Personhood Colorado turns in signatures

August 7th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Colorado | Legislation - (Comments Off)

Yesterday, Personhood Colorado turned in 112,000 signatures in their attempt to reach the 2012 ballot:

Personhood Colorado submitted signatures to the Secretary of State’s office today for the Colorado Personhood Amendment. The signatures submitted totaled 112,121, although only 86,105 were required. All signatures are pending validation by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

Although they turned in more than the required number of signatures, it’s still not certain that they will be on the ballot. All signatures have to be validated by the Secretary of State for the petition to be judged sufficient and added to the ballot.

It’s very normal for initiative petitions to contain a large percentage of invalid signatures. People who sign petitions aren’t always registered voters, or the data they provide doesn’t correspond to their voter registration information. In past Colorado personhood efforts, roughly 25% of the signatures have been disqualified by the Secretary of State.

In 2008, personhood supporters turned in 131,000 signatures, of which 103,000 were valid (78.7%). In 2010, they initially turned in 79,648 signatures to get 60,357 valid (75.7%). Colorado’s process allowed them to submit more signatures to “cure” the insufficiency, and the final total was 126,762 signatures and 95,884 valid (75.6%).

In order to qualify for the ballot, 86,105 signatures of their 112,121 will have to be valid, or 76.7%. That’s a slightly higher validity rate than their 2010 effort, slightly lower than 2008, and it’s by no means guaranteed that they will appear on the ballot. Given their previous accuracy rates, they really are right at the threshold of what they needed to turn in to qualify. It could come down to a few hundred signatures either way.

The Colorado Secretary of State now has 30 days to verify the signatures. Given the numbers involved, it’s likely that all signatures will have to be validated individually (rather than being able to judge based on a random sample). It will most likely be early September before there’s a final word from the Secretary of State.

In the meantime, personhood opponents are beginning the NO Personhood Campaign. More information is available on the campaign’s Facebook page.

Colorado deadline approaching

August 3rd, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Colorado | Legislation - (Comments Off)

As of today, only one personhood initiative attempt is currently active. Colorado has been gathering signatures since March, and the deadline for them to submit their signatures is Monday, August 6.

Today, Personhood USA announced that they will hold a press conference on Monday afternoon to announce the results:

The Colorado Personhood Coalition will hold a press conference Monday to make an important announcement regarding the number of signatures gathered to place the personhood initiative on the ballot.

“We won’t be certain of the number of signatures until Monday,” stated Rosalinda Lozano, ballot sponsor. “We do know that our volunteers have had to work much harder this year after a 7-week delay in the signature process. On Monday morning, when we have our final total, we will announce the number collected at the press conference.”

Colorado requires that supporters gather 86,105 valid signatures by the August 6 deadline. After Personhood Colorado submits the raw signatures, the Secretary of State validates them against the voter rolls to determine whether the initiative will make the ballot.

In past attempts, only 75-80% of the submitted signatures have been found to be valid. To be assured of making the ballot, supporters will need to submit 105,000 to 120,000 signatures in order to have the required 86,000 signatures.

Preliminary reports from the Personhood Colorado website have suggested that they may fall short of their goal, but a final signature push at has been underway this week at area Chick-Fil-A restaurants. The Secretary of State has 30 days to determine if the signatures are sufficient, so if the numbers are close, we may not know the status of Colorado attempt #3 until as late as early September.

Personhood Oklahoma appeals to Supreme Court

August 3rd, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Oklahoma - (Comments Off)

On Monday, Personhood USA and its strategic partner Liberty Counsel announced that they will attempt to appeal the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s rejection of a personhood initiative to the US Supreme Court:

From the Liberty Counsel press release:

Liberty Counsel argues that the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled prematurely on whether the definition of “person” conflicts with Supreme Court abortion decisions and, thus, deprived Personhood Oklahoma of its right to propose amendments to the state constitution and deprives Oklahoma voters of their First Amendment right to discuss and consider the issue. Personhood Oklahoma also notes that the Oklahoma court’s ruling contradicts decisions by other federal courts, state supreme courts, and the United States Supreme Court that do not permit courts to invalidate initiatives before they are voted on by the people and improperly analyzes the potential effects of the proposed initiative as if it were passed.

