They can throw their lawyers at us, and it’s not going to stop it. This is going to go on the ballot. And it’s going to go to the people.”[144]

Ultimately, however, the case was ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and the measure was removed from the ballot.[146]

1937 Act

The suit filed by the Citizens for Retirement Security claimed the county-and therefore the county voters-have no power to alter its own pension plan. To understand the full implications of the argument and the importance of this lawsuit, some background on county pensions in California must be understood. According to state law, California counties have three options when it comes to pension plans for public employees:[147]

1.) The county may provide its own, independent pension fund and system; two counties use this option.[148]

2.) The county may contract directly with CalPERS; 37 counties use this option.

3.) The county may accept and enter into a pension plan created and regulated by the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937; 20 counties accepted the 1937 act.

Ventura County voters ratified the 1937 Act in 1947, making it one of the counties that chose the third option. According to plaintiffs in the Ventura County court case, the act had no provision allowing for a county to withdraw, which means that, once a county accepts the state law and the accompanying system, it cannot alter that system without authorization from state legislators. On the other side, attorneys defending the pension-altering initiative argued that because ratification of the act was accomplished by a county vote, county voters have the authority to repeal the decision.[147]

Lawsuit effects

Because the arguments presented by both sides of this battle between state control and local control affect any county that has joined the state system, its outcome could affect the lives of millions of Californians. Below is a list of the 20 counties that accepted the 1937 Act and will be affected by the ruling:[147]

  • Alameda
  • Contra Costa
  • Fresno
  • Imperial
  • Kern
  • Los Angeles
  • Marin
  • Mendocino
  • Merced
  • Orange
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • San Joaquin
  • San Mateo
  • Santa Barbara
  • Sonoma
  • Stanislaus
  • Tulare
  • Ventura

These counties range in population from 87,000 to 10,000,000 residents, and, together, they contain roughly 75 percent of California's total inhabitants.[149]

City of Loveland Two Year Fracking Suspension Initiative, Question 1 (June 2014)

One case against the initiative was rendered irrelevant by the defeat of Question 1. The case brought against the city by proponents for keeping the initiative off the ballot was ruled in favor of plaintiffs, forcing the June election.

The group Protect Our Loveland tried to get the initiative on the November 5, 2013 ballot. The activists collected valid signatures in numbers exceeding the 2,253 required threshold to put their initiative on the ballot. When a lawsuit against the initiative petition was filed, however, the city council voted to postpone the ballot question until the resolution of the lawsuit. On December 17, 2013, during the last council meeting of the year, Councilor Phil Farley made a motion to bring the ballot question back to the table and possibly give it an election date. Judy Freeman, of Protect Our Loveland, had this to say to the city councilors about the fracking ban initiative and the ongoing lawsuit: "Only you have the authority to put the moratorium on a special election. You would save us and the taxpayers a lot of money by doing that tonight." But Farley's motion died without being seconded, leaving the issue to be settled the following year.[150]

The city council of Loveland originally decided not to put the measure on the ballot because Larry Sarner, a candidate for Colorado's 2nd Congressional District of the U.S. House, challenged the validity of the initiative petition in court, claiming an inaccurate count of registered voters. The city council could have put the measure on the ballot, subsequently invalidating it or removing it if the court ruled against the petitioners and in favor of Larry Sarner. Instead the council decided to keep the measure off the ballot until the court case was decided, leaving the possibility of a special election in the future. Ultimately the court ruled against Sarner and in favor of the clerk's certification of the initiative. Sarner announced plans to file an appeal to the court decision, which he ultimately dropped in a settlement with the city council.[150]

Protect Our Loveland sued the city for keeping the initiative off the ballot, claiming that the law states that once a petition is approved by the city clerk, as the "Loveland Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act" was, the city council had two options: adopt the proposed ordinance outright or hold an election "not less than 60 days and not more than 150 days after the final determination of petition sufficiency." Protect Our Loveland claimed that, no matter what the outcome of the Larry Sarner court case, it was illegal for the city not to hold an election. Even though Sarner filed an appeal in his case, and the end of the legal proceedings over the initiative had no clear end in sight, a court order on March 27, 2014, sided with initiative proponents, forcing the city council to move forward with deciding on an election date.[151][152]

Some city council members were afraid that, despite striving to avoid litigation at every step, they would face an expensive lawsuit over the measure. Many city council members described the city as being "between a rock and a hard place." Council member Krenning said, "We're not in a rock and a hard place, we're in the ozone. It doesn't matter what we do, we're going to get sued."[152]


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See also