Poison pill (ballot measures)

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The phrase poison pill is used to describe a provision inserted into one ballot measure that, under certain circumstances, negatively impacts the fate of a different ballot measure.

Sponsors of such measures seek to defeat one or more provisions of another measure by introducing a similar measure that differs with respect to that provision. The "poison pill" clause of the measure provides that whichever measure garners more votes will supersede the other in all areas of conflict. For example, a total ban on smoking in public places may be challenged by a smoking ban in all public places except bars and casinos. Since supporters of the total ban are likely to vote for the partial ban as well (in case their favored measure fails), poison pill measures can often free ride on support for the measure they seek to undermine.

The concept of a superseding initiative is related to the idea of a "poison pill", except that a court or state statute may determine which approved ballot question will supersede the other.

Dueling measures

Examples of dueling ballot measures that include poison pill provisions are:

Examples of specific language

2010 ballot

California Proposition 20 (2010) and California Proposition 27 (2010) each included poison pill language.

The "poison pill" language in the text of Proposition 20 says (emphasis added):

(a) In the event this measure and another measure or measures relating to the redistricting of Senatorial, Assembly, congressional, or Board of Equalization districts are approved by a majority of voters at the same election, and this measure receives a greater number of affirmative votes than any other such measure or measures, this measure shall control in its entirety and the other measure or measures shall be rendered void and without any legal effect. If this measure is approved by a majority of the voters but does not receive a greater number of affirmative votes than the other measure or measures, this measure shall take effect to the extent permitted by law.
(b) If this measure is approved by voters but is superseded in whole or in part by the provisions of any other conflicting measure approved by the voters and receiving a greater number of affirmative votes at the same election, and the conflicting measure or any superseding provisions thereof are subsequently held to be invalid, the formerly superseded provisions of this measure shall be self-executing and given full force of law.

The "poison pill" language in the text of Proposition 27 says (emphasis added):

(a) In the event that this measure and another measure(s) relating to the redistricting of Senate, Assembly, Congressional, or Board of Equalization districts are approved by a majority of voters at the same election, and this measure receives a greater number of affirmative votes than any other such measure(s), this measure shall control in its entirety and the other measure(s) shall be rendered void and without any legal effect. If this measure is approved by a majority of the voters but does not receive a greater number of affirmative votes than the other measure(s), this measure shall take effect to the extent permitted by law.
(b) If any provisions of this measure are superseded by the provisions of any other conflicting measure approved by the voters and receiving a greater number of affirmative votes at the same election, and the conflicting measure is subsequently held to be invalid, the provisions of this measure shall be self-executing and given full force of law.

2004

California Proposition 1A (2004) was referred to the ballot by the California State Legislature after proponents of Proposition 65 (2004) had collected enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot. The text of Proposition 1A made specific reference to Proposition 65 in this way:

"That the people find and declare that this measure and the Taxpayers and Public Safety Protection Act, which appears as Proposition 65 on the November 2, 2004, general election ballot (hereafter Proposition 65) both relate to local government, including matters concerning tax revenues and reimbursement for the cost of state mandates, in a comprehensive and substantively conflicting manner. Because this measure is intended to be a comprehensive and competing alternative to Proposition 65, it is the intent of the people that this measure supersede in its entirety Proposition 65, if this measure and Proposition 65 both are approved and this measure receives a higher number of affirmative votes than Proposition 65. Therefore, in the event that this measure and Proposition 65 both are approved and this measure receives a higher number of affirmative votes, none of the provisions of Proposition 65 shall take effect."

However, the text of Proposition 65 did not refer to California Proposition 1A, because at the time that Proposition 65 was drafted, and circulated for signatures, Proposition 1A did not exist.

See also



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