Direct democracy in full swing as seven state initiative deadlines arrive this week
The Fourth of July holiday is quickly approaching, so it seems fitting for direct democracy to take over across the country. Supporters of statewide ballot initiatives in seven states this week face deadlines on different days.
Starting on July 4, for three consecutive days there will be petition drive deadlines in Arizona, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon and Washington. The required amount of valid signatures must be turned in by supporters to the appropriate election officials on those days in order for initiatives to be placed on the ballot.
Five out of those seven states had initiatives on the ballot during the last ballot measure election in 2010. However, a different year could mean different results.
Below is a summary of key initiatives being circulating in certain states, the requirements that must be met to obtain ballot access and the date of states' deadlines.
Massachusetts has the most complex initiative process among the states with petition drive deadlines this week.
Proponents of potential citizen-initiated measures must have collected 68,911 signatures by November 23, 2011 to turn them into local registrars. After it finding that enough valid signatures were collected, petitions are then returned to supporters, who this year had until the December 7, 2011 petition drive deadline to turn those signatures in to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office.
Once signatures are deemed valid, proposed laws are then sent to the Massachusetts General Assembly for consideration.
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. This amounts to about 11,000 signatures
Only four initiatives, out of the original 31 that were proposed for circulation with the Massachusetts Attorney General, made it to the state legislature and subsequently to the second signature phase.
Residents in Ohio could potentially see a vast number of hot-button political topics on the ballot this year, that is if supporters of certain initiatives turn in signatures on time.
In Ohio, the statewide petition drive deadline for ballot initiatives seeking ballot access in 2012 is July 4, 2012. That is when supporters of initiated constitutional amendments need to turn in 385,247. For indirect initiated state statutes, the magic number is 115,574.
Potential ballot issues brewing in the backdrop of the presidential race in Ohio include two marijuana measures that have lit up a sizable debate.
One measure, calling for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes in the state was proposed as the Ohio Medical Cannabis Act by a "core group of patients" advocating for the use of medical marijuana. A similar measure is circulating for 2013.
Another notable measure deals with the term "personhood" in the state constitution. The initiative would define a person as any human at any stage of development, including fertilization. It is being supported by Personhood Ohio as part of a nationwide campaign to change state constitutions to include all stages of development when defining a person.
Finally, the redistricting process in the state, which has taken a front seat in the political world in Ohio and other states, could be voted on come fall 2012.
The initiative would create a 12-person citizen commission to draw legislative and congressional district maps. According to supporters of the measure, the commission would create districts that would reflect the state's geographic, racial, ethnic and political diversity. The initiative would also bar lobbyists and elected officials from joining the commission. Currently, the Ohio Legislature redraws district maps every ten years due to population shifts.
The lone July 5 state will have its supporters scrambling for what could be a hectic petition drive deadline day.
Supporters of ballot initiative efforts have until that day to turn in the required amount of signatures for their proposals. Signature requirements for ballot initiative efforts are 259,212 signatures for initiated constitutional amendments and 172,808 for initiated state statutes.
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