A century-old Nebraska rule for initiative qualification has been struck down as unconstitutional by US District Court Judge Joseph F. Bataillon. The provision required signatures from “5% of registered voters of each of the 2/5ths of the counties in the state.” This meant that petitions for ballot measures were required to be circulated in at least 38 of the 93 counties in the Cornhusker State.
The plaintiff in the case, Kent Bernbeck, brought the suit claiming that under the now defunct rule, rural voters counted for more than voters in more urban areas.
“The court finds that the facts presented in this case show clearly that urban votes are diluted under the Nebraska Constitution,” the judge stated in his opinion.
Last week’s elections allowed voters across the country to decide issues important to them. But not in New Jersey, a state that lacks any process for citizens to petition initiatives onto the ballot or to refer laws passed by the state legislature to voters.
Jersey citizens are on the outside looking in at states that allow direct democracy, i.e. citizen-initiated measures. That might be one reason that less than one in three Garden State citizens turned out to vote in the mid-term election – setting an all-time record low.
Tuesday November 4, 2014 North Dakota voters rejected a legislatively referred constitutional amendment which would have placed new restrictions on the initiative process. Measure 4 would have allowed the state to stop any petition from being circulated that would appropriate funds directly or require the legislature to appropriate funds. The measure would also have required all initiatives with significant fiscal impact to be voted on at the general election. Like many legislative referred ballot questions this amendment had potential to significantly reduce citizen’s ability to propose legislation.
When voters in North Dakota went to the polls on Tuesday, Measure 4 was rejected with 56.59% (135,408 of 239,296) voting “No”.