Ballot measure lawsuit news, January-April 2009

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For current lawsuit news, see Ballot measure lawsuit news.

Note: This page includes short news headlines as they happen. If you scroll through the page and read earlier headlines, information pertaining to the events in those sections may have changed significantly since the section was posted.

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Fewer signatures in Phoenix?

The Arizona Court of Appeals handed a victory to Randy Jones on March 26, 2009 in the case of Randy Jones v. Paniagua, agreeing with Jones that far fewer signatures are needed on veto referenda challenging decisions of the Phoenix City Council than the Phoenix City Council was wont to require on such petitions.[1]

Petitioner access lawsuit

Supporters of the Don Plusquellic recall, Akron, Ohio, 2009 have filed a lawsuit, Change Akron Now v. Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

The suit alleges that a petitioner who was seeking signatures on her recall petition on public property (a housing development, the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority) was asked to leave, thus violating her First Amendment rights.[2]

Legislative tampering in Nevada?

Anti-smoking activist Kendall Stagg has filed a request with the Nevada Supreme Court, asking it to intervene to prevent what he regards as legislative tampering on the part of the Nevada State Senate, which is considering modifying the provisions of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which was approved with over 54% of the vote in 2006 as a ballot initiative.[3]

Stem cell, abortion on Missouri docket

Missouri No Public Funds for Stem Cell Research Initiative (2010)
  • Supporters of abortion rights (who are opposed to this initiative) filed a lawsuit claiming that the ballot title written by Robin Carnahan's office does not fully explain that the initiative, if approved, could bar abortions at public hospitals and possibly also put the state in conflict with Medicaid requirements.[4]
  • Missouri Roundtable for Life, supporters of the initiative, say that Carnahan's title is biased and misleading in such a way as to artificially skew public perception against the initiative.[4]

Eminent domain lawsuits in Missouri

Missouri Citizens for Property Rights is holding off on collecting signatures on the Missouri Eminent Domain Reform Initiatives (2010) because of two lawsuits filed by the Missouri Municipal League. The lawsuits, filed against the state government, allege that the fiscal impact statements prepared by the state auditor and the ballot language approved by the Missouri Secretary of State are misleading. In particular, the Missouri Municipal League believes that the fiscal note prepared by the state auditor is wrong because it underestimates the costs on cities.[5]

According to Ron Calzone, president of Missouri Citizens for Property Rights, "It's their [the Missouri Municipal League] goal to tie us up in court as long as they can to limit the amount of time we have to collect signatures. The frustrating thing about it is that the Missouri Municipal League is funded by cities, so the very cities that are abusing eminent domain power are using taxpayer money to keep this off the ballot and squelch the taxpayer."[6]

Turf Valley off ballot

In Howard County, Maryland, elections officials have disqualified the Turf Valley Grocery Store Veto Referendum, 2009 based on considerations arising from Jane Doe v. Montgomery County Board of Elections, which disqualified the Montgomery County Gender Identity Referendum (2008).[7]

Culinary lawsuit likely in Las Vegas

Culinary Union Local 226 is likely to file a lawsuit against the Las Vegas City Council for refusing to put the Las Vegas City Hall Referendum (2009) measure on the ballot.[8]

Richard McCracken, the attorney for the union, says a court should order the City Council to add the measure, and an associated one, to the ballot because the Nevada Supreme Court has clearly ruled that "voters must be given the chance to vote" before the substance of a ballot measure can be challenged. McCracken cites a 2003 Nevada Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled that all ballot measures with the proper signatures must be voted on before any legal challenges as to the constitutionality of the contested ballot measure be made.

Pennsylvania drink tax referendum

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is considering whether the Allegheny County election division improperly refused to certify an attempted 2008 veto referendum of the county's 7% drink tax. The group "Friends Against Counterproductive Taxation" collected signatures to put a tax reduction measure on the ballot, but the county refused to certify the measure, asserting that the county's home rule charter doesn't allow alcohol taxes to be addressed by this process.[9]

SCOTUS declines Nader v. Brewer

The Supreme Court of the United States announced on March 9, 2009 that it is declining to hear an appeal to Nader v. Brewer. Thirteen states, in addition to Arizona, wanted the court to reverse the decision of the Ninth Circuit; those states were Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Nader v. Brewer was a landmark decision in the area of residency requirements.[10]

California Prop 1A ballot title challenged

The liberal group "Health Access California," and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, filed a lawsuit against the California Secretary of State saying that the ballot language for Proposition 1A is "misleading" and "advocacy language."[11]

