Laws governing petition circulators
The initiative states regulate petition circulators in a variety of ways. These include residency requirements, age requirements, requiring circulators to disclose whether they are paid or volunteer circulators, requiring the circulator to personally witness each act of signing the petition, bans on payment of petitioners per signature, and restrictions on where circulators are allowed to solicit signatures.
Laws governing petition circulators are an active area of legislative and legal action. In general, proponents of additional restrictions on circulations say that the laws work to guard the integrity of the petition process, while opponents of additional regulations say that the laws are (a) unconstitutional and (b) an attempt by powerful politicians to put a veneer of respectability on recurrent and multi-faceted attempts to squelch the initiative process.
Residency and Age Requirements
For residence requirements, see Residency requirements for petition circulators
More than half of the 24 I&R states require that petition circulators be eligible to vote in the state. The requirement that a circulator be eligible to vote also has the consequence that the circulator be at least 18. In states where there is no eligibility requirement, people who are under 18 are allowed to circulate petitions.
Disclosing Paid Status
Seven states require circulators to disclose whether they are a paid or a volunteer circulator to potential petition signers. These states are Arizona, California, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon and Wyoming--all of which require that a prominent notice be placed on the petition form stating whether the circulator is paid or volunteer--and Missouri, where the circulator must file an affidavit with the Missouri Secretary of State.
In Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a Colorado law that required circulators to wear a badge disclosing their name and status. in its decision, the court wrote:
District Court found from evidence ACLF presented that compelling circulators to wear identification badges inhibits participation in the petitioning process.
See also: Badge requirements.
Witness and Affidavit Requirements
Eighteen of the 24 initiative states require that circulators must personally witness each petition signature and sign an oath or affidavit stating that he or she personally witnesses the signing of the signature. States with these requirements include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
In Florida, the law specifically says that petitions may be signed outside the presence of a circulator.
In Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Colorado law requiring circulator affidavits on petition forms.
Bans on payment-per-signature
In North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming initiative sponsors are banned from paying petition circulators per signature. An 2005 Ohio law banning payment-per-signature was struck down by a federal judge in November 2006 in the case of Citizens for Tax reform v. Deters. (The decision is being appealed.)
North Dakota's law banning pay-per-signature was upheld by the 8th circuit court in the case of Initiative & Referendum Institute v. Jaeger. Oregon's law was upheld in 2005 by a federal district judge in the case of Prete v. Bradbury.
In 2007, legislative proposals to prohibit paying circulators by the signature were introduced in Nebraska and Washington. The Nebraska effort to impose this restriction did not pass; the Washington effort is still alive.
Pay-per-signature provisions in Idaho, Maine, Mississippi and Washington have been struck down as unconstitutional in federal district courts.
- History of restrictions on paid circulators
- Prete v. Bradbury, the U.S. Eighth Circuit judgment upholding Oregon's ban on pay-per-signature.
- Citizens for Tax Reform v. Deters, a November 2006 case that found Ohio's ban on pay-per-signature unconstitutional.
- Idaho Coalition United for Bears v. Cenarrusa, the 2001 federal decision invalidating Idaho's ban on pay-per-signature.
- On Our Terms '97 PAC v. Maine Secretary of State, the 1999 federal decision invalidating Maine's ban.
- LIMIT v. Maleng, the 1994 federal decision invalidating Washington's ban
- Term Limits Leadership Council v. Clark, the judicial decision invalidating Mississippi's ban
Restrictions on where circulators are allowed to solicit signatures
- Residency requirements for petition circulators
- History of restrictions on paid circulators
- Distribution requirement
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