California’s 99-year-old initiative process has earned a B-plus grade in a 2010 scorecard that rates the access voters have across the country for placing measures on the ballot. California was one of three states to receive a B-plus grade from the Citizens in Charge Foundation, which supports the expansion of the initiative and referendum process. Just two states, Ohio and Missouri, scored an A-minus, the highest grade given.
Meeting with members of the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma at a dinner a few weeks ago, Paul Jacob, the Virginia-based ballot initiative and referendum rights and legislative term limits activist, spoke about his experience in Oklahoma in 2007. This was where he was indicted on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the state for hiring out-of-state petitioners. “I have not been back in Oklahoma since then,” Jacob said to the Libertarians gathered at a Chinese restaurant in Oklahoma City. “And what’s interesting is that interest outside the state more than it was here in Oklahoma.”
Utahns for Ethical Government and the national nonpartisan group Citizens in Charge joined together on Utah’s capitol steps Monday to condemn Utah’s legislature and governor for seriously constraining Utah citizen’s constitutional right to petition the government. By signing SB275, Governor Gary Herbert gave every registered voter in Utah the ability to remove their signature from a petition more easily. He also gave special interest groups an extra month to convince you to do so.
Ethics initiative organizers on Monday accused Gov. Gary Herbert of seeking to “stymie citizen participation” after he signed a bill that will make it easier to remove petition signatures. Herbert signed the controversial bill Saturday, despite a plea from initiative supporters calling on him to veto the legislation. Citizen-initiative advocates predict the law will result in campaigns to harass petition-signers, as opponents try to persuade them to remove their signatures.
A national, nonpartisan foundation chastised Utah’s lawmakers and governor Monday for enacting new laws they say further weaken the people’s constitutional right to petition their government. Over the weekend, Gov. Gary Herbert signed SB275, which makes it easier for people who have signed initiative and referendum petitions to remove their names. That law also gives opponents an extra month after the time for signature-gathering has expired to target the petition drive’s weakest area and take it down.
Groups advocating government reform are criticizing Gov. Gary Herbert for making it harder for citizens to create laws by making it easier to have their signatures removed from petitions. The big question now is: will they have enough signatures? A pair of citizens’ petitions — one on ethics, another on redistricting — need nearly 100,000 signatures, but in some districts they’re coming up short. The 2010 elections in Utah could be remembered as the Year of the Big Reform Showdown.
In what is shaping up to be a turbulent election year, with voters disgusted with Congress and disenchanted with both major political parties, could term limits re-emerge as a salient issue? Advocates of limits on congressional service hope and expect so, and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest insurgent-minded candidates are talking about it.
If corporations can cut out the middleman, why not citizens? That appears to be the logic behind grassroots organizations on the left and the right who have championed the use of citizen-led ballot initiatives to break legislative stalemates and enact much needed social or fiscal reform. The ballot initiative system, which causes near constant controversy in the 24 states that allow it, gives average voters the ability to write and implement statewide legislation — and in some cases directly override elected officials.
A national, nonpartisan, voters-rights organization that promotes the referendum process has given Maryland a D on a recent report card. While Maryland laws do allow for ballot initiatives to be launched by citizens, the group found state laws about signature collection too “restrictive.”
Georgia received a poor grade for its statewide voter initiative rights, according to a Virginia-based national voter rights group. The non-partisan organization, dubbed Citizens in Charge Foundation, stamped the Peach State with a ‘D’ on its 2010 report card because state residents “do not have any statewide initiative and referendum rights,” according to its report called The 2010 Report Card on Statewide Voter Initiative Rights. The report did note “a majority of state citizens do enjoy local initiative and referendum rights.”