A Sacramento judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on March 5. His ruling says:

  • Where the original ballot title said "reforms," it must now say "changes" the budget process.
  • The title must say Proposition 1A "could" limit deficits and spending, not that it will or does limit them.[12]

California Prop 1E ballot title challenged

Rusty Selix and Richard Van Horn filed a lawsuit with Judge Michael P. Kenny in Sacramento Superior Court on March 4, 2009 saying that Prop 1E's ballot title is "false and misleading" because it "does not clearly state that Proposition 1E would redirect the money the voters earmarked in 2004." The plaintiffs want the judge to order the California Secretary of State to re-write the ballot language.[13]

Selix and Van Horn dropped their lawsuit shortly after it was filed, saying they had come to an agreement with the Secretary of State's office to change elements in the ballot title. The agreed-upon new ballot summary says that 1E diverts $230 million annually for two years from certain state programs in order to help balance the budget.[14]

Lawsuit against grocery store referendum

A lawsuit to keep the Turf Valley Grocery Store Veto Referendum, 2009 off the ballot was filed in Howard County, Maryland on February 5, 2009. Opponents of Howard County Council Bill 58, which would allow for an expanded grocery store, submitted over 9,300 signatures to force the question to a county-wide vote. The developer behind the proposed grocery store said that circulators lied to get signatures, and lied about being paid to collect signatures.[15]

Utah Supreme Court orders vote

On February 2, 2009, the Utah Supreme Court ruled in Save Beaver County v. Beaver County that Beaver County must schedule a county-wide vote before allowing a planned resort development to proceed. In 2007, the county entered into a land-use agreement with the Mount Holly Club resort for a $3.5 billion resort. Some residents of the county objected and using Utah's local referendum rules, collected signatures to force the agreement to the ballot.

Beaver County election officials challenged the signatures on the veto referendum and a lower court agreed with the county's denial of the referendum. The state's Supreme Court rejected the lower court's ruling. The long-delayed election will be held in November 2009.[16]

Federal lawsuit on Measure U election results

Citizens for a Camarillo Unified School District has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the election results of Creation of a Camarillo Unified School District, Measure U (November 2008). Their claim is that too many voters in the district were allowed to vote on the measure. The federal lawsuit challenges a decision of the California Board of Education to have a district-wide vote on Measure U.t voters in Oxnard were wrongly allowed to vote on Measure U.[17]

Judge grants injuction against anti-immigrant measure

A Columbia County judge has granted an injunction ordering that tough-on-immigrants measure Columbia County Measure 5-190 (2008), which passed in Columbia County, Oregon by 57-43% in November 2008, not go into effect while he considers the legal issues raised by plaintffs, which include the claims that the measure exceeds county powers, violates the single subject requirement of the Oregon Constitution and is pre-empted by state law.[18]

Lawsuits filed against Amendment 54

Two legal challenges to Colorado Amendment 54 (2008) were filed on January 28, 2009, in Denver District Court arguing that the law is overbroad and unconstitutional. Amendment 54 prohibits campaign contributions from any entity that wins no-bid or single-source government contracts totaling $100,000 or more. It also prohibits immediate family members of holders of a no-bid contract from contributing to any political campaign or candidate who may have influence over the contract.

The plaintiffs in the first lawsuit are labor unions and political committees representing teachers and firefighters.[19]

Missouri group faults Carnahan

The Missouri Roundtable for Life organization is criticizing Missouri Secretary of State Carnahan for the ballot title she wrote to describe an initiative headed for the Missouri 2010 ballot that seeks to ban the use of tax dollars for abortion, human cloning or other similar procedures.[20]

Colorado Springs school fined for election activity

Colorado Springs School District 11 was fined $1,000 by administrative law judge Robert Spencer for violating a campaign finance law that bans using public money to urge voters to approve a ballot measure. The school sent a mailer to voters in September 2008 that discussed a ballot measure to increase the district's property tax rate. The mailer included information about how the district planned to use the $21.5 million in new taxes that would have been raised had Question 3E passed on the Nov. 4 ballot. The measure failed with 56 percent of voters saying "no." Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer ruled Wednesday the mailer violated Colorado's Fair Campaign Practices Act.[21]

Okay for city officials to advocate

On January 29, the Missouri Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint filed against Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Mark Funkhouser and several others over their conduct in a 2008 ballot measure campaign for light-rail in the city. The city’s internal auditor is still investigating whether the mayor or his staff violated ethics rules with their public advocacy during the campaign. That probe began at the council’s direction.

