Remember the fight surrounding all those petitions urging people to recall Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle? Some said it was too easy to get all the signatures needed, others said it was too hard.
Well, for future fights, it just got easier…well a little easier.
A key part of the Nebraska law dealing with citizen based ballot issues — ranging from recalls to referendums — has been struck down.
(LAKE RIDGE, VA) – Citizens in Charge Foundation, a national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, presented Nebraska citizen activist Kent Bernbeck with the April 2011 John Lilburne Award for his continued work to make Nebraska’s initiative process more open and accessible to citizens.
A national petition leader who helped force a mayoral recall vote in Omaha returned to Nebraska on Thursday, as his battle against several of the state’s petition restrictions went to court.
Paul Jacob is taking particular aim at a law that prohibits out-of-state residents like himself from gathering signatures for ballot measures in Nebraska.
An April trial has been set in a constitutional challenge to Nebraska laws that govern petition signature requirements for ballot initiatives and independent candidates. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska said in the 2009 lawsuit that changes to state law made in 2007 and 2008 unfairly burden independent candidates and residents trying to get initiatives on the ballot, thus violating protected political speech.
In regard to the recall signature-gathering process against Mayor Jim Suttle: On election day, I was contacted by longtime friend, Paul Jacob, formerly head of the national term limit movement and fellow initiative and referendum advocate and supporter. He was asked to assess the struggling recall effort which had been utilizing an all-volunteer team of petition circulators.
Last year, Citizens in Charge filed suit in Nebraska to challenge the state law requiring petition signature gatherers be residents of the state. The law places an unconstitutional burden on citizens of the state seeking to put a measure on the ballot.
Over the weekend, the Libertarian Party of Nebraska joined in the effort to block the unconstitutional portion of the law:
The Libertarian Party of Nebraska is asking a federal judge to block part of the state’s petition law. The party filed a motion Thursday for an injunction to allow out-of-state residents to collect petition signatures. The party also asked to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s petition laws. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in December, claims that parts of Nebraska law place an unconstitutional burden on citizens.
Of the 45 states whose legislatures hold sessions in 2010, 27 of them have adjourned for the year, and 5 more will wrap up before the end of the month. Of the more than 80 bills dealing with the initiative and referendum process in various states, 51 of them would have reduced citizens’ initiative rights. Thanks to the work of activists in our coalitions, only 3 bills reducing citizen’s rights have passed and become law.