Changes in 2009 to laws governing ballot measures

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This page lists changes and proposed changes in 2009 to laws that affect:
  • How state constitutions are amended.
  • Signature collection on petitions for candidates, political parties, recall campaigns and ballot initiatives.
  • Other laws that affect key areas related to direct democracy.


See also: Laws governing ballot measures in Alabama
  • HB 393 proposes a constitutional amendment that would make all elected state, county, and municipal officials subject to recall.


Alaska State Representatives Kyle Johansen (R-Ketchikan) and Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) have introduced HB 36 in 2009 to make it illegal for initiative circulators to be paid on a per-signature basis. It would also make it illegal for initiative circulators to circulate more than one initiative at once.[1]


Laws governing the initiative process in Arizona
  • HCR 2004 would change the state's filing deadline for initiatives from 4 months to 120 days before the election.
  • HCR 2028 would allow the Arizona State Legislature to appropriate or divert funds allocated through previous ballot initiatives in the state to the state's general fund, if the budget offices of the governor and the legislature determine that a budget deficit exists after the second quarter of a fiscal year. This diversion of funds could happen before the state would levy any additional fees or taxes to make up for the estimated budget deficit.
  • HCR 2029 would restrict ballot initiatives in the state from earmarking funds for more than eight years. HCR 2029 would apply retroactively to the extent that any previous ballot initiatives that constrain funds to a certain purpose would be referred to the ballot again where voters could decide on that allotment of money again.
  • HCR 2030 says that any ballot measure in the state, whether statewide, or for a county or city, that involves any new taxes or tax increases would have to be approved by a supermajority of two-thirds of those voting.
  • SB 1245 would changes the legal deadline for providing arguments for the official voter guide for against ballot measures from 53 to 90 days before the election.
  • SCR 1023 would change the filing deadline for initiatives from four to five months before the election.
  • SB 1450 defines signatures on petitions that use a post office box as the address as a valid signature as long as the signer is registered to vote and is eligible to sign the petition. This proposed reform is part of the fallout of Jenkins v. Hale.
  • SCR 1009 says that ballot initiatives can't allocate funds beyond a certain level in times of budget deficit.


Laws governing the initiative process in California
  • The Fair Political Practices Commission is considering a set of new rules to govern how politicians can raise and spend money for ballot measures. Currently, politicians can raise money for ballot measure funds, but do not have to spend the money in ballot measure campaign accounts specifically for ballot measures. Ross Johnson, the FPPC's chairman, thinks this creates the potential for abuse, referring to the funds as "open-ended slush funds."[3]
  • California Assembly Bill 6 (2009). Proposed by Lori Saldana, AB 6 would require firms that hire signature gatherers to qualify state or local initiatives for the ballot to pay an annual fee and register with the secretary of state. AB 6 would also require these firms to provide a training program for signature gatherers on state laws regarding the initiative process and submit proof of such training to the secretary of state.[5]
  • California Assembly Bill 1068 (2009). Proposed by Lori Saldana, AB 1068 "provides that a contract for circulating a petition or collecting signatures for a proposed state or local initiative, referendum, or recall measure that is to be submitted to voters is void if it makes payment to any person under the contract contingent upon the measure being qualified for the ballot."[5]


Laws governing the initiative process in Colorado

Colorado House Bill 1326 (2009) was signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter on Friday, May 29, 2009. The law was sponsored in the Colorado General Assembly by politicians Terrance Carroll, Brandon Shaffer, Josh Penry, Mike May, and Lois Court.[9]

HB 1326 includes these provisions:

  • It forbids campaigns from paying circulators on a pay-per-signature basis.
  • People who successfully challenge the validity of signatures in court could sue the campaign to recover attorney's fee.
  • Ballot measures that change state laws (initiated state statutes) will henceforward be referred to as "propositions."
  • Requires that petition drive management companies who hire paid circulators go through a licensing process.
  • Petition sheet must carry a label to warn people that their signature will help place the question on the ballot.
  • Circulators who collect more than 100 signatures are required to go through a government-sponsored training procedure before they are allowed to collect additional signatures legally.
  • People who sign a petition and later change their mind will be able to have their signature withdrawn.[10]


Illinois Senate Bill 1555 (2009)

SB 1555, sponsored by Jack D. Franks and Pamela Althoff, would alter the way that taxes are imposed in Special Service Areas throughout Illinois.[11]

Current state law allows municipalities to create special service areas, or SSAs. SSAs can generate funding to build infrastructure projects that are intended to benefit a geographical area that is less than borders of a municipality. This can include sewer projects, street repairs and so on.

Property owners located within an SSAs pay more on their property taxes for a set period (usually 20 years) until bonds issued to pay for the project are repaid. Residents can stop a town or county from imposing an SSA by collecting signatures on a petition from 51% of the area's property owners of record and 51% of the registered voters within the SSA.