The state complaint was filed in October 2008 by Patrick Tuohey, an opponent of Kansas City’s light-rail measure on the November ballot. Tuohey alleged that Funkhouser and the others violated state provisions that prohibit city staffers from using city equipment and resources to promote a ballot measure.[22]

Fed judge disappoints Prop 8 donors

On January 29, U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. declined to grant the petition of "Protect Marriage" to shield the identity of some donors to California Proposition 8 (2008). The Prop 8 supporters were seeking a preliminary injunction of a California election law that requires donors of $100 or more to disclose their names, addresses, occupations and other personal information. The lawsuit's attorney is James Bopp Jr., a lawyer from Indiana who is frequently involved in political speech cases, who says that what he refers to as harassment of Proposition 8 supporters before the after the campaign is a violation of their constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.[23][24]

Daien v. Ysursa filed in Idaho

On January 16, Donald Daien filed a federal lawsuit, Daien v. Ysursa, in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho challenging the residency requirement in Idaho's law. Idaho law forbids any out-of-state circulators, whether for initiatives or for candidates. Daien lives in Arizona and wanted to circulate a petition for Ralph Nader in Idaho as a 2008 volunteer but was forbidden to do so by the law that he is now challenging. Idaho's current law makes it a felony for Daien to travel to Idaho and ask people who live in Idaho to sign a petition.[25]

Alaska Republicans introduce bill on pay-per-signature

Alaska State Representatives Kyle Johansen (R-Ketchikan) and Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) have introduced HB 36 in 2009 to make it illegal for initiative circulators to be paid on a per-signature basis. It would also make it illegal for initiative circulators to circulate more than one initiative at once.[26]

Tenth Circuit declines to re-hear residency case

On January 21, 2009, the Tenth Circuit announced that it was rejecting a request by Drew Edmondson that it re-consider its December 18 ruling in the case of Yes on Term Limits v. Savage. Oklahoma had asked for an en banc rehearing, but no judge wanted to rehear the case.[27] At issue is a federal lawsuit filed by Yes on Term Limits challenging Oklahoma's residency requirements for petition circulators. On December 18, 2008, a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit issued a unanimous decision in the case, saying that Oklahoma's residency restriction is an unconstitutional violation of core First Amendment speech rights. The decision of the 10th Circuit overturns a lower federal court decision.[28][29]

September-November 2008

Wayne County rescinds approval of recall petition

The Wayne County Election Commission rescinded its March 5th decision authorizing a recall petition against Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, voting 2-1 scuttle it in response to a challenge from the mayor's lawyers.

Kilpatrick's lawyers said there was no evidence that Douglas Johnson, the recall organizer, is a city resident.

The commission acted against the advice of assistant county attorney Janet Anderson-Davis, who said the commission had no legal authority to reconsider last week’s vote. Anderson-Davis said the mayor had enough time to challenge Johnson’s residency before the March 5th vote. She said the mayor's only legal option was to challenge the commission’s action in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Johnson said he would ask another member of his 25-member recall group—someone whose residency is beyond question—to file a new petition. "I'll have to talk to my wife and other supporters to see if anyone wants to file," he said. "People are afraid."

To get the recall on the ballot, organizers of the effort will need 57,328 signatures of registered Detroit voters.[30]

Oklahoma initiative challenged

Ten Oklahoma voters, including State Reps. Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City and Jabar Shumate of Tulsa, filed a legal protest in the Oklahoma Supreme Court challenging the Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative. They argue the petition is an attempt to trick voters into ending equal opportunity programs, such as affirmative action.[31]

Washington Dems file lawsuit against I-960

The Washington Senate's Democratic leadership filed their expected lawsuit March 3, 2008, against the requirement for a supermajority to raise taxes imposed by I-960 and asked the state Supreme Court for an expedited ruling on the matter.[32]

The court denied the motion for a rush decision on March 6, 2008.

Senate Democrats argue that provisions in the measure shouldn't have the authority to trump the state's constitution. The measure, approved by voters in November 2007, was sponsored by Tim Eyman and requires a two-thirds majority to pass tax increases. The constitution only requires a simple majority.

"This isn't about 960, and this isn't about undoing the will of the people," Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) said. "This is about defending the constitution and the Legislature's ability to pass laws under the constitution."

