On September 8, 2003 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling in the case Idaho Coalition United for Bears, Initiative & Referendum Institute, et al v. Cenarussa, D.C. No. 00-0668-S-BLW (2001).
In this decision the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed the lower Court's decision which struck down Idaho state laws that required signatures on initiative petitions from 6% of each of Idaho's 22 counties, prohibited the payment of circulators on a per-signature basis, and prohibited circulators from willfully making a false statement to obtain signatures. It is uncertain if the state of Idaho will appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
There is no doubt that this decision will be used in other states to help strike down unconstitutional barriers to the people's ability to utilize the initiative process. A copy of the decision is available both on the main page and legal decisions page of our website - http://www.iandrinstitute.org.
1) The Latest on the Drug Czar’s Involvement in I&R Campaigns:
As we reported in our 2002 Post Election Report, this election cycle marked a turning point in how the Federal Government involves itself in I&R campaigns. Contrary to previous election cycles where the government’s involvement was limited to “educational” efforts, in this election cycle taxpayer dollars were spent advocating a specific vote on a ballot measure. This has raised concerns as to if this involvement is legal – the use of tax dollars advocating a specific vote outcome on a statewide ballot measure. The Institute as you know takes absolutely NO position on any ballot measure or issue appearing on the ballot but we are very interested in studying this issue in greater detail so as to ascertain for future elections as to what is acceptable and legal behavior by the Federal Government and what is not.
The following excerpts from a January 28, 2003 press release from the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) will give you a very interesting update as to the status of their complaint against the Drug Czar’s involvement in the last election cycle. Amazing enough, the Drug Czar claimed that they are “immune” from state campaign finance laws. This claim of immunity adds another dimension to this controversy. Not only is the legality of whether or not the Federal Government can spend tax dollars advocating a specific vote on a ballot measure at issue, the question of whether or not they are legally obligated to adhere to state campaign finance laws is now on the table.
Stay tuned to this story – there is no doubt more to come.
Drug Czar Defies Nevada Election Officials; Refuses to Disclose Money Spent Against Marijuana Initiative
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- White House "Drug Czar" John Walters today refused to report how much money he spent campaigning against Question 9, Nevada's November 2002 marijuana initiative. Walters' refusal came in response to a written request from Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller that he explain his failure to file campaign finance reports as required by Nevada law. In a Jan. 27 letter to Heller, Walters' office claimed he was "immune" from Nevada's campaign finance law "as a federal officer acting within the scope of duties, including speaking out about the dangers of illegal drugs." Heller's Jan. 14 letter to Walters, issued in response to a complaint filed by the Marijuana Policy Project, reminded Walters that Nevada statutes require "the reporting of contributions and expenses for every person or group of persons organized formally or informally who advocates the passage or defeat of a question or group of questions on the ballot at any election."
Walters flew to Nevada twice to campaign against Question 9, traveling around the state in a motorcade with a security detail to speak at anti-Question 9 events. For example, as reported in the Oct. 12 Las Vegas Review-Journal, he told a gathering of reporters and law-enforcement officials that the measure was a "con" and "insulting to the voters of the state." He openly acknowledged the political nature of his trip, saying in the Oct. 11 Review-Journal that he was there "to challenge this ballot initiative." The Oct. 23 Chicago Tribune and the Nov. 5 Wall Street Journal reported similar comments. Walters also authorized a series of anti-marijuana television commercials, which saturated Nevada airwaves in the two months prior to the election.
2) Interesting Factoid about I&R
“The U.S. constitution has been amended 27 times in over two hundred years, whereas the average current state constitution has existed for one hundred years and has been amended about 120 times. Only nineteen states still have their original constitution, and a few states like Georgia and Louisiana have gone through ten or more constitutions. The frequent amending of state constitutions, moreover, is not due solely or even mostly to the initiative process. The longest and most amended constitution belongs to Alabama (220,000 words and over 600 amendments in a hundred years), a state that does not possess the initiative power. California has the second most amended state constitution (493 amendments between 1879 and 1997), but less than one-tenth of those amendments came from citizen initiatives. Every state constitution in the nation has been amended far more often by the legislature than by initiative. Even in Colorado, where over 40 percent of the constitutional amendments submitted to the voters have come through the initiative process, the actual impact of initiatives on the constitution is diminished because the success rate of legislative amendments is so much higher than that of initiated amendments.”
“Democratic Delusions: The Initiative Process in America,” Richard Ellis, University Press of Kansas (Page 227)
NEWS FROM THE INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM INSTITUTE
October 27, 2003
News from the courts and the latest on recall:
- Nebraska Single Subject Law Tested
- Alaska - The Initiative Process and the U.S. Constitution
- California Recall Conference
Nebraska Single Subject Law Tested
Three years ago the Nebraska Legislature proposed a law that would require initiative petitions to be limited to one subject. Even though on paper this may sound like good public policy, in reality these single subject requirements have caused considerable harm to the initiative process. The Nebraska law gives great latitude to the courts in determining what violates the single subject provision and this decision shows that such leeway can lead to bad precedents. There is no doubt that this ruling will make it difficult for other initiatives to make the ballot in Nebraska and thus greatly diminish the citizens ability to utilize the initiative process in the state.
Click here to review the Court's Decision
Alaska - The Initiative Process and the U.S. Constitution
Ever since the initiative process was established in 1898 there has been much debate about how a state based initiative process can impact the federal government. In Alaska, this issue is once again being debated since the Lieutenant Governor denied certification of an initiative on the basis that it conflicts with the Seventeenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This Amendment gives state legislatures sole authority to decide how to fill U.S. Senate vacancies. Therefore, the process of filling a vacancy in the United States Senate cannot be repealed through the initiative process. A lawsuit has been filed and it will be interesting to see the outcome of this debate.
Click here for more information from the state
California Recall Conference
On November 13 and 14, the Initiative and Referendum Institute, in conjunction with the Center for the Study of Law and Politics at the University of Southern California, will host a conference entitled the "Post-Mortem on the Recall". The conference, which will be held at the University of Southern California, will include scholars from a variety of disciplines, journalists, and participants in the recall election.
Click here to view additional information on the conference
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