Franks objects to this. His legislation, SB 1555, would require the municipality that wants to impose the tax to hold a vote before they impose the tax, rather than putting the burden of collecting signatures on those who oppose the tax. According to Frank, SB 1555 "would require the people who are trying to raise taxes on the citizens to prove that 51 percent of the people want their taxes raised."[11]


Laws governing the initiative process in Maine
  • Representative Mark Bryant sponsored "An Act to Promote the Integrity of Citizens’ Initiatives" (HP0023, LD 28) as emergency legislation to require petition gathers to be registered voters in the state.[12] On February 12, LD 28 was killed in the Maine Joint Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee.[13]
  • Representative Emily Ann Cain, D-Orono, is sponsoring "An Act to Modify the Citizen Initiative Process," which would attach fiscal impact statements to citizen-led initiative questions. Cain says, "Voters need to understand" how much an initiative would cost, if it were enacted. Dan Billings of Maine Leads says the proposed bill is unconstitutional.[14]
  • The Maine Legislature enacted LD 1169, "An Act To Amend the Election Law." LB 1169 establishes a new legal definition of circulator that runs against the legal reasoning used in the 2008 lawsuit, Maine Democratic Party v. Secretary of State. In that lawsuit, U.S. Senate candidate Herbert Hoffman lost his place on the ballot when the Maine Secretary of State followed by the Maine Supreme Court disqualified signatures because of questions about the circulator affidavit. John Branson, a Portland attorney who represented Hoffman in the lawsuit, said of LB 1169, "In enacting changes to the law governing the circulation of nominating petitions, the Legislature has corrected the gross distortion of legislative intent reflected in the Maine Supreme Court's July 2008 decision in the Hoffman case."[15]
  • LD 1169 changed the relevant section of the election code to say, "The circulator of a nomination petition shall verify by oath or affirmation before a notary public or other person authorized by law to administer oaths or affirmations that the circulator personally witnessed all of the signatures to the petition and that to the best of the circulator's knowledge and belief each signature is the signature of the person whose name it purports to be; each signature authorized under section 153-A was made by the authorized signer in the presence and at the direction of the voter; and each person is a resident of the electoral division named in the petition.
  • Prior to the adoption of LD 1169, the relevant section of the code said, "The circulator of a nomination petition shall verify by oath or affirmation before a notary public or other person authorized by law to administer oaths or affirmations that all of the signatures to the petition were made in the circulator's presence and that to the best of the circulator's knowledge and belief each signature is the signature of the person whose name it purports to be; each signature authorized under section 153-A was made by the authorized signer in the presence and at the direction of the voter; and each person is a resident of the electoral division named in the petition."[16]


Maryland Senator Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced Maryland Senate Bill 445, 2009, requiring all petition circulators to look at a "current and valid photo ID that includes Date of Birth" for any potential signer, before letting that person sign the petition. It also requires the signers to show their ID to the circulator. The bill was to be heard on February 26, 2009.[17]

On March 26, Maryland's board of elections voted unanimously to impose stricter standards for referendum petition drives. According to the Baltimore Sun, "under the new rules, people signing petitions must use either their full name, including middle initials, or sign their name exactly as it appears on election board voting rolls. In addition, a printed name required on a petition must exactly match the accompanying signature."[18]


Laws governing the initiative process in Missouri

Missouri state legislators have introduced several bills to change the laws governing the initiative process in Missouri.

  • HJR3 would boost the number of signatures needed to get an initiative on the ballot, from 8% of the last gubernatorial vote (for a state Constitutional change) and 5% (for a statute), to, respectively, 10% and 8%
  • HJR4 would say that initiatives need to receive 60% of the popular vote in order to pass.[19]
  • Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, has introduced a bill that would change the way ballot titles are chosen.[20]


Laws governing the initiative process in Nebraska

Kent Rogert has proposed Nebraska Legislative Bill 575 (2009) which, if enacted, would require the Nebraska Secretary of State to order circulation of petitions to be suspended if the Nebraska Attorney General determines there is probable cause to prosecute someone for breaking a petition law.[21]


See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Nevada

Nevada has been struggling for years over its distribution requirement. In ACLU v. Lomax in 2006, the "thirteen counties rule" was invalidated by the Ninth Circuit.

In 2007, the Nevada State Legislature passed a new distribution requirement in Nevada Senate Bill 549, which according to the ACLU was "virtually identical" to the law struck down in ACLU v. Lomax. On September 28, 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pro invalidated Nevada Senate Bill 549 (2007), saying it is unconstitutional. Judge Pro ordered Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller not to enforce the law.[22][23]

In 2009, the legislature passed another distribution requirement. The new requirement is that circulators must collect the signatures of 10 percent of the turnout in the most recent election in each of the state's Congressional districts. This makes the overall number of signatures required to qualify an initiative for the ballot 60% higher.[24]

New Mexico

See also: Laws governing ballot measures in New Mexico

Senate Bill 334 was proposed to preventsstate agencies and political subdivisions of the state from using public funds to advertise in favor of or opposition to a ballot measure.

