Watchdog group ranks states on citizen initiative rights
Most states scored poorly on the 2010 Report Card on Statewide Voter Initiative Rights released in late January by the Lake Ridge, Va.-based Citizens in Charge Foundation, a national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process. The report card reviewed initiative and referendum rights in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, detailed the policies and laws that restrict those rights, and suggested reforms for each state to improve its grade.
The report card analyzed numerous aspects of state and local initiative laws to determine each state’s final grade. “Sadly, most states received failing grades of D or F,” said Citizens in Charge Foundation President Paul Jacob. “Many states do not provide any process for citizens to place issues on the ballot, and even in states where citizens do enjoy a statewide initiative and referendum process, restrictive regulations often undermine the ability of people to effectively pursue initiatives.”
States were awarded points if citizens could propose statewide constitutional amendments, statutory initiatives, or call a referendum on legislative acts through a citizen petition process. States also were given points for allowing local initiatives throughout the state. Points were deducted for high signature requirements, short periods in which citizens must gather petitions and other restrictive policies.
Missouri and Ohio were the only states that received As, and they were A-minuses. “The important thing about any report card is to know where you stand so that specific improvement can be made,” Jacob said. “There is much room for improvement. By laying out a clear road map for needed reforms in each state, we look to work with citizens and legislators to make this process more open and accessible to the people.”
Download the full 2010 Report Card on Statewide Voter Initiative Rights.