The Tuesday Count: Veto referendums heavily season voters' plates on election day

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October 16, 2012

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By Al Ortiz and Eric Veram

Now that voter guides are being printed and published, it could be safe to say that 186 measures in 38 states are the final numbers that will be reported on in 2012 as far as ballot proposals are concerned. With 174 left to be determined on in 37 states on November 6, there is plenty to preview before the general election barges its way into the view of voters across the country.

In the previous two weeks, Ballotpedia gave a run down of legislative referrals and citizen initiatives that were placed on the ballot. Keeping with the theme of pre-election breakdowns, this week we turn to what could be measures that might lead to some of the year's most interesting ballot measure races - veto referendums.

26 states implement the initiative and referendum processes in the country, with 24 of them having both, and 2 having only the referendum process - Maryland and New Mexico.

A veto referendum occurs when a legislative body enacts a new law that draws opposition. A group that opposes the new law collects enough signatures within the statutory time frame in that state to place that new law on a ballot for the voters to either ratify the new law, or reject it.

Ballot measure wording of veto referendums have been the subject to voter confusion before. For example, if a legislative law that is the target of a referendum lands on the ballot, election officials may choose the following:

  • A yes vote could mean to enact the legislative bill and a no vote could reject it.
  • A yes vote could mean to reject the legislative bill and a no vote could keep it in place.

This year, for 2012, veto referendums exploded on the scene. In 2008, 6 veto referendums were on the ballot for voters to decide on. Two years later in the next even-numbered election year, in 2010, only 4 made the ballot. This year, 13 veto referendums will appear, or have appeared, on the ballot for 2012. 11 of those measures will appear on the fall election ballot. Referendums this year challenged a variety of legislation including same-sex marriage, medical marijuana and redistricting.

The following are notable veto referendums that are on the ballot:

  • California Proposition 40: An attempt to use California's veto referendum process to nullify the California State Senate redistricting plan approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.
  • Michigan Proposal 1: Deals with Public Act 4 of 2011, which focuses on emergency managers (EMs), who are appointed by the governor to take over local municipalities and school districts in financial distress.
  • Washington Referendum 74: Asks voters if same-sex marriage should be legalized in the state of Washington.
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]
More about 2012 ballot measures can be found out in Ballotpedia's exclusive 2012 ballot measure preview here.

Quick hits

Poll conducted on Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative: According to a poll conducted by the University of Denver, 50 percent of likely voters support Amendment 64, while 40 percent oppose it. The study was carried out on October 4 and 5 and surveyed 604 Colorado residents who said they would definitely vote in the upcoming election. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.[2]

Gallaudet University official placed on leave after signing referendum: An administrative official at Gallaudet University was recently placed on paid leave after it was discovered that the individual signed his name to a petition regarding the Maryland Same-Sex Marriage Referendum. The Maryland Catholic Conference responded to the incident saying the action of signing the referendum should not be considered hate speech and should not warrant employer sanctions. T. Alan Hurwitz, president of the university, released a statement on October 10 saying, "It recently came to my attention that Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as chief diversity officer; however, other individuals feel differently. I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university. In the meantime an interim chief diversity officer will be announced in the near future."[3]


Glendale, Arizona tangled up in sales tax questions

Arizona voters across the state will have a chance to chime in on Proposition 204, a measure to renew a 2010 voter-approved one-cent state sales tax to provide funding for educational purposes. For Glendale, Arizona voters, another sales tax question is on the table as well.

The citizen-initiated local measure is on the November 6, 2012 election ballot for local residents to decide, and if approved, would reverse a 0.7% local sales tax increase. The tax revenue would be used for municipal operating costs including the $17 million arena management payment to a likely buyer for the National Hockey League's Phoenix Coyotes.

This means: If Proposition 204 and the Glendale city sales tax increase are approved, a one-cent per dollar tax will stay in place, but the proposed 0.7% sales tax increase would not be implemented.

The Tuesday Count Spotlight highlights notable developments from local ballot measures across the country as well as international ballot measures.

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Allegations of campaign finance violations filed against Help Save Maryland: On Monday, October 15, the Maryland Democratic Party sent a letter to state prosecutors accusing Help Save Maryland of breaking campaign finance laws. The letter claims that recent radio ads aired by the group openly oppose the Maryland Dream Act. The claim goes on to say that if the group engages in political advocacy against the legislation, it should have registered a ballot initiative committee. Such committees are required to report from where they receive their money. Brad Botwin, director of the group, says that neither the radio ads nor the group's website take an official position on Question 4. He further went on to call the allegations "another violation of my First Amendment rights."[4]

Judge says he will not rule on I-166 until after the election: Montana District Court Judge David Cybulski says he will not rule on the merits of I-166 before it goes to the polls on November 6. Instead, Judge Cybulski has said he will focus on whether or not allowing the measure on the ballot in the first place was a mistake made by Attorney General Steve Bullock and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. If the court finds that certifying the measure was a mistake on the part of the state, it could order election offices to simply ignore votes on the initiative.[5]

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See also

2012 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2012 Scorecard