New York

Governor David Paterson's state budget for 2090-2010 includes a section that would reduce signature requirements for initiating a referendum for municipal consolidation or dissolution. Under current law, a permissive referendum for voting on consolidation or dissolution of a village, special district, or town is triggered if 60 percent of the registered voters sign a petition to that effect. Under the proposed legislation, 25 percent of the registered voters could trigger a requirement for a permissive referendum.[25]

North Carolina

  • HB 524 includes a provision that allows residents to vote on a proposed involuntary municipal annexation if a petition with signatures from 15 percent of the registered voters living in the city limits and in the area targeted for involuntary annexation is filed.[27]


Laws governing the initiative process in Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma Senate Joint Resolution 13, 2009 revises the Oklahoma Constitution's calculations for signature requirements to be based upon the votes cast for Governor. There were no changes to the percentage calculations in the final bill. Status: Measure passed: Ayes: 42 Nays: 2 5/5/2009
  • Oklahoma Senate Bill 800, 2009 would require any challenges to the ballot title of an initiative measure to be made before the work of signature gathering begins. Also modifies procedures for protest-Specifying duties of the Sec of State and the Supreme Court [1] Status: Signed by Governor 05/26/2009
  • Oklahoma Senate Bill 852, 2009 makes several changes including extending the circulation period from 90 days to one year. It was passed by the Oklahoma House on April 6. A slightly different version passed the Oklahoma State Senate earlier in the legislative session.[28] ) Status: Conferees Disagree 5/12/09

SJR 13 and SB 852 are both sponsored by Randy Brogdon.

  • Sally Kern, a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, has proposed legislation that would prevent teacher's unions from "distributing materials at professional meetings for the purpose of influencing the results of an election for state or local office or a ballot measure, or for the purpose of soliciting funds for or against a candidate for state or local office or a ballot measure." Jill Dudley, president of the Moore Association of Classroom Teachers, said, Kern comes "out against us anytime we seem to do anything." Kern says she wants to protect Oklahoma teachers from listening to political advocacy at official school activities.[30]


Laws governing the initiative process in Oregon
  • Require signature gatherers to register and take a training course earlier than they are required to so under the state's current laws.
  • Allow the government to invalidate any signatures collected by a petition circulator who has been convicted of fraud, forgery or identity theft.[33]
  • Allows the secretary of state's office to do criminal background checks on circulators.
  • Invalidates signatures from petitioners who are prohibited from working in the state.
  • Raises fines for violations from $250 per incident to as much as $10,000.
  • Makes chief petitioners liable for fines if they fail to stop fraud under certain circumstances.[34]


Two state legislators may introduce legislation that would extend the time county residents have to petition a code home rule bill to referendum. The public currently has up to 40 days after a bill’s passage in a county to begin a petition drive. If 5 percent of the county’s registered voters sign the petition within 40 days, the petition effort now receives an additional 40 days. Signatures from 10 percent of registered voters are enough to secure a spot on the ballot in the next election.[35]

South Dakota

Laws governing the initiative process in South Dakota

Members of the South Dakota State Legislature want to change laws governing the initiative process in South Dakota to require additional donor disclosure. One new law, SB180, would apply that when organizations give more than $10,000 to a ballot measure committee, someone from the organization would have to file a signed statement with election officials swearing that the money wasn't raised for the purpose of influencing the ballot question, or file a full report as a ballot committee. A second bill defines "treasury funds" as "funds of an organization that were not raised or collected from any other source for the purpose of influencing a ballot question."[36]


Laws governing the initiative process in Utah

Proposed HB48 would require that ballot initiative and referendum titles be no more than 75 words. The current limit is 100 words. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo. He believes it will make ballot language more "succinct and understandable."[37]


Laws governing petition circulators

HB 2642 was introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates by Robert Orrick, a Republican, to make it illegal to pay petition circulators on a per-signature basis. On February 10, HB 2642 received the unanimous approval of the House of Delegates.

