List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

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See also: 2012 ballot measure litigation


Arizona Public Election Funding Ban Amendment (2012)

On May 6, 2011, elected officials and future potential candidates in the state filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court attempting to block the public funding ban measure from being placed on the ballot, according to reports. Attorney for the plaintiffs, Paul Eckstein, stated that the language of the measure constitutionally bars government agencies from spending public funds for "campaign support". This is a term that is ambiguously referred to, according to Eckstein. He argued that this could lead to that phrase being interpreted as disallowing direct contributions to political races, and also banning daily operations of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Eckstein pointed out that this could mean that the measure violates the state's single-subject rule.[1]

Jonathan Paton, who is a proponent of the measure, claimed about the lawsuit, "It sounds pretty obvious they don't want to face us in November on the ballot because they know they're going to lose."


  • In January 2012, federal judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the parts of 2008's Proposition 9 ("Marsy's Law") that govern the revocation of parole in certain circumstances are unconstitutional. Karlton said those parts of Proposition 9 "violate parolees' right to a neutral decision-maker by placing a thumb on the scale of justice and tipping the balance towards incarceration."[2]
  • A lawsuit was filed to prevent the opponents of Davis Joint Unified School District parcel tax, Measure C from making arguments in the official ballot pamphlet against the process of using an all mail-in ballot election. This lawsuit failed. On January 23, 2012, Judge Sammuel McAdam wrote in his ruling, "Granda is well within his right to challenge the mail-in procedure in the Argument against attacking both the substance and the process of the parcel tax issue. In other words, the substance and the procedure of any election are inherently relevant to each other. The voters will decide whether his opinion and argument have any merit."[4]
  • A lawsuit was filed in February 2012 to remove the San Diego Pension Reform Initiative, Proposition B (June 2012) from the ballot on the grounds that two elected city officials spoke in favor of it and that therefore, although sponsored by private citizens, it runs afoul of the city's so-called "meet-and-confer provision". That provision in the city's labor contracts requires the city to meet-and-confer with designated public sector union representatives when a change to the city's labor agreements is under consideration. Since a "meet-and-confer" meeting did not take place and would have had to take place (according to a February ruling of the California Public Employee Relations Board), the existence of the initiative may amount to an unfair labor practice.[5] According to Joan Raymond, the president of AFSCME Local 127 in San Diego, "(The ruling) adds credence to what we've been saying all along during this initiative process, that it is a city-sponsored initiative and there is no way Sanders was acting as a private citizen."[5] Carl DeMaio, a supporter of the initiative, said, "I am completely confident that the courts will dismiss this desperate lawsuit and uphold the constitutionally protected right of citizens to place measures on the ballot through the initiative process."[5]
  • A lawsuit was filed on March 15, 2012 by Robin Johansen of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell seeking to remove the San Jose Pension Reform Question from the city's June 5, 2012 ballot on the grounds that the ballot question is misleadingly prejudicial in favor of a "yes" vote. Johansen's complaint says, "The code says it has to be fair and impartial, not an argument for the measure. When you look at the kinds of emotionally laden words -- reform and abuse, essential services -- those are very strongly worded phrases intended to get people to vote for the measure."[5]
  • The City of Costa Mesa filed a lawsuit against Orange County in mid-March 2012. The city filed its ballot language for a proposed city charter proposition with the county a day late. The city asks that the county nevertheless place the measure on the June 5, 2012 ballot. The county clerk is filing a statement with the court in favor of the complaint. Groups in Costa Mesa that oppose the city charter change have chosen not to contest the issue of whether it goes on the June 5, 2012 ballot or, because it was technically filed a day late, the November 6, 2012, ballot.[6]
  • U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ruled in March 2012 that for the purposes of sponsoring and circulating petitions in California, corporations do not have that as a core right: "The state constitution makes clear that this initiative power belongs to people. Neither corporations nor unincorporated associations are mentioned." This ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed by Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs and Fair Competition and the Associated Builders & Contractors Inc. against Chula Vista. The lawsuit was filed because the City of Chula Vista had not allowed the groups to be the official proponents of a measure to ban Project Labor Agreements.[7]
  • Steve Nelson filed a lawsuit that sought to force a change in the way the Mountain View Whisman School District describes Measure G. Nelson said in his lawsuit that the school district "was trying to scare the public into supporting the measure by overstating the risk of asbestos and lead at district schools." Santa Clara County Superior Court judge Kevin McKenney denied Nelson's motion, saying that the plaintiff presented insufficient evidence in support of his claim.[8]
  • A 3-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on April 2, 2012 voted to uphold Proposition 209 (1996), the ban on the use of affirmative action by government agencies, including universities. The same federal appeals court had previously upheld Proposition 209. The lawsuit that led to the April 2012 ruling had claimed that a new ruling was required by new evidence showing that in the years after the adoption of Proposition 209, minority admissions to the state's "most prestigious" universities declined.[9]


Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2012)

A lawsuit was filed on July 11, 2011 against the proposed marijuana legalization ballot measure, stating that the proposal does not make it clear that taxes would be raised. Douglas Bruce, of Colorado Springs, filed the lawsuit with the state Supreme Court. However, Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado stated that the five-business day allowance to challenge the measure has already passed. A spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State claimed that since the ballot measure language was revised, the legal challenge could move forward.[10]

Colorado Personhood Amendment (2012)

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains filed an appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court, requesting to block the state "personhood" measure's supporters from placing it on the ballot. The appeal was filed on January 9, 2012, weeks after the Colorado Title Board approved the language of the measure, and allowing for circulation of initiative petitions.[11]


Florida Religious Freedom, Amendment 7 (2012)

On July 20, 2011 the Florida Education Association (FEA), an inter-faith clergy group and some school administrators filed a lawsuit to block the proposed measure.[12] Opponents argue that the measure's title and ballot summary are misleading. FEA describes the proposed measure as an "underhanded attempt to legalize state tuition vouchers for private schools, including church-affiliated schools."[13]


Maryland In-State Tuition Referendum (2012)

On August 1, 2011 Casa de Maryland filed a lawsuit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court against the proposed measure. According to reports, the lawsuit argues that more than half of the collected petition signatures were collected illegally.[14] Specifically, plaintiffs argue two points. The process of collecting signatures was ripe for fraud considering that signers used a website,, to download and print voter information. Additionally, plaintiffs argue that the state tuition law cannot be subject to referendum because the Maryland Constitution prohibits referendums on laws that maintain or aid a public institution.[15]


Massachusetts Public Schools Initiative (2012)

A lawsuit, submitted by The Massachusetts Teachers Association with the Massachusetts Supreme Court, was filed on January 21, 2012 against the teacher evaluation proposal. The lawsuit complained that the proposal was in violation of the state constitution because it dealt with too many components that are unrelated. The legal challenge would void Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's circulation certification, and therefore would not allow Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin to place it on the ballot.[16]


Michigan Emergency Manager Referendum (2012)

Stand Up for Democracy will appear before the Michigan Court of Appeals on May 7, 2012. The group is arguing that the Board of State Canvassers unjustly denied the referendum ballot access with a politically motivated vote. The board had a split vote on the issue with the two Republican members voting to keep it off the ballot because they deemed the print on the petitions to be too small. Stand Up for Democracy will go before the court essentially arguing that it was the proper size.[17]


