Maine State Rep. Stanley Short (D-Pittsfield) is introducing legislation on behalf of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, a pro-hunting group, to regulate and restrict non-resident paid petitioners. The text of the bill has yet to be released, but reports say it will ban out-of-state petitioners and require paid-petitioners to register with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices and to wear a special ID badge on their persons while petitioning.
It all happened in a single day. Substitute language was stuffed into House Bill 5152 to effectively repeal Michigan’s requirement that those who circulate initiative and referendum petitions be residents of the state. Later that same day, HB-5152 passed the House and then the state Senate, too.
It’s now Public Act No. 94.
What possessed Michigan legislators to act so deliberately to rectify a law long at odds with the First amendment rights of citizens to petition their government?
Two organizations, Judicial Watch and Allied Educational Foundation, have filed an amicus curiae brief in the federal lawsuit, Citizens in Charge v. Husted, which seeks a permanent injunction against an Ohio law that bans the recruitment of out-of-state petitioners to collect signatures for ballot initiatives.
“This Ohio law unlawfully limits the right of the people to govern themselves through the initiative process,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Ohio’s law intrudes on a fundamental right not often emphasized by politicians – the citizens’ right to place additional checks on the power of their elected representatives.”
A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of an Ohio law barring out-of-state residents from circulating petitions needed to place an issue or candidate on the ballot.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson said in ruling this week that he could identify no harm that would come to the state from allowing nonresidents to gather signatures.
The injunction comes in a dual challenge by the Libertarian Party of Ohio and a group that includes Citizens in Charge, a ballot access organization, and backers of two active ballot campaigns.
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Toledo Blade columnist Marilou Johanek writes in praise of a lawsuit, Citizens in Charge v. Husted, filed in federal court by Ohio’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and seeking to overturn Senate Bill 47, which restricts non-residents from helping to gather signatures and reduces the time sponsors have to petition. SB 47 passed on entirely partisan votes in the legislature and was signed into law by Republican Gov. John Kasich earlier this year.
Johanek quotes Maurice Thompson, the 1851 Center’s executive director: “We like the checks on government that the initiative and referendum provides, and the opportunities for citizens to take lawmaking power into their own hands and deal directly with the issues.”
Despite a well-funded campaign, with much of the money coming from out of state, backers of a referendum to allow “Internet cafe” gambling in Ohio lost their battle last week. Instead of admitting defeat gracefully, some in the group blamed the system.
That is, they noted their campaign to put the issue on the November 2014 election ballot was the first under new requirements for statewide referendums. The requirements are too demanding, they added.
Internet cafe supporters are not the first to complain about the referendum rules. Reportedly, the Columbus-based 1851 Center for Constitutional Law are planning a court challenge to the rules.
A vital section of the Ohio Constitution, subtitled “In whom power vested,” was the focus of a federal court hearing last week in Columbus. The lawsuit before U.S. District Court dealt with the right of citizens to petition their government and with freedom of speech.
What a libertarian-leaning public interest law center aims to accomplish by filing a federal suit against a new Ohio law that restricts the referendum process goes to the heart of government of, by, and for the people. The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law — typically aligned with conservative causes — is fighting to uphold a fundamental right.
Last Friday, Ohio’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a non-partisan legal foundation, filed a federal court challenge against Senate Bill 47, which reinstitutes a residency requirement (struck down previously in federal court) and also reduces the time petitioners have to gather signatures. The law, passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor John Kasich, went into effect in June.
Legislators in California are not fond of citizen initiatives and referendums, especially the Democrats who enjoy supermajorities in both legislative chambers. But a recent San Diego Union Tribune editorial puts the blame on “State labor unions,” who it accuses of “once again trying to twist California’s century-old initiative process to work in their favor” by pushing legislation to unconstitutionally block paid signature collectors.
The 4th Circuit unanimously upheld a lower federal court’s decision declaring Virginia’s residency requirement for petition circulators unconstitutional. The challenge was brought by the Libertarian Party of Virginia; the case is Libertarian Party of Virginia v. Judd.
The three judge panel joins recent 6th, 9th and 10th federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, which have also unanimously overturned residency requirements for those circulating petitions.
Virginia’s law prohibiting out-of-state residents from circulating petitions for third-party presidential candidates is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney’s ruling last year that the residency requirement is an impermissible restraint on political speech.
Idaho legislators, in a bid to backpedal from the thorny problems caused by passage of Senate Bill 1108, with its negative impact on the initiative and referendum petition process, have fast-tracked a new bill, Senate Bill 1191, to correct some of the vague and likely unconstitutional provisions legislators just enacted via passage of SB 1108.Â
SB 1191 removes the requirement that each petition form contain only signatures from a single legislative district, opting to restore the past system whereby signatures are organized on separate sheets by county. This would eliminate extraneous paperwork and potential for errors that could lead to signatures being thrown out.
The Senate has voted 33-1 in favor of SB 1191, a “trailer” bill to SB 1108, the bill that makes it tougher to qualify initiatives or referendum measures for the Idaho ballot. Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, said the idea behind the trailer bill is to ease the signature-gathering process in counties like his and Ada County, where there are multiple legislative districts. SB 1108 requires signatures from 6 percent of registered voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts for a measure to qualify for the ballot, and it requires signature-gatherers to have a separate petition for each district, and signers to face penalties if they signed the petition for the wrong legislativeÂ district.
On February 25, the North Dakota Senate passed SB 2183 by a vote of 31-16. This is the bill that says no one may circulate an initiative petition, or a recall petition, unless the individual has lived in the state for at least two years.
Republican Senators supported the bill by a margin of 29-4, but Democratic Senators opposed it by a margin of 2-12.
Read more at Ballot Access News
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled the Nebraska law requiring petition circulators to be residents of the state as unconstitutional. The judge also threw out a requirement that local petition sponsors be residents of those cities affected.