Initiative and Referendum History Series: Three states celebrated 100 years of I&R during 2012 elections

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December 26, 2012

By Al Ortiz

Throughout the year, Ballotpedia has been keeping track of anniversaries of the enactment of the initiative and referendum process in certain states, particularly the 100-year anniversaries.

Previously, reports were completed for Arizona and Ohio, detailing approval rate and the history behind the implementation of this direct democracy process.

In early-November, three states had anniversaries marking the 100th year since the passage and enactment of laws that added initiative and referendum provisions to those states' constitutions.

Below are breakdowns of each states' process, how the process came about in those states and the approval rating of initiatives in each.

Idaho

Quick I&R Stats
Total initiatives 32
Approved 15
Defeated 17

Citizens of Idaho may only initiate legislation as a state statute. Idahoans may also repeal legislation via veto referendum, but cannot place a constitutional amendment on the ballot via initiative.

For an initiated state statute or a veto referendum, signatures collected on petitions must be equal to 6% of qualified electors in the last general election.

The most recent ballot initiatives to make the ballot was in 2012, where three veto referendums were placed in front of voters.

The measures were filed in response to education bills that were signed into law during the 2011 state legislative session. One measure would repeal a law that related to teachers' collective bargaining agreements. According to reports, the law ended tenure and removed issues like workload and class size from contract negotiations.

The second referendum was filed to repeal a similar law also dealing with collective bargaining.

The third veto referendum was filed after a previously pending education-related law, dealing with technology and online learning, was signed into effect.

However, despite the uptick in initiative proposals, the beginning of the process started in a controversial manner.

In 1911 the Idaho Legislature approved an amendment allowing initiative and referendum, amending the state constitution after it was approved by voters on November 5, 2012. However, the amendment did not say how many signatures were needed to qualify for the ballot, allowing the legislature to raise or lower the number however they wanted. It wasn't until 1938 that a bill was passed that set the bar for the signature requirement.

Nebraska

Quick I&R Stats
Total initiatives 48
Approved 18
Defeated 30

Unlike Idaho, citizens of Nebraska may initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment. Citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum.

In Nebraska, the number of required signatures is tied to the number of registered voters in the state as of the statutory deadline for filing signatures. Nebraska is the only state where the number of required signatures is tied directly to the number of registered voters. Most states tie their calculation to how many people actually voted for governor (or some other statewide office) in the most recent election. Because of this unique policy, Nebraska is also the only state where petition sponsors cannot know the exact number of signatures required until the day these signatures are filed.

For proposed statutes, the number required is 7% of registered voters. For amendments, the number required is 10% of registered voters. The Nebraska Constitution provides for two distinct types of referendum. In the first type, the law is referred to ballot but remains in effect until the vote--this requires signatures from 5% of registered voters. In the second, the law is referred to the ballot and suspended until voters have weighed in--this requires signatures from 10% of registered voters. Most states only feature the latter type of veto referendum.

The last measure to be placed on the ballot via the initiative process was in 2008, where voters decided on whether to amend the Nebraska Constitution to prohibit the state from discriminating on the basis of race. That measure was ultimately approved.

100 years ago, the initiative and referendum process was adopted on November 5, 1912, when voters approved a law proposed by the Nebraska Legislature. According to reports, the vote ended up being 189,200 in favor and 15,315 against. Blank votes in that election were counted as "yes" votes.

Washington

Quick I&R Stats
Total initiatives 173
Approved 88
Defeated 85

Citizens of Washington may initiate legislation as either a direct or indirect state statute. In Washington, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum. Citizens may not initiate constitutional amendments.

Washington's signature requirement is based on the total number of votes cast for the office of governor at the last regular gubernatorial election. Initiatives to the People require signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast for the office of governor in the last election. Initiatives to the Legislature also require signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast for the office of governor in the last election. Veto referendum petitions require signatures equal to 4% of the votes cast for the office of governor.

In 2012, four ballot measures made the ballot via citizen-initiative. Included in this bunch of initiatives were controversial topics such as same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.

In 1911, an amendment allowing the initiative and referendum process was passed through both houses of the state legislature. However, the amendment, which was eventually approved by voters, did not allow citizens to propose constitutional amendments, which is still not allowed today. According to reports, the amendment was enacted by voters on November 5, 2012 by a five to two margin.


Staff writer Joshua Williams contributed to this report

See also

Ballotpedia News

Previous series reports