The Tuesday Count: The new year kicks off with intense initiative activity

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January 3, 2012

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Edited by Al Ortiz

The new year is here, and 2012 promises to bring plenty of developments, especially concerning citizen initiatives. Although there have been no changes to the 2012 count, that total may change soon with recent initiative developments in four states. Currently there are still 59 questions on 24 statewide ballots.

Supporters of the Colorado marijuana legalization amendment are planning to submit more than 155,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office on January 4, hoping to place their proposal on the ballot. The group only needs 85,853 valid signatures.

The measure would legalize marijuana in the state. A similar measure was on the 2006 ballot in the state, where it was defeated.

Proponents of another marijuana-related ballot measure are one step ahead of their Colorado counterparts. New Approach Washington, the main group in support of Initiative 502, filed thousands of petition signatures on December 29.

The Initiative to the Legislature would legalize the production, possession, delivery and distribution of marijuana. The initiative would regulate the sale of small amounts of marijuana to people 21 and older. According to reports, marijuana grow farms and food processors would be licensed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.[1]

A minimum of 241,153 valid signatures are required to submit the proposal to the state legislature for consideration. The Washington Elections Division recommends at least 320,000 signatures in order to account for duplicate or invalid signatures. If the initiative meets the minimum requirements, then the proposal will be submitted to the Washington State Legislature for consideration.

Four initiatives on the opposite coast are already on their way to their respective state legislature for consideration. Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin will present the legislature all four initiatives that submitted signatures by the 2012 state petition drive deadline on December 7, as signatures were verified before the new year.

If the general assembly does not choose to make the proposal a law, supporters must then gather additional signatures to obtain ballot access. Those signatures must be obtained from about 1/2 of 1% of voters who voted in the last governor election and supporters must submit them to local clerks.

Validated signatures must then be turned in by the first Wednesday of July to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office. Since the deadline falls on a national holiday, July 4, that deadline could be either July 3 or 5.[2]

Finally, in Ohio, the state legislature has some work to do of their own with a proposal to prohibit bringing into the state, for purposes of sale or trade, a dog acquired through auction.

Reports have claimed that sponsors of the measure have collected 154,082 petition signatures; enough to submit to the Ohio Secretary of State's office. Only 115,570 signatures were needed to present it to the state legislature. Signatures are expected to be verified by January 6. Much like Massachusetts and Washington, if the legislature does not act on the proposal, it will then be sent to the ballot in 2012.

For a complete total of initiative filings across the country, check out Ballotpedia's initiative chart page. This month, the total of initiative filings in the country rose from 388 to 473 since December 1. Ballotpedia checks initiative filing totals every first of the month. Read more here!

Proposals with recent activity

Quick hits

  • Voter ID under review: The United States Justice Department will review the recently approved Mississippi Initiative 27 to deem whether or not the amendment is constitutional. Under the federal 1965 Voting Rights Act, the state must obtain pre-clearance from federal officials before making changes to the state election process.[3]
  • Mascot update: In mid-December 2011 supporters of the North Dakota University "Fighting Sioux" referendum announced that they planned to seek a court order to force Ralph Engelstad Arena to allow the circulation of initiative petitions at hockey games. On December 29, 2011 Grand Forks County District Judge Sonja Clapp denied the request, but noted that a hearing would be scheduled in early January to determine if petitioners can move inside the arena for future events.[4]


SPOTLIGHT:2009 Seattle plastic bag issue hot topic again
On August 18, 2009 Seattle residents voted against a plastic bag measure which sought to reverse a 20 cent tax the city council had placed on plastic grocery bags in an effort to encourage the use of reusable bags. The issue came up again in a council meeting held on December 5, 2011 which led to the council banning plastic bags in most grocery stores. Certain plastic bags would still be allowed, such as those used to bag vegetables or fruits in the grocery stores. A fee on paper bags was also suggested.[5] But in an effort to reverse that decision, which would go into effect July 1, 2012, a local resident has started a petition to place a vote on the issue on a future ballot in the city. The man behind the petition drive noted that residents already defeated a ban in 2009 and believes, if given the option again, they would not support the ban. In order to be placed on the August primary ballot, 6,503 valid signatures of registered Seattle voters are needed by January 17.[6]

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Washington Campaign Finance Ruling: On December 29, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down a Washington campaign finance law limiting contributions to ballot measures in the final weeks before an election. The law banned any contribution in excess of $5000 within 21 days the general election. However, the court did uphold disclosure requirements on any contributions over $25.[7] The full decision can be found here.

Virginia primary petition challenge: On December 29, a supporter of presidential candidate Newt Gingrich filed suit, challenging the rejection of a number of primary petition signatures. The lawsuit, filed in a Richmond court, argues that the space allotted for each signer's address is too small and caused otherwise legitimate signatures to be invalidated. On December 27, candidate Rick Perry (R) also filed suit, challenging the state's circulator residency requirements. Although Virginia does not permit voters to initiate statewide ballot measures, a ruling in another Virginia petition case  has already had broader implications for ballot measure law.[8][9][10]

On December 28, the first ever Ballot Law Update end-of-year review was published. Click here to read the article!
A new update will be released on January 25, 2012. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2012 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2012 Scorecard