The Tuesday Count: 2011 ballot measure campaigns center around five states

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September 27, 2011

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Edited by Bailey Ludlam

Campaigns for 2011 ballot measures are in full force. In the last week, campaign ads, donations and polls have emerged in nearly all nine states that have questions on odd-year ballots. A total of 34 questions will appear before voters, surpassing the 2009 ballot by two questions.

2012 has already surpassed 2011's numbers with 57 certifications and an estimated 300 proposed measures.

The focus of this year's elections surrounds only a handful of states: Colorado, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio and Washington. New Jersey's Public Question 1, concerning sports betting, has also drawn attention but in light of existing federal law the measure is not binding.

Odd-year elections generally attract far less attention than even-numbered years, but already measures on the 2011 ballot are attracting millions of dollars in campaign contributions. According to a recent report, opponents of Washington's I-1183 liquor measure have raised a total of $5 million dollars. Supporters have raised more than $1 million.

In Ohio, the controversial Issue 2, also known as the SB 5 veto referendum, has raised more than $2 million in support of the repeal.

2011 measures with recently active campaigns include:


Topics scheduled to appear on the 2011 ballot run the gamut, covering an estimated 15 different topics. Topics include taxes, abortion, administration of government, gambling, labor and much more.

Similarly, 2012's ballot is shaping up to reflect this trend. Already, measures covering an estimated 23 topics are cleared to appear before voters. A total of 57 ballot questions are certified for spots on 23 statewide ballots. But many questions, more than 300, are currently pending the conclusion of petition efforts or consideration by state legislatures.

One trend is certain. Measures about state legislatures and redistricting processes have added up in the last few weeks.

Four states - Arizona, Maine, Michigan and Oklahoma - are currently considering questions relating to the length of the state's legislative session in Michigan and Oklahoma; reducing the number of legislators in both chambers of the Maine Legislature; and banning immunity for state legislators during sessions in Arizona.

Proposals with recent activity

Redistricting measures, on the other hand, have been proposed in at least six states, with other proposals on the horizon. Every decade, the census is conducted to update population figures across the country. These population figures are then used in redistricting -- the re-drawing of Congressional and state legislative districts.

Just prior to the 2011 redistricting effort, voters approved four measures in 2010 - in California, Florida (and a second in Florida), and Oklahoma -- that either created or expanded a redistricting commissions' jurisdiction over the process (or diluted legislative power). Additionally, California voters rejected a measure that would have eliminated the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Currently, 18 states have completed congressional maps, while 17 have completed state legislative maps. Other states continue to debate district lines. Keep an eye out, 2012 may mark the return of the ballot-box redistricting debate. Of the six states currently considering redistricting measures, two are proposed repeals of approved maps. These states include: California (2 proposals) and Ohio.

North Carolina, Oregon and West Virginia are considering independent redistricting commissions. Oklahoma, like Florida in 2010, is considering changing state laws to prohibit lawmakers from drawing district lines that favor any political party, incumbent or challenger. Additionally, cities and counties would be required to be kept intact when drawing district lines, wherever possible.


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SPOTLIGHT:October 4 Alaska elections highlight school bonds and tax issues
On October 4 Alaskan voters will cast their ballots on a wide variety of issues.

In Juneau, residents will decide on two school bonds, renewal of the current city sales tax rate, changes to financial disclosure law and an initiated measure which seeks to implement a tax on plastic bags.

  • The two school bonds would source ground heating for Auke Bay Elementary School and fund a turf replacement project for the Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. In total, the two bonds would cost residents an addition of $2.6 million to the current bond debt, adding around $2.25 per $100,000 of assessed property value to local taxes.[1]
  • The sales tax measure would renew the temporary tax at the current rate of 3 percent. The tax will expire on June 1, 2012. The renewal would last a further five years.[2]
  • The financial disclosure measure seeks to allow candidates and officials elected to a city office to be exempted from the state financial disclosure laws.[3]
  • The last measure, brought to the ballot by an initiative petition, seeks to add a tax of $.15 per plastic bag used by retailers. Petitioners were able to collect the needed 2,271 valid signatures to place the measure on the ballot. The tax would be paid by the shopper and be added to the city's general fund. Only retailers who make more than $15 million a year would have to implement the tax and senior citizens can obtain exemption cards. The goal of the tax is to limit the use of plastic bags by residents.[4]

In Fairbanks residents will have three issues to vote on, two school bond measures and a healthy air petition measure.

  • The first bond measure, for Ryan Elementary school in the amount of $9.9 million, will help renovate the school gym and fund other improvements as needed. The school district expects near 70 percent of the costs to be reimbursed by the state.[5]
  • The other school bond, for Salcha and Woodriver Elementary schools, would collect $10.3 million, with 70 percent expected reimbursement by the state. This bond money would go towards upgrades and renovation projects at the two schools.[6]
  • The last measure was brought to the ballot via a petition drive and would enact an ordinance which would set out air quality controls and standards along with penalties. This would prohibit coal, wood and hydronic heating systems.[7] A group has been attempting to stop this measure from being voted on, taking the issue up to the Fairbanks Superior Court, filing paperwork for an injunction on the measure. The group, Responsible Wood Burners for Limited Government, feels that the measure would violate state law and would cause harm to residents in the borough.[8]


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In which state was a medical marijuana initiative effort for the 2012 ballot rejected for the second time this year?
Click to find out!
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BALLOT LAW UPDATE

Arguments to be heard in Lux v. Judd: Although Virginia does not permit voter's to directly initiate statewide ballot measures, a ruling has already had broader implications in the legal battle over residency requirements. Under existing state law, only the residents of a congressional district may circulate petitions to place an independent candidate on the ballot for that district. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the case on January 17, 2012. The court has already ruled that the state cannot defend the law based on an interest in demonstrating local support. This preliminary decision was cited in Bernbeck v. Gale , which recently overturned a sponsor residency requirement for local measures in Nebraska. The Fourth Circuit’s rejection of this strategy is based on the landmark case Meyer v. Grant, which, among other things, held that signatures alone are sufficient to establish local support.[9]

California solicitation ruling: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that solicitation for "employment, business, or contributions" on public sidewalks and directed at motorists may not be the subject of a blanket ban. In Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, the court ruled that the city’s ban was grounded in a legitimate interest in preventing traffic disruptions (e.g. motorists pulling over to transact business on a busy street), but technically prohibited many other forms of non-disruptive speech (e.g. fundraising car washes). The ruling could enhance protections for petitioners and others involved in political speech. See also: Initiative & Referendum Institute v. United States Postal Service[10]

A new update will be released tomorrow. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2011 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2011 Scorecard

References