The paperwork they’ve actually filed is called a petition for a writ of certiorari (read full text). Basically, it’s a request for the Supreme Court to hear the case. However, it’s no more than a request, and the Supreme Court is by no means obligated to take the case. In fact, just 1% of cert petitions are ever granted, so the odds that this case will reach the Court are very low indeed.

The important thing to remember here is that this is not a case about abortion. Even if the Court were to take this case and decide in favor of Personhood USA, it would not overturn Roe/Casey. The fundamental question at issue is whether a state court has the right to decide the rules for its own ballot initiative process.

The state Constitution of Oklahoma provides for itself to be amended via ballot initiative. Some states have initiative processes, while others don’t, and the signature and distribution requirements for initiatives vary widely among states. 20 years ago, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the Oklahoma Constitution also requires that initiatives and referendums not be “repugnant to the Constitution”. Since the current state of federal constitutional law explicitly rejects fetal personhood, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the personhood initiative was “repugnant to the Constitution” and could not go forward onto the ballot.

As a general rule, state courts are the last stop in interpreting the state constitution. Their decisions on initiatives can’t be appealed to the Supreme Court unless there is some question of federal rights. In other states like Mississippi and Colorado, state courts have ruled that personhood can be allowed on the ballot, and personhood supporters hailed that decision as final and binding. In Oklahoma, the ruling went the other way.

In order to take this case to the Supreme Court, personhood advocates have to come up with some way in which the Oklahoma ruling violates their federal rights. This petition for certiorari is their attempt to explain why the Supreme Court should get involved. In the opinion of our legal experts, it’s a rather weak and unpersuasive one.

It’s obvious to the most casual observer that the general idea of personhood is in direct conflict with the current federal constitutional law. After all, that is the prinicpal goal of personhood measures: to end abortion by overturning Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey. Personhood Oklahoma briefly attempts to argue that personhood would have other effects which might or might not later be found constitutional, and therefore that the Oklahoma Court can’t reject their petition on grounds of constitutionality. This, of course, is not likely to be persuasive; if a law’s primary effect is unconstitutional, it doesn’t matter if it has other effects which are constitutional.

As a general rule, state courts are the ultimate determiners of what is and isn’t in accordance with their state constitution. If the Oklahoma Constitution requires that petitions be in accordance with the US Constitution (as personhood very clearly is not), the Supreme Court is unlikely to take up the case unless it believes that there’s an issue of some other federal right. Personhood Oklahoma argues that initiative petitions are protected political speech, which is broadly true, but as with any right, there are limits.

Other court decisions at the circuit level, such as Initiative and Referendum Institute v Walker and Wirzburger v Galvin, have found that state courts can restrict initiatives on account of their subject matter. Both of those cases were appealed to the Supreme Court, which chose not to hear them.

We believe that the Supreme Court is similarly unlikely to hear the Personhood Oklahoma v Barber case, and that the state of Oklahoma will be legally allowed to continue to prevent any future personhood initiative attempts.

Montana personhood initiative fails by wide margin

July 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Montana - (Comments Off)

Late Friday afternoon, the Montana Secretary of State’s office announced that personhood has failed to make the 2012 ballot.

While the Secretary of State’s office is still completing the final tabulation, current signature totals show that only 23,512 signatures were received, and that the measure only qualified in 12 of the required 40 districts.

It is not currently clear whether the listed signature totals are those of the raw signatures or only the valid signatures from registered voters. In 2010, approximately 25% of the submitted signatures were found to be invalid. We won’t know for several more days how many signatures were submitted for processing.

Either way, it’s clear that personhood gathered dramatically fewer signatures in 2012 than in prior years. In 2008, CI-100 gathered 26,332 signatures and qualified in 16 House districts. The 2010 personhood effort, CI-102, gathered 35,783 signatures and qualified in 23 House districts.

Following the 2011 Mississippi election, personhood has gotten a great deal of national attention. It’s been a presidential campaign issue and has formed a significant component of the national discussion about the “war on women”. However, the increased profile of personhood has translated into failures of petition drives in Nevada, California, Ohio, Oregon, and now Montana.

The 2012 initiative petition effort received substantial support from Personhood USA. Personhood USA co-founder Cal Zastrow spent months in Montana spearheading signature-gathering efforts. As reported to us by Montana voters who received the calls, Personhood USA even used robo-calling to attempt to gather support for the petition (as they have done in other states this election cycle). Yet not only did they get less than half of the required signatures, they got FEWER signatures than they have ever gathered before.