Missouri Income Tax Replacement Initiative (2012)
  • In early March 2011 a lawsuit was filed challenging the proposed measure's ballot summary and fiscal note. The suit was brought by a group called Missourians for Fair Taxation, opponents of the proposed measure. Attorneys Khristine Heisinger and Chuck Hatfield filed the challenge.[18]
    • Specifically, the lawsuit calls into question the ballot summary drafted by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. The group calls the summary, "insufficient, unfair and likely to deceive and mislead voters." The group specifically points to the fact that the text currently states that the measure would impose an expanded sales tax. That, they said is not the case. The measure would instead mandate that the legislature impose one but they argue that the text does not specifically state what would happen if the legislature refused. Additionally, the lawsuit argues that State Auditor Tom Schweich failed to differentiate between the nine filed initiatives and could have estimated the fiscal impacts based on information provided by state agencies, supporters and opponents.[18]
  • New versions of the proposed measure were approved for petition circulation on September 14, 2011. Shortly thereafter Missourians for Fair Taxation filed a lawsuit in an effort to change the ballot language. According to the group, the new language is vague. The text says that the measure may earn the state $300 million or cost it $1.5 billion. According to reports, "Republican [Auditor] Tom Schweich says that there are too many variables involved for his office to roll-up its sleeves and crunch the numbers."[19]
Missouri Municipal Police Amendment (2012)
Missouri Voter ID Amendment (2012)
  • On July 6, 2011 opponents filed a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court arguing that the wording of the ballot summary may be misleading. The measure was certified for the ballot on May 9, 2011. According to reports, eight plaintiffs are listed on the lawsuit which include elderly, disabled, immigrant and student voters. Denise Lieberman, a senior attorney for the Advancement Project voting rights group is also involved in the suit, along with attorneys from American Civil Liberties Union chapters in St. Louis and Kansas City and the Washington-based Fair Elections Legal Network.[22]
Missouri Public Prayer Amendment (2012)
  • On July 7, 2011 the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri filed a lawsuit challenging the wording of the ballot summary. According to reports, the legal challenge calls for the summary to be rewritten or for the measure to be removed from the 2012 statewide ballot.[23] Specifically the lawsuit challenges that the summary is misleading because it does not mention that students could use the proposed amendment to avoid homework assignments or that the measure would "remove any state constitutional protection of religious expression or liberty for prisoners in state or local custody."[24]
Missouri Payday Loan Initiative (2012)
  • A lawsuit was filed on August 18, 2011 in Cole County Circuit Court. The lawsuit argues that the ballot summary is "inadequate and unfair." Additionally, the suit notes that the cost estimate does not address all possible costs.[25] According to reports, the plaintiff is John Prentzler, director of auto operations at AutoStart USA. Prentzler is represented by Kansas City attorney Todd Graves and Jefferson City attorney Chuck Hatfield.[26]
  • A second lawsuit was filed on August 19, 2011 in Cole County Circuit Court. Contrary to the lawsuit filed by critics of the measure, the second lawsuit was filed by proponents. They argue that the fiscal note ignores testimony by state and local agencies that found that the proposed measure would have no cost on their budgets. Additionally, the suit notes that the fiscal note relies on the expertise of a someone who has testified against the regulations in the past.[27]
Missouri Minimum Wage Initiative (2012)


