SCS/SB 2 - This act modifies the law relating to the initiative and referendum petition process.
Petition circulators are required to affirm, under penalty of perjury, that they have never been convicted or, found guilty of, or pled guilty to an offense involving forgery. They are also required to swear that they are at least 18 years old, whether they are being paid to circulate the petitions, and the payer if they are being paid.
The act removes provisions requiring that certain personal information of circulators shall be included with registration with the Secretary of State's office. A provision requiring registration before 5:00 p.m. on the final day for filing petitions is also repealed.
Under current law, a person who signs a name other than their own on a petition, signs more than once, or signs knowing he or she is not a registered voter is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor carrying a jail term of up to 1 year and a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Under the act, such a person is guilty of a Class D felony which carries a prison term of up to 5 years and a fine of between $1,000 and $25,000.
Persons committing the following, newly created crimes, are also guilty of petition signature fraud which is a Class D felony:
1. Intentionally submitting petition sheets with the knowledge that a person whose name appears on the petition did not sign the petition;
2. Fraudulently obtaining signatures;
3. Knowingly accepts or offers money or anything of value in exchange for a signature; or
4. Knowingly pays a circulator with knowledge that the circulator has committed signature fraud.
Persons with reasonable cause to suspect that petition fraud has been committed are required to report to the appropriate prosecuting authorities. Failure to do so is a Class A misdemeanor which carries a prison term of up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 and a class one election offense which is a felony carrying a prison term of up to 5 years, a fine of between $2,500 and $10,000, and bars an individual from registering to vote and voting.
The act includes a process for withdrawing a petition by delivering written notice to the Secretary of State.
Within 30 days of issuing certification that a petition contains the required number of valid signatures, the Joint Committee on Legislative Research shall hold a public hearing on the issue.
Actions challenging the official ballot title or the fiscal note are required to be finally adjudicated within 180 days of filing unless a court extends the period upon a finding of good cause.
If a committee or person other than the individual submitting the sample sheet of a petition is funding a portion of the drafting or submission of the sheet, the individual shall submit a copy of the committee's filed statement of organization that is filed with the Ethics Commission.
The act requires the Secretary of State to post the full text of initiative and referendum petitions within 2 days of receiving such petition and a disclaimer stating that the text of the proposed measure may not constitute the full and correct text as required by law to qualify for circulation. The name of the individual or organization submitting the petition shall also be included. Failure to post shall be considered an open records violation. The Secretary of State is required to remove the posting within 3 days of withdrawal or rejection of the petition.
Currently, the Secretary of State is required to send written notice to petitioners within 30 days after submission indicating approval or rejection. This act changes that period to 15 days.
Currently, if the petition form is approved, the Secretary of State is required to prepare and deliver a summary statement to the Attorney General with 10 days. Under the act, if the form is approved, the Secretary of State is required to make a copy of the sample petition available on the Secretary of State's website and refer a copy to the State Auditor in order to prepare the fiscal note and fiscal note summary. The Secretary of State is required to accept public comment for 15 days after certification. The Secretary of State is then required to prepare and deliver a summary statement to the Attorney general within 23 days from approval.
Signatures for statutory initiative petitions shall be filed between the last general election and 6 months prior to the general election in which the measure will be on the ballot.
This act is similar to SS/SCS/SB 818 (2011), SCS/SB 817 & 774 (2012), SCS/SB 569 (2012), SB 774 (2012), and HCS/HB 117 (2013).