But The News Tribune disagreed in a recent opinion column: "Actually, it's precisely about undoing the will of the people, because that's the only effect the lawsuit would have. The people of Washington will understand that, even if the Democrats in the Legislature don't."[33]

Socialist Party sues Ohio over restrictions

Columbus Attorney and Professor of Law at Capital University Mark Brown filed a lawsuit March 7, 2008, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio's Eastern Division on behalf of Socialist Party USA presidential nominee Brian Moore, who wants to run for President as an independent on Ohio's November ballot. The suit challenges Ohio's requirement that petition circulators be Ohio residents and registered to vote in Ohio. The complaint charges that Ohio's restrictions violate the First Amendment.[34]

Detroit mayor tries to squelch recall

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has asked the Wayne County Elections Commission to reconsider its approval of the language of a recall petition aimed at unseating him. The mayor's attorney said that they believe the voter registration of Douglas Johnson, the man filing the recall, is invalid, which would not allow him to file the petition. Johnson said the address he used for his voter registration is "my house. It is the house I grew up in," he told The Associated Press Thursday. He said he is currently staying with friends in Detroit's Rosedale Park neighborhood while work is being done on the house.[35]

Archived stories


  1. Arizona Republic, "Phoenix set to challenge rulings on referendums, April 9, 2009
  2. Recall group sues Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority over petitions
  3. Mercury News, "Petition would block legislative hearing," April 1, 2009 (dead link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kansas City Star, "Missouri abortion initiative attacked from all sides," March 27, 2009 (dead link)
  5. Springfield Business Journal Online, "Eminent domain petitions await court decisions," March 16, 2009
  6. Fulton Sun, "Eminent domain petitioning to return to a street corner near you," January 23, 2009 (dead link)
  7. Turf Valley referendum halted after review of signatures, March 13, 2009
  8. Las Vegas Sun, "City-union legal debate: Are issues fit for voters?," March 9, 2009
  9. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "County drink tax debated in state Supreme Court," March 5, 2009
  10. Associated Press, "Court refuses to reconsider state ballot rules," March 9, 2009 (dead link)
  11. Los Angeles Times, "Read between the lines to find the tax hike," March 4, 2009
  12. Mercury News, "Judge agrees to alter spending cap ballot wording," March 5, 2009 (dead link)
  13. Sacramento Bee, "Lawsuit challenges Prop. 1E ballot label," March 4, 2009
  14. Sacramento Bee, "Mental health advocates drop challenge to ballot summary," March 5, 2009 (dead link)
  15. Howard County Times, "Grocery store developer challenges petition," February 5, 2009
  16. Salt Lake Tribune, "Mount Holly needs voter approval, justices say," February 3, 2009
  17. Ventura County Star, "Proponents continue unification lawsuit," February 2, 2009
  18. Oregonian, "Judge blocks measure restricting immigrant hiring," January 30, 2009
  19. Denver Post, "2 suits challenge Amendment 54," January 29, 2009
  20. Group faults Carnahan's ballot language
  21. Colorado Springs Gazette, "Judge fines D-11 for campaign flier," December 18, 2009
  22. Kansas City Star, "State ethics panel dismisses complaint about mayor's light-rail efforts," January 29, 2009 (dead link)
  23. New York Times, "Marriage Ban Donors Feel Exposed by List," January 18, 2009
  24. Ballot Access News, "Judge Denies Injunctive Relief in California Disclosure of Contributors Case
  25. Out-of-state circulator sues Idaho, January 17, 2009
  26. Alaska anti-initiative bill, January 19, 2009
  27. Ballot Access News, "10th Circuit Refuses to Rehear Case on Out-of-State Circulators," January 21, 2009
  28. Text of the 10th Circuit's decision in "Yes on Term Limits v. Savage" (dead link)
  29. Edmond Sun, "Court reverses initiative petition ruling, December 18, 2008
  30. Detroit Free Press: "Wayne Co. Election Commission reverses decision to circulate mayoral recall petitions," March 12, 2008
  31. Tulsa World, Group challenges ballot initiative on civil rights, March 9, 2008
  32. Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "WA court denies Democrat's request for quick tax lawsuit ruling," March 6, 2008 (dead link)
  33. News Tribune: OPINION: "Senate lawsuit takes dead aim at voters' will," March 9, 2008
  34. [Brian Moore Sues over Petition Laws in Ohio "Brian Moore Sues over Petition Laws in Ohio," March 7, 2008]
  35. The Associated Press: "Detroit mayor to challenge recall petition approval," March 6, 2008]