Ballot Law Update: High number of ballot measure lawsuits filed as July draws to a close

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July 25, 2012

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By Eric Veram

Since the beginning of the year, we have tracked 53 proposed laws in 19 states affecting the initiative and referendum process. The Ballot Law Update is released on the last Wednesday of each month. Stay tuned to the Tuesday Count for weekly ballot law news.

Recent news

Recount request filed for California Proposition 29: On Monday, July 9, Prop. 29 supporter John Maa filed a request for a recount in several Los Angeles County precincts. The request comes weeks after supporters of the proposition conceded defeat after a close outcome during the June 5 primary election. According to reports, the official "Yes on Proposition 29" campaign group has denied involvement with the recount request. County Clerk Dean Logan says the recount will cost $5,700 for each day it takes, which could exceed one week.[1]

Court actions

Lawsuit aimed at Montana Corporate Contributions Initiative: On Monday, July 23, 2012, a lawsuit was filed with the Montana Supreme Court aimed at blocking the measure from reaching the ballot this fall. The lawsuit was filed by state Senator Dave Lewis, businessman Phil Lilleberg, and the group Montanans Opposed to I-166. The complaint filed with the court states that the measure "is not legally sufficient to appear on the state’s general election ballot, and that the statements prepared for the petition and the ballot do not meet the requirements of (state law)."[2]

Legal marijuana supporters in Oregon file lawsuit against Secretary of State: Sponsors of Oregon Initiative 24, Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement, have filed a lawsuit against Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown challenging the office's disqualification of a large amount of signatures during a sampling process carried out in June. According to reports, 48% of the 122,000 signatures submitted early have been disqualified by the Secretary of State. Robert Wolfe, a chief proponent of the measure, said, "Under the policies of Kate Brown, the Oregon Elections Division works hard to remove every possible signature from initiative petitions and for reasons that make no sense. Instead, they should be working to include as many signatures as possible, thus preserving citizen access to the ballot through the initiative system, as demanded by the Oregon Constitution."[3][4]

Michigan Supreme Court schedules arguments for Emergency Manager Referendum case: Upon receiving an appeal by Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility of the ruling made by the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments for July 25. The court, however, has not actually granted the request for a repeal but instead will hear arguments on whether to grant the request or take other action. If the request is denied the question will automatically go to voters without further input from the courts.[5]

Judge rules in California ballot numbering case: On Monday, July 9, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny ruled against Molly Munger who had filed a lawsuit in an attempt to prevent ballot priority for a measure filed by Governor Jerry Brown over one filed by her. Munger argued that though she filed her measure before the governor's, the Secretary of State certified his first and thereby gave his measure an advantage because it will appear first on the statewide ballot. Judge Kenny ruled that the state did nothing wrong and said that to do otherwise would be an act of him telling counties exactly how they should operate their certification procedures. As a result of the ruling, the measures that will appear on the ballot have been assigned an order by the Secretary of State, with Gov. Brown's being the first listed.[6]

Supporters of the Minnesota Same-Sex Marriage Amendment to file lawsuit over ballot title: Upset over Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's new wording for how the amendment will appear on the ballot, supporters of the measure a lawsuit claiming Secretary Ritchie is unlawfully using his office to fight the measure. According to reports, supporters filed their challenge directly with the Minnesota Supreme Court. For reference, Secretary Ritchie changed the title from "Recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman" to "Limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples."[7]

Initiative allowing wine to be sold at grocery stores approved by Oklahoma Supreme Court: In a narrow 5-4 ruling delivered on Thursday, June 28, by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, arguments that the Oklahoma Wine Purchase Amendment violates the state and U.S. constitutions were rejected. The initiative is known as Initiative Petition No. 396 and would allow grocery stores across the state to sell wine.[8]

Wording of Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative approved by state supreme court: On July 2 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Robert J. Cordy released his decision approving new ballot language for a proposed amendment legalizing medical marijuana. The new language rewords the "Yes" statement on the ballot to, "A yes vote would enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana, allowing patients meeting certain conditions to obtain marijuana produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers, or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use."[9]

Approved legislation

Amendment reordering California ballot measures signed into law: On June 27 Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1499 into law. The bill, similar in effect to SB 1039, alters the appearance of ballot items so that all proposed constitutional amendments and bond measures, whether proposed by legislative referrals or by citizen initiatives, would appear near the top of statewide ballots.[10][11]

See also