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electionlineWeekly — October 23, 2014

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

Voters vote on the future of voting
Ballot initiatives in several states shape future of elections

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From marijuana to minimum wage to healthcare, voters in 42 states and the District of Columbia will consider more than 150 constitutional amendments, initiatives, referendums, ballot measures and advisory questions on November 4.

This year, several states will ask voters to decide on the future of how elections are administered in their states.

In Arkansas, voters will cast ballots on petition issues, in Connecticut it’s early voting. In Illinois voters will have their say on a voters' bill of rights and in Maryland voters will decide how to regulate special elections.

Missouri voters will also decide the fate of early voting in that state and in Montana residents will voice their opinion about election-day registration. New Mexico voters will make decisions about school elections and in Oregon, voters will once again weigh in on whether or not to move the state to a top-two primary system.

What follows is a brief look at each measure, how it got to the ballot and who does/doesn’t support it. We’ll be sure to track these on November 4 and let you know how the do.

Arkansas
Voters in Arkansas will determine whether or not to approve a constitutional amendment that would require ballot signature groups to get at least 75 percent of the required signatures in order to get additional time to gather more signatures once the initial batch has been turned into the secretary of state’s office.

Current law does not allow groups to gather additional signatures once the initial group has been submitted to the secretary of state’s office for verification.

Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have argued that if approved, Amendment Issue 2 will limit citizen’s ability to put issues on the ballot. Those in support of the amendment, including Sen. Bill Sample who introduced the bill, argue that if approved, it will prevent groups from submitting false signatures.

Senate Joint Resolution 16 (SJR 16) was overwhelmingly approved in 2013.

Connecticut
Constitutional Amendment Question 1 will allow the Legislature to expand early voting in The Nutmeg State. The amendment, which was legislatively-referred, would eliminate the need for an excuse to vote absentee and eliminate all restrictions to offering early voting.

Secretary of State Denise Merrill, Gov. Dan Malloy and many other Democrats support the Amendment.

“Today marks a historic and significant step forward for modernizing elections in Connecticut so we can finally enact early voting in our state,” Merrill said in a statement at the time. “This is about allowing Connecticut voters cast their ballots in a way that works better with their busy mobile lives, and in turn getting more voters to participate in Democracy.” 

Opponents have argued that it will open the state up to a “carte blanche” change in voting laws.

House Joint Resolution No. 36 was approved in 2013 along party lines. The House approved the bill 90-49 and the Senate approved it 22-14.

Many state and local editorial boards have come out in support of the question.

Illinois
The Illinois Legislature is asking voters to approve an Illinois Right to Vote Amendment.

Under the constitutional amendment, it would be unlawful to deny any person the right to register to vote or cast a ballot based on race, color, ethnicity, language, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation or income.

Gov. Pat Quinn, numerous Democrats and a handful of Republicans support the amendment. House Speaker Michael J. Madigan was the lead sponsor on the legislation.

“The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that all citizens have an opportunity to register and vote and to prevent the passage of inappropriate voter-suppression laws and discriminatory voting procedures,” Madigan told The State Journal-Register.

Proponents argue that the amendment would prohibit future legislatures from attempting to institute restrictive voter ID laws.

Opponents, which essentially are a handful of Republicans in the legislature argue that among other things, the measure was introduced to keep other measures off the ballot because only so many are allowed on the ballot each cycle.

“This is an amendment in search of a problem,” Rep. David Reis told the paper. “All we are trying to do is clog up (the ballot).

HJRCA0052 was approved 109-5 in the House in April and unanimously approved by the Senate that same month.

Maryland
Although Maryland has not been plagued with the problems of special elections like some states and although all the county executives running for governor this year failed to make the November ballot, the state is thinking ahead.

Amendment Question 2 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would permit a county charter to provide for filling vacancies through special elections, exempt those elections from being held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November and allow the elections to be conducted by mail.

Currently, while vacant county council seats can be filled by special election, the county council appoints someone to fill a vacant county executive seat.