Montana Taxpayer Dividend Measure (2012)
  • On October 5, 2011, four labor groups asked District Judge Kathy Seeley to remove the taxpayer dividend measure from the ballot. The groups stated that the bill is unconstitutional because it is an inappropriate appropriation of money by legislative referendum. The groups that filed the lawsuit were MEA-MFT, the Montana AFL-CIO, Montana Public Employees Association, Montana Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Montana Council 9. The fifth group is not a labor union.[29]
Montana Supreme Court Elections Question (June 2012)
  • On November 23, 2011, a lawsuit to strike the measure from the ballot was filed by a group state voters which reports say included a handful of 1972 Constitutional Convention delegates. According to the lawsuit, the measure would illegally amend the Montana Constitution. The lawsuit specifically stated: "The referendum is illegal, unconstitutional and void, in that it deprives (voters) of their right to vote for certain Supreme Court candidates."[30] On Monday, January 9, seven, one from each of the proposed judicial districts, Republican legislators filed a motion to intervene in the case with Judge James Reynolds. They are asking the court to allow them to fight to help keep the measure on the ballot, according to their attorney, Sen. Art Wittich, "The (legislators') voting rights are directly impacted by the disposition of this case. As residents and voters of the proposed seven districts, the intervenors have a substantial interest in the subject matter of this action and should be allowed to intervene." The lawmakers who filed the motion are Sens. Joe Balyeat, who sponsored the bill, Edward Walker, and Greg Hinkle; and Reps. Mark Blasdel, Ryan Osmundson, Matthew Rosendale, and Kelly Flynn.[31]
  • On March 20, 2012, Judge Reynolds struck the measure form the ballot an unconstitutional saying that adding the new candidate requirements for Supreme Court justices, those which required candidates live inside proposed regional districts, conflict with what is already in the state constitution. Requests by supporters to simply remove the offending language were denied, with Judge Reynolds saying, "Without clear judicial legislation, this court cannot rewrite the remaining parts of this referendum. To do so would entail completely rewriting the title, the ballot statement, the statements of implication, and the text of the referendum itself. There is no constitutional or statutory authority for such a revision." Reportedly, both sides expect an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.[32]


Nevada Harrah's Sports Arena Initiative (2012)
  • On September 21, 2010 District Judge James Todd Russell upheld the proposed initiative petition for the sports arena initiative. Taxpayers for Protection of Nevada Jobs argued that the proposed initiative violated the "single-subject rule" and thus the petition should be declared invalid. However, the judge ruled that the organization's lawyer Scott Scherer did not prove a violation of the "single-subject rule."[33]
  • On December 15, 2010 the Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada Jobs filed a lawsuit in the First Judicial District Court alleging that there had been fraud and misconduct in the gathering of petition signatures for the sports arena initiative. Specifically, the lawsuit aims to invalidate the collected signatures.[34] According to reports, the lawsuit argues that the petition circulation process was tainted by fraudulent behavior by engaging in the use of false advertisements. For example, the lawsuit points to the use of pervasive lies about the details of the initiative (including the location of the proposed arena) and false statements about who circulated the petitions and obtained the signatures.[34]
Judge Todd Russell ruled on May 9, 2011 that the initiative did indeed gather enough signatures to advance to the ballot. According to the ruling Russell stated that the opponents who filed the lawsuit double counted invalid signatures. He also tossed the argument by the plaintiffs that the county clerks allegedly inflated signatures counts. According to reports, the plaintiffs, Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada Jobs, can appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, which the group is considering. No official word from the group has been made concerning this.[35]
Nevada Mining Tax Cap Amendment (2014)
  • The Nevada Mining Association filed a lawsuit in state court in Carson City during late-February 2012, attempting to block the mining tax cap amendment measure from the ballot. The association stated that the measure was misleading and failed to describe the consequences to Nevada's overall tax structure if enacted by voters.[36]
Nevada Casino Tax Amendment (2012)
  • The Nevada Resort Association filed a lawsuit on February 29, 2012 in order to block the casino tax initiative petition. The lawsuit was filed in Carson City District Court, stating that the petition is misleading to voters. Specifically, reports state that the group has asked Judge Todd Russell to stop initiative organizers from collecting signatures.[37]