Only Colorado now has an active personhood ballot initiative for the 2012 election cycle. Personhood supporters have until August 6 to gather 86,000 signatures. The two previous efforts in 2008 and 2010 have cleared the ballot threshold, and the 2012 initiative has been widely expected to gather the required signatures as well. However, given the very poor results from Montana this year, it’s possible that the Colorado initiative may see a drop in support as well.

Ohio and Oregon initiatives have failed

July 6th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Ohio | Oregon - (Comments Off)

As expected, Ohio’s personhood effort did not make its signature threshold by the July 4 deadline, and will not appear on the ballot in 2012. Organizers appear to have collected only 30,000 of the required 385,000 signatures:

The group had collected only about 30,000 of the roughly 385,000 signatures required to be submitted to state officials on Wednesday for a chance to appear on November ballots, said Patrick Johnston, the director of Personhood Ohio.

The group pledged to continue seeking signatures ahead of 2013, but the shortfall was another setback for what has become known as the “personhood” movement.

The signatures which have already been collected will remain valid, and Personhood Ohio has said that they will continue to collect signatures in the hope of reaching the ballot in 2013 or later.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Oregon is reporting that the personhood initiative effort there has failed. Organizers would have had to turn in over 116,000 signatures by today’s deadline.

We have not yet confirmed the failure of the Oregon initiative with the Secretary of State’s office there. However, Oregon initiative backers do not appear to have been very active, so we expect to be able to officially confirm this news soon.

With the failure of Ohio and Oregon efforts, only Montana and Colorado remain active personhood states for 2012. Colorado is still gathering its signatures in advance of an August 6 deadline, while Montana’s Secretary of State is currently tallying the received signatures, with final results to be available on July 20.

While most personhood efforts are at the state level, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is attempting to pass personhood into federal law — and he’s willing to hold your flood insurance hostage to do it.

From TheHill.com:

An exasperated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that he would not allow a vote on an amendment clarifying that life begins at conception, which Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) offered to a flood insurance bill.

Paul has been known to offer unrelated amendments to Senate bills throughout the 112th Congress, often frustrating Reid. On Tuesday morning, Reid indicated he has had enough, and said Republicans need to control Paul or run the risk that the flood bill might not go through as planned.

Of course, we here at PvsP oppose Sen. Paul’s proposed amendment, just as we do any personhood legislation. However, we’re especially appalled at this political gamesmanship, which could potentially force Congress to choose between passing personhood bill or passing flood insurance.

Since Kentucky is a landlocked state, this Mississippian would like to provide Sen. Paul with a geography lesson.

Mississippi is bounded on the west by the Mississippi River. Just last year, the 2011 Mississippi River floods were among the most damaging in the last century. They caused billions of dollars in damages to homes, farms, and businesses in the states bordering the river. What program helped those people recover? The National Flood Insurance Program.

The Pearl River runs right through the center of the state. The Great Easter Flood of 1979 swamped large parts of the city of Jackson 15 feet underwater, causing over $1 billion in damages. Another major flood occurred just three years later in 1982. What program helped Jackson get back on its feet? The National Flood Insurance Program.

Then there’s the Gulf of Mexico. Sen. Paul may possibly recall the events of August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina flooded the Mississippi Gulf Coast TWELVE MILES inland with up to 30 feet of water, and relocated a substantial part of Lake Ponchartrain into the city of New Orleans. Katrina killed over 1000 people and destroyed many thousands of homes and lives. What program will help rebuild the Gulf Coast if another catastrophic hurricane occurs? That’s right, the National Flood Insurance Program.

Sen. Paul can’t get the Life at Conception Act passed on its own merits, so he’s willing to hijack the flood insurance program that protects our homes, farms and businesses. This cowardly political maneuvering should give pause to personhood advocates as well as opponents — imagine the outcry if a pro-choice representative held up such an important national program in order to obtain federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Shame on you, Sen. Paul, for using such underhanded tactics, and for holding taxpayers and homeowners hostage to your political agenda.

Ohio’s initiative effort heads for failure

June 21st, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Ohio - (Comments Off)

While the proposed Ohio ballot initiative’s deadline isn’t for another ten days, initiative backers have apparently fallen far short of the required 385,000 signatures:

With less than two weeks before a crucial July deadline, the group’s director says it has close to 20,000, or 5 percent, of the roughly 385,000 signatures required for the proposed personhood constitutional amendment to appear on November ballots.