In January of 2014, the Montgomery County Council reached out the county’s legislative delegation seeking their help change the state constitution to allow for county executive special elections.

House Bill 1415 was unanimously approved by the Senate and approved 129-6 in the House.

Missouri
Missouri’s Amendment 6 is probably the most controversial of the elections ballot measures this elections cycle.

If approved by voters, the measure would amend the state constitution to allow for six days of early voting beginning in 2016.

A citizen-led initiative that would have provided six weeks of early voting failed to make the November ballot.

Many elections officials from Secretary of State Jason Kander to county clerks opposed the amendment. Some oppose early voting in general, but others, including Kander, propose how this measure is written.

“I’m a huge proponent of early voting, but I can’t support changing the constitution in a way that will require us to go back and fix it almost immediately,”Kander told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The amendment would cover six business days, ending the Wednesday before an election. Ballots would not be cast on Saturdays or Sundays.

“It will lead to confusion among voters, political campaigns and local election authorities while costing the state up to $2 million.”

Outspoken Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren is on the record as opposing the amendment because she does not believe election administrative procedures should be put in the state constitution.

House Joint Resolution 90 was approved 22-8 in the Senate and 94-57 in the House.

Sen. Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit), who shepherded HJR 90 through the senate, is planning to run for secretary of state in 2016.

Several major newspapers in the area, including the Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have come out against the amendment. The Star’s editorial board went so far as to call the proposal a sham.

Montana
Based on Letters to the Editor, one might think that LR 126 is the hottest issue in Montana this election cycle, but it’s not. In fact, a recent article from The Associated Press said the referendum is seeing no support.

LR 126 would end election-day registration by moving the voter registration deadline to 5 p.m. on the Friday before an election. Election-day registration was first approved for Montana voters in 2005.

Sen. Alan Olson (R), who sponsored the legislation argued that by eliminating election-day registration would lift a burden off of county election administrators.

And some administrators agree with Olson.

“We really do not have time to be registering people walking through the door,” Rosebud County Clerk and Recorder and Election Administrator Geraldine Custer told the AP. “It’s a lengthy process.”

Olson told the news organization that there is no organized effort to approve the referendum.

“I just thought let the voters decide,” Olson said.

Montanans for Fair and Free Elections is leading the charge against the ballot measure. Gov. Steve Bullock and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch are opposed to the measure as is every Democrat elected in the state legislature.

A multitude of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, AARP and Western Native Voice all oppose the referendum.

SB 405 was approved in April 2013. The House voted 58-42, with three Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposition and 29-20 in Senate on straight party vote.

New Mexico
Amendment Question 1 is a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that would change the dates for school elections.

If approved, school elections would need to be held on different dates than partisan election dates thus allowing school elections to coincide with municipal, bond and conservancy district elections.

This isn’t the first time New Mexico voters have faced this issue. In 2008, 73.6 percent of voters supported Amendment 4 but that percentage failed to meet the required three-fourths majority.

House Joint Resolution 2 was approved in the spring of 2013 by 50-7 vote in the House and a unanimous vote in the Senate.

Oregon
Oregon could soon be the filling in the West Coast top-two primary sandwich if voters approve Measure 90 that would create an open, top-two primary similar to what is in place in California and Washington.

A related initiative, which would have created a top-two system, also allowed voters to vote for more than one candidate failed to make the ballot.

In 2008 Measure 65, another measure that would have created a top-two primary system failed 66 percent to 34 percent.

Gov. John Kitzhaber supports the measure as do a number of organizations and political parties.

John Arnold, a hedge-fund manager and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have donated almost $3 million (combined) in support of Measure 90.

Not everyone is happy with the measure however. Protect Our Vote, a group opposed to the top-two primary recently received $400,000 from a PAC largely funding by the Oregon Education Association and Service Employees International Union Local 503.

The Oregonian and other papers have come out in favor of the top-two primary system for voters in the Beaver State.