North Dakota

North Dakota University "Fighting Sioux" Referendum, Measure 4 (June 2012)
  • The state Supreme Court has taken up the case and has set a March 2, 2012, deadline for responses to the lawsuit. The court has asked the referendum's sponsoring committee if it wants to respond as well. Secretary of State Al Jaeger has been named the defendant.[40]
  • Hearings for the case were held in an hour long session before the state Supreme Court on Thursday, March 15, 2012, with both sides receiving tough questioning. Justices questioned the board on the reasons for their tardiness in seeking court action, Justice Daniel Crothers asked, "That harm has been there since the statute was passed almost a year ago... Why now? Why in the face of a referral?" The court was also critical of the defense's claims that regulating the nickname and logo were within the legislature's constitutional rights. Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle said the state's arguments were so broad that it "would consume the constitutional authority of the board, if the Legislature wanted to do it." The court sadi it would rule at a later date.[41]
North Dakota Property Tax Amendment, Measure 2 (June 2012)
  • On Wednesday, February 15, 2012, Empower the Taxpayer and Charlene Nelson, chairwoman of the initiative campaign, filed a lawsuit against Tax Commissioner Cory Fong and several other top public officials. The lawsuit claims that these officials are using public money and resources to campaign against Measure 2 and, thereby, violating North Dakota laws that prevent public resources being used for political activity. Robert Hale, a member of Empower the Taxpayer, said, "Elected officials, government entities and organizations funded with taxpayer dollars are actively and intentionally engaged in lies, misrepresentations, deceptions, mischaracterization and fear-mongering." Fong responded to the allegations saying, "I think I was elected as tax commissioner ... to have comments and analysis of important measures that affect our tax system. This measure obviously impacts our overall tax system."[42]


Ohio "Personhood" Initiative (2012)

During March 2012, a lawsuit was filed hoping to block the Ohio "personhood" initiative efforts from ballot access. The lawsuit was filed by Healthy Families Ohio, who had hoped the amendment would be split into two separate measures. However, the intentions of the initiative was to ban abortion in the state of Ohio, and nothing else, according to the proponents of the proposal. The Ohio Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit during the week of March 23, 2012. According to Personhood Ohio spokesman Dr. Patrick Johnston: "They were trying to derail our petition process. We're trying to gather signatures to put a personhood amendment on the ballot in Ohio, which will end all abortion, protect every unborn child. And, of course, as you can imagine, they're doing everything they can to keep it off the ballot. They don't want Ohioans to vote on this issue."[43]


Oklahoma "Personhood" Amendment (2012)

On March 29, 2012, a lawsuit was filed by The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of multiple Oklahoma doctors and residents, in an attempt to block signature collection by supporters of the Oklahoma "Personhood" Amendment for the November 2012 ballot. Those who filed the lawsuit claim that the ballot initiative is unconstitutional. The lawsuit will be heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.[44]


Oregon Studded Tire Ban Initiative (2012)
  • The proposed ballot language has been challenged since February 2011 by Dan Lavey and Anna Richter Taylor. Lavey and Taylor work for Gallatin Public Affairs whose clients include Les Schwab, a chain of stores that offer tires, wheels, brakes, shocks, and alignments.[45] The ballot language was modified in August 2011. On October 6, 2011 the Oregon Supreme Court cleared the ballot language for petition circulation.[46]

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Casino Gambling Amendment (2012)

The Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island filed a lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court on September 28, 2011, asking that the court declare the 2012 measure unconstitutional. The lawsuit refers to the tribe's own efforts to place a similar measure on the ballot in the past, where the court has ruled that the tribe's proposal was unconstitutional due to the provision stating: "All lotteries shall be prohibited in the State except lotteries operated by the State."[47]

The lawsuit states that Twin River is not being held to the same legal standard as the previous efforts by the Narragansett.

