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Ruling Makes Ballot Fights in Nebraska A Bit Easier

By   /   August 31, 2011  /   News  /   5 Comments

Remember the fight surrounding all those petitions urging people to recall Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle? Some said it was too easy to get all the signatures needed, others said it was too hard.

Well, for future fights, it just got easier…well a little easier.

A key part of the Nebraska law dealing with citizen based ballot issues — ranging from recalls to referendums — has been struck down.

According to U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon people from other states can now come into Nebraska and circulate petitions. In the case of Citizens in Charge v. Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale, Bataillon has ruled unconstitutional the state law which said only citizens of Nebraska, who are at least 18 years old, can circulate petitions.

Bataillon’s ruling is being applauded by Paul Jacob, the President of Citizens in Charge. Jacob came to Omaha from Virginia last year to spearhead the paid portion of the get-Suttle petition drive; Suttle backers notoriously dubbed Jacob the ‘Music Man.’

Today Jacob is singing Bataillon’s praises; sort of. Jacob tells Nebraska Watchdog that Bataillon’s ruling has put a “big crack in the wall legislators have built between the people of Nebraska and their right to petition issues onto the ballot.” Jacob says the law was written by state senators angry that voters had enacted term limits.

At the same time though Jacob is disappointed that Bataillon let stand a provision in the law which requires petitions to note in big red print whether the circulator is paid or a volunteer.

During the Suttle recall one of the major legal fights dealt with paid circulators. It is illegal in Nebraska for circulators to be paid per signature; Suttle’s legal team argued unsuccessfully that the recallers were doing just that.

Bataillon kept the ban on per-signature payments. Jacob says the “ban on productivity remains a substantial barrier to any Nebraskan petitioning his or her government.”

Reported by Joe Jordan, joe@nebraskawatchdog.org

Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here


Joe formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • sowantorevealmyname

    Hooray for the ruling.

    These out of state signature collectors are very nice people who make their living this way. They can teach Nebraska residents quite a bit about the proper way to get and receive signatures.

  • bobsee

    Let get the Suttle Recall, round two fired up. If nothing else it will drain the Fire Union’s war chest. And now that Suttle has nothing to say on the pending labor contract, maybe the union will let him go down this time.

  • Danielle

    I disagree with this. If the petition is for a local issue, only those residing in that state should be able to circulate the petitions. Now, if it were a petition for a national issue, than I have no problem with out of state circulators. But, local people understand the issue, out of staters don’t.

  • smokinjoe

    Hey dudes, what can we expect next? An army of “cannibus crusaders” petitioning for the rights and freedoms of pot-heads everywhere man, cool.

  • BkDodge42

    I agree with Judge Bataillon’s ruling about out of state circulators. Nebraska law states to circulate a petition, you need to be an electorate of Nebraska, but Nebraska does not have any requirement on how long you need to live in Nebraska before you can register to vote and as we found out you can use even the election commissioner’s office address to register to vote.