It’s all too often I read about initiatives being obstructed by officials who refuse to act as they are legally required. They will ignore petitions, delay votes, write misleading ballot questions, give bad petition instructions, supply incorrect dates, and otherwise seek to confound and thwart petitioners. Here are two recent examples.
Recently, citizens in Rumford, Maine gathered petitions to amend the city charter. The amendment would add a spending cap requiring the value of the tax base to grow before spending can be increased. They went to the city attorney and received help with formatting and language. Now the city attorney has advised the Board of Selectmen (the Maine version of a city council) to reject the petition. The reason? The attorney is calling the amendment a charter revision and thus needs to be rejected because it wasn’t proposed by a charter commission.
Voters in Montrose, Michigan rejected a proposal to legalize transport of small quantities of marijuana. The city council drug their feet and delayed long enough to miss the November election deadline. February elections in Michigan see low voter turnout. It seems in this case the city council wanted to avoid a high turnout election where the initiative was likely to pass.