While not all of the signatures have been counted, and the group plans to continue its efforts in the coming days, it’s unlikely that they will be able to make up such a significant gap.

Assuming the Ohio initiative does in fact fail, that leaves just three states with potential personhood votes in 2012.

[Hope you're all enjoying your summer! We're on a light posting schedule for the next several weeks, but we'll be gearing back up as the fall election season approaches.]

While personhood bills were proposed in several states during the 2012 legislative season, every single piece of proposed legislation failed to pass into law.

With personhood having failed to pass in any state legislature in 2012, attention now turns to the various proposed ballot initiatives. Seven states filed paperwork to gather signatures to put personhood on the 2012 ballot: California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Oregon.

We’ve previously discussed that the Oklahoma petition effort was rejected by the State Supreme Court. While personhood advocates claim that they will be taking their case to the US Supreme Court, and that this will enable them to overturn Roe v Wade, we think they’re mistaken on both counts. We’ll discuss that situation in more depth in a separate post, but for now, Oklahoma will not vote on personhood in 2012.

In California, amendment sponsors announced that they failed to meet the signature threshold of over 807,000 signatures by the April 30th deadline, and that the measure will not appear on the 2012 ballot.

Last week, Nevada amendment sponsors announced that they too had failed to gather the required 72,000 signatures.

Though neither Nevada nor California sponsors would state how many signatures that they had gathered, it’s reasonable to assume that they fell significantly short of their requirements, since both groups made their concessions well in advance. (A previous California effort in 2010 failed to meet the threshold by approximately 100,000 raw signatures, even before analyzing signatures to make sure they’re from valid registered voters.)

Signature-gathering efforts are still underway in Colorado, Montana, Ohio, and Oregon. Deadlines are as follows:

  • Montana: 48,674 signatures by June 22
  • Ohio: 385,247 signatures by July 4
  • Oregon: 116,283 signatures by July 6
  • Colorado: 86,105 signatures by August 5

The Montana deadline is this Friday, but we don’t expect to know whether they’ve actually made their goal for another several days. After the initiative backers submit their signatures, they must be analyzed by election officials to see if they belong to valid registered voters. In their 2010 effort, sponsors submitted over 53,000 signatures, but only 39,588 signatures were determined to be valid, and the initiative did not make the ballot.

Check back with us in the coming weeks for the ballot information in these states!

Oklahoma: Initiative petition ruled unconstitutional

April 30th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Oklahoma - (Comments Off)

Following the final defeat of SB-1433 in Oklahoma, personhood advocates hoped that their initiative petition would place a personhood amendment on the November ballot. Today, the state Supreme Court ruled that the petition was unconstitional:

The state’s highest court ruled unanimously that the proposal violates a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision and “is clearly unconstitutional.”

The Court’s ruling, available here, is a one-page decision affirming that ballot initiatives cannot directly conflict with the US Constitution according to the Oklahoma constitution. Since the ballot initiative conflicts with existing abortion decisions Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey, it cannot proceed forward.

This ruling reaffirms the Court’s 1992 decision that a ballot initiative could not be used to challenge the federal constitution. In the 1992 case, an attempt to outlaw abortion via ballot initiative was rejected because it conflicted with Planned Parenthood v Casey, and today’s ruling references the earlier decision.

Twenty years ago, this Court was presented with an initiative which facially conflicted with the Casey decision. This Court held: “The issue of the constitutionality of the initiative petition is governed by the United States Supreme Court in Casey.”

The only course available to this Court is to follow what the United States Supreme Court, the final arbiter of the United States Constitution, has decreed.

The mandate of Casey is as binding on this Court today as it was twenty years ago. Initiative Petition No. 395 conflicts with Casey and is void on its face and is thereby ordered stricken.

Since state courts are usually the last resort for state constitutional questions, it is presumed that the initiative petition will not appear on the November ballot, and that initiative petitions will not be allowed to proceed in future years.

Reports out of the Oklahoma Capitol this evening are that personhood supporters will attempt to bring SB-1433 to a vote tomorrow morning via an obscure procedural tactic.

The Republican caucus decided in two separate whip counts (private vote tallies) that SB-1433 should not be brought to the floor, but a few disgruntled representatives are seeking to override that decision and force a vote.

We urge you to call or email Oklahoma representatives NOW and ask them not to resurrect SB-1433.