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Ballot Law Update: 2014 Year in Review

By Josh Altic

This edition of the Ballot Law Update features a year-end summary of legislation proposed in 2014 concerning laws governing the powers of initiative, referendum and recall. Of the 113 bills Ballotpedia tracked, 13 were approved in 5 states, while three were carried over to next year, and 97 were defeated. Some bills were introduced to establish or strengthen the powers of initiative, referendum and recall, while many others sought to restrict, direct, limit or decrease direct democracy.

This report also highlights some 2014 lawsuits that could have an impact on ballot law and lists all court cases filed against 2014 statewide ballot measures and select local measures.

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The Tuesday Count: Changes to supreme court on today’s ballot in Wisconsin

Edited by Ryan Byrne

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The battle between Ann Walsh Bradley and James Daley is not the only Wisconsin Supreme Court issue on the Wisconsin ballot today. Voters across the state will decide how the state's chief justice is selected by voting on Question 1. A number of prominent local topics will be featured on ballots in Missouri and Kansas today. In Springfield, voters will be determining whether an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance should stand and, in the neighboring state, Wichita voters will be voting on whether to decriminalize marijuana. Voters in Kansas City will face two questions, one regarding a city property and the other asking voters to renew a fee on short-term loan establishments.

Wisconsinites will vote on the first statewide ballot measure of 2015 today:

Voters in Wisconsin are the first to vote on a statewide measure in 2015. The measure, titled Question 1, that is appearing on today's ballot involves how the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is selected. Currently, the Wisconsin Constitution mandates that the chief justice be appointed based on seniority from the pool of seven justices sitting on the court. Question 1, if approved by voters, would require the sitting justices to elect a chief justice from among themselves to serve a two-year term.[1]

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has served as the court's chief justice since 1996. She's considered a "liberal," but the court majority is considered "conservative," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.[2] Opponents argue that the amendment is a political attack on Chief Justice Abrahamson and that the current method is more democratic because it allows the justice who has been elected by voters the most times to be chief justice, while supporters contend the proposed system is more democratic because the justices would decide who is the head of the court, thereby decreasing conflict amongst the justices.[3]

Campaigns did not start forming in support of or against the amendment until the final weeks before the election. Vote Yes for Democracy led the campaign in support of the amendment.[4][5] It raised $600,000, all of which was donated by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.[6] Leading the opposition were Make Your Vote Count and Fair Courts Wisconsin. Together the two groups raised $83,916, with the Greater Wisconsin Committee and Justice at Stake being the sole contributors.

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is expecting a 20 percent voter turnout for today's election.[7]

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