The Tuesday Count: Signature verification clears three measures for 2011 ballot

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July 26, 2011

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Edited by Bailey Ludlam

Slow and steady. That's how you could easily describe the 2011 Tuesday Count. Staying true to form, the 2011 count inched up again with the addition of three measures, all by citizen initiative.

The action centered around Ohio and the State of Washington this week, as both states' secretaries of state verified signatures from petition drive efforts. After the whirlwind of signature counting ceased, what was left was an increased total of 27 certified statewide ballot questions in 7 states for 2011. More developments may be on the way, with an August 1 petition drive deadline coming up in Colorado for ballot initiatives.

Diving in to the freshly certified measures, the Ohio health care amendment proposal was certified by the Ohio Secretary of State before the July 26 deadline to verify signatures.

The measure calls for exempting residents of Ohio from national health care mandates which would stop any state law from forcing persons, employers or health care providers from participating in a health care system. The measure was sponsored by The Ohio Project. Originally the measure was proposed for the 2010 statewide ballot, however, days prior to the petition drive deadline supporters announced that they failed to collect sufficient signatures for 2010.

Also in Ohio, the extremely controversial Senate Bill 5 will now be decided by voters after the proposed veto referendum was sent to the ballot after signatures were deemed valid. In a record breaking performance, referendum proponents submitted a grand total of 1,298,301 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State on June 29 in a parade marching towards the secretary's offices. This breaks the previously held record of 812,978 signatures in 2008 for a constitutional amendment allowing a casino resort in Clinton County.

The proposal was certified on July 21. Of the more than 1.3 million submitted signatures, 915,456 were certified for an approximately 70.5% validation rate.

To view Senate Bill 5 provisions, and both supporters and opponents of the veto referendum, click here. To view the text of Senate Bill 5, click here

On the west coast, the State of Washington has been just as busy. Initiative 1125 earned ballot access on July 25. The initiative would prohibit gas tax and toll revenues to be diverted to non-transportation purposes. The initiative was proposed by Tim Eyman.

A minimum of 241,153 valid signatures were required to qualify for the ballot. According to the Washington Secretary of State's office 328,632 signatures were submitted, more than enough to approve the initiative for a fast-track random sampling of 3 percent. In other words, 10,000 random petitions selected by a computer program were scrutinized. The overall error rate of the verified signatures was 14.63 percent. Two other initiatives remain pending in the signature verification process.

Proposals with recent activity

In 2012 news, the In-State Tuition Referendum was certified for the ballot in Maryland. The proposed measure calls for overturning legislation that guarantees in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. This brings 2012's total to 54 ballot questions in 20 states.

Meanwhile, another Maryland referendum could follow suit and advance to a public vote. Reports indicate that efforts will be initiated in Spring 2012. The measure is in response to the Maryland Legislature and a possible law that may make same-sex marriage legal in the state. The legislation was discussed in 2011 but was later tabled. It is reported that the legislation may resurface in 2012. The proposed bill would remove a state law that recognizes marriage as only between one woman and one man in the state. The veto referendum counters this legislation, and would prevent it from being enacted until a statewide vote took place.


SPOTLIGHT:Pierce County Council seek Non Partisan positions
In Pierce County, Washington, the county council is looking to make all positions nonpartisan. Currently, the only post required by state law to be partisan is the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney.[1]

According to reports, there has been a move across counties in the State of Washington to make local positions on the county and municipal level nonpartisan. The argument in favor is that issues such as parks and roads cross party lines and are not a Democratic or Republican problem. Two Democrats currently serving on the Pierce County council, Rick Talbert and Tim Farrell, argue that they do not see the need to hide their party designation.[1]

The position of county sheriff and treasurer are already nonpartisan. Not all council members agree with the proposed changes, but some argue that it would be beneficial to all residents. Others comment that they are unsure what the nonpartisan positions would solve. Talbert and Farrell said they felt that redistricting issues were what motivated the city council Republicans to seek nonpartisanship because some argue that Democrats were favored in the new district maps.[1]

The Council is set to decide the issue on July 26.[1]

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Legislative referrals were added to the Montana 2012 ballot measure count this week. How many were added?
Click to find out!
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Court actions concerning I&R: Many state constitutions feature so-called "Blaine Amendments," which ban any transfer of public funds to religious institutions. In April 2011, the Florida Legislature placed a legislatively-referred amendment on the ballot replacing the clause in the Florida Constitution with a clause that only prohibits discrimination in funding based on religious/secular status. The amendment was given the title "Religious Freedom" and a ballot summary explaining the changes to the constitution. However, the Florida Education Association and an inter-faith clergy group have filed suit challenging the ballot title and summary on the grounds that they are misleading. The groups contend that the measure is a thinly veiled attempt to legalize school vouchers in Florida.[2]
As to its implications for ballot law, the suit is also challenging part of a recent Florida statute, HB1355, lines 2042-2059, which allows the Attorney General to revise titles and summaries rejected by the courts. (Does not apply to initiated amendments.) In the past, the successful challenge of a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment based on its title or summary meant the amendment's removal from the ballot. The new law allows the AG to revise the title and summary to comply with the court's ruling. If this second component of the FEA lawsuit fails, its challenge of the title and summary, successful or otherwise, may not remove the amendment from the ballot.[2]

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See also

2011 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2011 Scorecard