See also


  1. East Valley Tribune, "Clean Elections supporters sue to block ballot measure", May 6, 2011
  2. Sacramento Bee, "Judge tosses Calif. standards for revoking parole", January 27, 2012
  3. BizJournals, "Top California court rejects GOP redistricting challenge", January 27, 2012
  4. "No on Measure C" website
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 KPBS, "Pension Reform Ballot Measure Will Go To Court", February 13, 2012
  6. Daily Pilot, "Costa Mesa sues county over ballot measure", March 16, 2012
  7. Courthouse News, "Judge Shuns Corporate- Sponsored Propositions", March 28, 2012
  8. Mountain View Voice, "Judge halts challenge to school district bond", April 2, 2012
  9. Sacramento Bee, "Court upholds California affirmative action ban", April 2, 2012
  10. Denver Post, "Colo. pot proposal faces another legal challenge", July 11, 2011
  11. The Denver Channel, "Planned Parenthood Appeals CO Abortion Proposal", January 9, 2012
  12. The Miami Herald,"Teachers union aims to block attempt to lift ban on tax money for religious organizations," July 19, 2011
  13. Florida Capital Bureau,"FEA sues to block voucher amendment," July 20, 2011
  14. The New York Times,"Immigrant Advocates File Suit on Petition Signatures," August 1, 2011
  15. The Washington Post,"Court to decide if immigrant tuition law goes to Maryland ballot," August 1, 2011
  16. Berkshire Eagle, "Mass. teachers sue to stop ballot question", January 23, 2011
  17. MLive "Michigan's emergency manager opponents try to revive their effort in court," May 9, 2012
  18. 18.0 18.1 St. Louis Post-Dispatch,"Opponents challenge ballot wording for income tax repeal," March 3, 2011
  19. Riverfront Times,"Lawsuit Filed Against Latest "Fair Tax" Proposals," September 26, 2011
  20. Associated Press,"Lawsuit challenges summary, financial estimate for St. Louis and Kansas City police initiative," March 24, 2011
  21. St. Louis Post-Dispatch,"St. Louis police union objects to local control measure," March 25, 2011
  22. Associated Press,"Lawsuit challenges voter ID measure," July 7, 2011
  23. Courthouse News Service,"School Prayer Back on the Ballot," July 11, 2011
  24.,"Missouri Ballot Initiative on Religion Amendment is Misleading, Says ACLU," July 7, 2011
  25. Associated Press,"Legal challenge filed over Mo. ballot measure," August 21, 2011
  26. Columbia Daily Tribune,"Payday loan initiative faces challenge," August 19, 2011
  27. St. Louis Post-Dispatch,"Two lawsuits filed over Missouri payday loan ballot measure," August 22, 2011
  28. Associated Press,"Lawsuit challenges proposed Missouri minimum wage measures," November 17, 2011
  29. Missoulian, "Groups ask that tax revenue referendum be taken off Montana ballot", October 5, 2011
  30. Missoulian, "Montana group files suit over referendum on election of Supreme Court justices", November 23, 2011
  31. Missoulian "Montana legislators move to keep Supreme Court referendum on ballot," January 10, 2012
  32. Associated Press "Judge rules elections initiative unconstitutional," March 20, 2012
  33. Las Vegas Review-Journal,"Judge refuses to reject arena petition," September 22, 2010
  34. 34.0 34.1 Arena Digest,"Casinos file suit to block new Vegas arena," December 20, 2010
  35. Las Vegas Sun, "Caesars Entertainment wins legal battle over proposed Strip arena", May 9, 2011
  36., "Nevada mining sues to block tax cap initiative", February 23, 2012
  37. My News 3, "Resort group sues over gambling tax initiative", March 5, 2012
  38. Associated Press "ND high court expected to take Fighting Sioux case," February 14, 2012
  39. Associated Press "North Dakota Higher Ed Board To Sue To Drop Fighting Sioux," February 14, 2012
  40. Associated Press "ND Supreme Court deadline on Fighting Sioux case," February 22, 2012
  41. Associated Press "'Fighting Sioux' Case Considered by North Dakota Supreme Court," March 16, 2012
  42. Associated Press "Lawsuit: ND officials lying about tax measure," February 16, 2012
  43. One News Now, "Good start for Ohio's personhood measure", March 23, 2012
  44. KRMG, "Suit filed over Oklahoma personhood ballot measure", March 30, 2012
  45. The Oregonian,"Oregon Supreme Court allows Portland man's studded-tire ban proposal to move forward (poll)," October 13, 2011
  46. Oregon Supreme Court,"Daniel Lavey and Anna Richter Taylor v. John Kroger, Attorney General, State of Oregon," October 6, 2011
  47. Providence Journal, "Narragansett Indians sue to block Twin River casino vote", September 28, 2011