The Tuesday Count: Two states add on to the count; health care issue reaches national stage

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March 27, 2012

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Edited by Al Ortiz

Although there was a decertification this week, that didn't hold back the Tuesday Count from growing to 77 ballot measures in 28 states. Montana subtracted a measure from the ballot via legal challenge, while Georgia and Minnesota each chipped in by adding their own statewide proposals.

On November 23, 2011, a lawsuit to strike the Montana Supreme Court Elections Question from the June 5 primary election ballot was filed by a group state voters which reports say included a handful of 1972 Constitutional Convention delegates. According to the lawsuit, the measure would illegally amend the Montana Constitution. The lawsuit specifically stated: "The referendum is illegal, unconstitutional and void, in that it deprives (voters) of their right to vote for certain Supreme Court candidates."

On March 20, those who filed the lawsuit got their wish. Judge James Reynolds struck the measure from the ballot saying that adding the new candidate requirements for Supreme Court justices, those which required that candidates live inside proposed regional districts, conflict with what is already in the state constitution.

Requests by supporters to simply remove the offending language were denied, with Judge Reynolds saying, "Without clear judicial legislation, this court cannot rewrite the remaining parts of this referendum. To do so would entail completely rewriting the title, the ballot statement, the statements of implication, and the text of the referendum itself. There is no constitutional or statutory authority for such a revision." Reportedly, both sides expect an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, an amendment will appear on the ballot in November that would allow the state to set up charter schools. Sent to the ballot by the Georgia Legislature, the measure developed following a May 2011 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court. The court ruled that the state's involvement in the establishment of public charter schools - the Georgia Charter School Commission - was unconstitutional. Specifically, the court ruled that the commission was illegal because it approved and funded charter schools despite objection by local school boards. For another major development regarding this measure, read the section of this report.

Minnesota legislators have been fast at work sending a second constitutional amendment to the statewide ballot after their May 2011 decision to refer a same-sex marriage measure to state voters. On Friday, March 23, the Minnesota Senate passed a voter identification amendment with a 36-30 vote. This action passed the amendment to the November ballot since the bill was previously approved by the Minnesota House of Representatives.

The proposal would require that all voters in the state show photo identification before voting. Legislation to enact similar laws without a constitutional amendment passed both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature, but were vetoed by Governor of Minnesota Mark Dayton.

Featured campaign quotes:
Oklahoma SQ 762 - Support
Speaker of the State House Kris Steele
Letting the governor focus on parole recommendations for violent crimes is a critical component of Oklahoma’s recent progress to build a stronger, more effective criminal justice system.[1]

Oklahoma SQ 762 - Opposition
State Representative Jason Murphey
When you take the governor out of [the parole] process [for non-violent crimes] the people of Oklahoma have no one to hold accountable...[1]

Healthcare developments

This week, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments to decide whether or not the "Affordable Care Act," signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, is unconstitutional.

However, since 2010, states across the union have seen opponents of the legislation fight back via statewide ballot measures, through both the legislature and by citizen initiative. These measures, proposed for statewide public votes and known as "health care freedom" measures, bar any rules or regulations that would mandate state residents to participate in a health-care system.

Given the historic implications of this week's events, here's a review of statewide ballot measures that were proposed or voted on since 2010:

Quick hits

  • UND hockey team takes the ice with no nickname for first time: Saturday, March 24, marked the first time the University of North Dakota men's hockey team played a game wearing jersey's bearing neither the 'Fighting Sioux' nickname nor the accompanying logo. Though this is the first sign of the NCAA's actions against the school have taken effect, the fight for the nickname is far form over. North Dakota Measure 4, a referendum on laws repealing the mandated use of the nickname, is set to appear on the state's June 12 ballot.[2]
  • Judge rules on part of challenge to Montana Taxpayer Dividend Measure: On Wednesday, March 14, Jeffrey Sherlock threw out one of the measure's opposing arguments, ruling that the ballot measure does not represent an illegal appropriation of money by ballot issue. However, the challenge to the measure is not over yet, Judge Sherlock still has to rule on whether or not the measure constitutes an illegal delegation of power.[3]

Proposals with recent activity


SPOTLIGHT:School and city taxes dominate Missouri April election
Next week on April 3 in the state of Missouri an estimated twenty-three counties will hold elections. Those twenty-three counties are the sole counties, at this time, to have posted election information that will be voted on by residents. (See how Missouri counties fared in the most recent "County website election information" study)

According to those counties, there are twenty-two measures that relate to school bond and tax issues.

  • Most notably, in the Joplin school district area, approval is being sought for a $62 million bond in order to help pay for tornado damaged facilities and to build a storm shelter for potential future disasters.
  • In the St Joseph school district, they are asking for a bond in the amount of $42 million in order to allow for renovation projects in the district including building a new elementary school.
  • In Christian County, a levy renewal and addition are being asked to further support the law enforcement services in the county. Opponents have noted the jail is only 10 years old and there should not be a need for additional money.
  • Greene County is also seeking an additional tax for law enforcement services in the county, though this tax would increase the county sales tax rate by 1/8th of a percent.

Colorado, Florida and Wisconsin will also have issues decided on April 3. Stay tuned for results!

Click here for a full list: March 20, 2012 ballot measures in Illinois
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An Ohio Constitutional Convention question is on the ballot in 2012. When was the last time a question like this was on the Buckeye State's ballot?
Click here to find out!
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CA Court upholds recall signatures: On March 12, a California Superior Court allowed a recall election to move forward against a Shasta Lake city council member. The target of the recall had sued to block the election, alleging that a resident of another district assisted in the signature collection. California has an in-district residency requirement on the books for local signature campaigns. However, the judge held that, independent of the circulator's residency, the election should go forward. The judge noted that the circulator, not the signer, is accountable under California law. The in-district requirement is currently being challenged, and the state maintains that the law is not enforced.[6]

  • The full decision can be found here.

Ruling in Mukilteo Traffic Cam Case: On March 8, 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against a Mukilteo initiative aimed at blocking traffic enforcement cameras. The Mukilteo initiative qualified for the ballot and was approved by a large margin. However, a citizen's group (Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government) challenged the initiative, arguing that the traffic camera program was not subject to the local initiative process. A lower court held that the case must wait until after the 2010 election--that decision was appealed to the Supreme Court. The High Court ultimately agreed with the plaintiffs, arguing that the state statute authorizing the cameras gave local officials sole discretion over their use. The Court cited City of Sequim v. Malkasian which held that:

A grant of power to a city's governing body... means exclusively the mayor and city council and not the electorate.

Prior to the ruling, the Mukilteo City Council chose to treat the question as advisory and remove the cameras voluntarily. The ruling is expected to apply to similar cases around the state.[7]

  • The majority opinion can be found here.
  • The dissenting opinion can be found here.
A new update will be released on March 28, 2012. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2012 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2012 Scorecard