Tag Archives: election

Online Petitions, Advisory Petitions, Plebiscite Petitions, and Initiative Petitions

Online petitions, advisory petitions, plebiscite petitions, and initiative petitions, each involve you signing your name in support of an issue. How are they different?

Online petitions are becoming more and more common. It’s easy to make an online petition. Google “petition” or “online petition” and you’ll get links to many places that will let you set up and account, link to your social media accounts, and ask your friends to sign your petition. Change.org, ipetition, and We The People are all petition sites where you can use social media to build awareness for your issue. People use these sites to put pressure on politicians, companies, individuals or organizations to change laws, policies, or behaviors. There are many success stories. These petitions are not legally binding. Online petitions are effective in the same manner a boycott or rally can be effective, by drawing attention to a problem and putting pressure on people who have the power to take action. They’re also very effective for building lists.

Advisory petitions are a less common form of legal petitions. An advisory petition typically allows citizens to call a non-binding vote on a particular issue. The results of that election are intended to show public support or opposition to an issue with the hope politicians will take action to change the law.

A plebiscite petition is similar to an online petition but it’s not done online. Circulators carry petition forms and ask people to sign in support of a specific issue. Like online petitions they are used to put pressure on decision makes. They are also used to build lists.

Initiative petitions are different, they are a legal document people sign to force government officials to call a vote on a specific piece of legislation written on the petition. When you sign an initiative petition or gather signatures on an initiative petition you are working to allow voters a choice on that piece of legislation. Initiative petitions lead to a binding vote and are governed by very specific laws. These laws require the petition to comply with many specific details, details that are different in every state. When sponsors of an initiative petition have gathered enough signatures and submit the petition, the governing body is compelled to let voters decide the issue. When voters go to the ballot box the legislation is presented as a ballot question and people vote to approve or reject the initiated legislation. If voters approve the legislation it become law in that political subdivision.

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, Initiative, Petition Drive, politicians, referendum

Indiana Voters Don’t Have A Say

Indiana is not a friendly place for citizen initiatives. State law doesn’t allow general rules for amending city charters or petitioning to change state laws. However, voters do get a voice over construction projects exceeding 10 million dollars. Unless your school board finds a legal work-around.

Under Indiana law, school districts have to ask voters for approval of any elementary, middle or high school construction project that will exceed $10 million.

But Center Grove was legally able to break up the construction projects, borrowing $10 million each for renovations at Center Grove Elementary and North Grove Elementary schools, and $20 million for renovations at Center Grove High School. The high school project falls under a previous $20 million limit because the school district filed plans before the law changed in 2013, Indiana Department of Local Government Finance director of communications Jenny Banks said.

 

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Filed under Ballot Question

Top 7 Election Manipulations of 2014

Election manipulation is a problem. It happens when elected government officials manipulate citizens by using their power to trick voters at the ballot box or preventing a ballot question from reaching voters. It happens more often than you would think, bond proposals placed on special low turnout election dates, deceptive ballot language, or undercutting citizens when they attempt to place initiatives on the ballot. Here are the top voter manipulations of 2014.

 

7. California’s AG shut down an initiative with biased ballot language.

California’s Attorney General used political power to stop a petition drive before it started. Mayor Chuck Reed of San Jose proposed a statewide amendment to allow changes to future pensions in California. The AG wrote language naming the most popular state workers (teachers, nurses, peace officers) and suggesting their retirement security would be compromised. Voters never had the chance to decide this issue.

 

6. Election to increase road taxes scheduled for the worst month for potholes.

Michigan voters were justifiably angry last spring when it became obvious the legislators had neglected one of their core duties, funding road repair. All year the legislature avoided the issue, promising to find a resolution after the November election. Late in the session a senate proposal for $1.2 billion in new taxes was pitted against a revenue neutral ($0 new taxes) house proposal. Elected officials then avoided the issue by proposing a constitutional amendment for a $1.7 billion tax increase. They chose to have a special election will be in early May, during Michigan pothole season.

 

5. Change the law to undermine petition gatherers.

Petitioners in Michigan gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures to change the state minimum wage law. However, as they neared the deadline to submit the signatures politicians passed a lesser minimum wage increase. When the legislators passed their increase they changed the law and negated all the petition signatures that had been gathered. This was not an example of legislators passing a law to compromise. The legislature went out of its way to prevent a vote on increasing the minimum wage, most likely to avoid higher democrat voter turn-out in November.

 

4. Lie on the ballot.

Phoenix voters voted against something that was never proposed. The issue? The city council wrote ballot language that lied to voters, the section of interest “prohibit City contributions to any other retirement plan, including deferred compensation plans, post-employment benefit plans and the police officer and firefighter retirement system.” The initiative did not affect police or fire employees (the pension programs for police and fire are covered under state law not touchable by city initiative).  At the ballot box voters were mislead to believe they were protecting public safety employees but they were instead protecting the city council’s ability to continue promising benefits without paying.

 

3. Cheat voters through legal loopholes.

After legislators passed a law allowing wolf hunting the HSUS (Human Society of the United States) petitioned to call a vote using the Michigan’s referendum process. Rather than back down, legislators passed another law to allowing wolf hunting, again the HSUS stepped in and gathered signatures using Michigan’s referendum process. Yet a third time the legislature passed yet another law to allow wolf hunting, but this time they included a spending provision to preclude another referendum petition. In November Michigan voted against wolf hunting (twice) but wolf hunting goes forward due to this voter deception.

 

2. Politicized courts block initiative.

Illinois courts stopped voters from voting on term limits. In 1994 petitioners in Illinois gathered signatures to place term limits on the ballot. Courts at that time decided the proposed law was only structural and must be structural and procedural due to this clause in the state constitution “Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV.” This year an amendment was proposed that included structural and procedural changes. The courts this year changed their justification and simply shot down the measure as “unconstitutional.”

 

1. Trojan Horse, hide something people don’t want in something they like.

Arkansas legislators tricked voters on term limits and pay increase. Arkansas legislators are allowed to put three legislative referrals on the ballot every 2 years. Historically this has worked to limit legislative attempts to push through too many constitutional changes each election cycle. However, in a move to trick voters in to passing an unpopular term limit extension and avoid asking voters for a pay increase politicians rolled thirteen amendments to the state constitution into one ballot question. This twenty-two page proposal labeled “ethics reform” gave lip service to popular issues like banning gifts from lobbyists, stopping legislators becoming lobbyists, and a commission to set pay for elected officials. The last phrase of a long ballot title (written by the politicians) “establishing term limits for members of the General Assembly” was obviously intended to deceive voters. Arkansas had 6 and 8 year term limits, this amendment more than doubled those limits to 16 years. Pay raises will now be approved by a commission appointed by the people getting the raises. Voters were duped and approved this measure 52%-48%.

 

 

 

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Filed under Arkansas Term Limits, Ballot measures, Michigan Term Limits, Uncategorized