In mid-February, the ban was eliminated by a senate committee.[38]

HB 2642 did't apply to ballot initiatives, since Virginia doesn't allow them. It would have applied to petition circulation for political candidates.[39][40]


Laws governing the initiative process in Washington
  • HB 1057 requires that ballot titles involving property tax levies must include a comparison of the financial impact (if any) between the preceding year and the current ballot proposal in both dollar and percentage differences.[41]
  • SB 5098 requires that if a measure relates to a property tax levy, the ballot title must include a comparison of the financial impact between the immediately preceding year and the current ballot, in both dollar and percentage change terms.[42]
  • SB 5508 requires notification by an election officer, either by publication or by direct mail, when a material error occurs in a local voters' pamphlet.[43]
  • SB 6099 requires the concise description on a ballot title to include a statement describing the amount the measure will increase or decrease taxes if the measure has tax implications.[44]
  • SJR 8202 was proposed by Ken Jacobsen as an amendment to the state Constitution to modify the powers of initiative and referendum.[45]
  • HB 2310 changes notice requirements about proposed amendments.[46]
  • HB 2311 repeals statutory requirements for legal advertising of proposed constitutional amendments, initiatives, and referenda.[47]
  • HJR 4212 changes the notice requirement for amendments submitted to the people.[48]
  • SB 6123 repeals the statutory requirements for legal advertising of proposed constitutional amendments, initiatives, and referenda.[49]
  • SJR 8217 changes notice requires for amendments submitted to the people.[50]

See also


  1. Alaska anti-initiative bill, January 19, 2009
  2. East Valley Tribune, "Reduce required initiative signatures, gov says," January 13, 2009
  3. Sacramento Bee, "FPPC targets ballot campaign accounts," January 15, 2009
  4. Rocklin Today, "AB 319 will reduce misleading information for ballot initiatives," February 26, 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 California Catholic Daily, "Death by a thousand cuts," June 16, 2009
  6. Ballot Access News, "California Legislative Hearing on Bill to Ban Paying Circulators Per Signature," July 6, 2009
  7. Text of SB 34
  8. Los Angeles Weekly, "Arnold vetoes initiative ban: Sleazy effort by California legislature to hamstring signature-gathering," October 12, 2009
  9. Durango Herald, "Law looks to end campaign fraud," May 16, 2009
  10. Speaker Carroll aims to end ballot fraud, March 24, 2009
  11. 11.0 11.1 Northwest Herald, "Johnsburg residents question funding source for SSA appeal case," June 19, 2009
  12. Citizens in Charge, "Maine Rep’s anti-initiative legislation is unconstitutional," January 23, 2009
  13. Maine bill to restrict initiatives loses in committee
  14. State House News, "Fiscal note bill evokes chorus of boos, cheers," February 26, 2009
  15. OpEdNews, "Maine Legislature rebukes Courts, Democratic Party," June 13, 2009
  16. Text of Maine election code
  17. Ballot Access News, "Maryland bill to require circulators to see ID"
  18. Baltimore Sun, "Tougher rules imposed on petition drives," March 27, 2009
  19. Ballot Access News, "More Missouri Anti-Initiative Bills," January 24, 2009
  20. Columbia Missourian, "Missouri lawmakers seek petition regulations," February 5, 2009
  21. Nebraska TV, "Hearing set on Neb. bill on petition circulators," March 7, 2009
  22. Mercury News, "Federal judge strikes down Nev. ballot measure law," September 29, 2008
  23. Las Vegas Review Journal, "EDITORIAL: Petition requirements," October 2, 2008
  24. Blockbuster Democracy, "Harder to Access the Ballot in Nevada," September 2, 2009
  25. Great Neck Record, "Feb. 5 Meeting for Public on Local Government," January 30, 2009
  26. Ballot Access News, "Bill to Establish Initiative in North Carolina," February 9, 2009
  27. Freedom Communications North Carolina, "Annexation supporters, foes, respond to new legislation," July 3, 2009
  28. "Oklahoma Bill to Ease Initiative Rules Makes Headway"
  29. Several Oklahoma bills aim to open up initiative process
  30. Norman Transcript, "Teacher's union reps upset with proposal," February 17, 2009
  31. News-Review, "Ore. initiatives might go first to lawmakers," January 28, 2009
  32. "Hands off Oregon's initiative system," February 5, 2009
  33. The Oregonian, "Brown wants to further regulate Ore. initiatives," March 23, 2009
  34. The Oregonian, "Senate OKs initiative crackdown," June 15, 2009
  35. Cumberland Times-News, "Commissioners oppose time extension to petition code home rule bills," January 28, 2009
  36. Aberdeen News, "Campaign spending laws need fixing," February 11, 2009
  37. Salt Lake Tribune, "Proposal would trim ballot-measure titles"
  38. VA Pay-Per-Signature Ban Dies in Senate Committee, February 19, 2009
  39. Ballot Access News, "Virginia Bill to Ban Paying Circulators on a Per-Signature Basis," February 4, 2009
  40. Ballot Access News, "Virginia Bill to Ban Payment Per Signature Passes House," February 10, 2009
  41. Washington Votes, "Text of HB 1057"
  42. Analysis of SB 5098
  43. Analysis of SB 5508
  44. Analysis of 6099
  45. Analysis of 8202
  46. Analysis of HB 2310
  47. Analysis of 2311
  48. Text of HJR 4212
  49. Analyis of SB 6123
  50. Text of SJR 8217