JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – While battling through the hurdles of the coronavirus, activists in several states are trying to collect thousands of signatures for proposed voting initiatives in the coming days to revise the way legislative constituencies are set up for the next decade.
Reform reform advocates have a deadline of July 2 in Oregon to hand in enough signatures to qualify their proposal for the November election. Initiative supporters face a July 6 deadline in Arkansas and North Dakota and an August 3 cutoff in Nevada.
All states must redraw their constituencies for the U.S. House and state legislatures based on the results of this year’s census. In many states, that task will be performed by state legislators and governors in 2021.
Reform advocates want to delegate that task to independent committees to try to reduce the potential of elected officials to the gerrymander districts to their political advantage.
“This is really a time for Oregonians to start a fair and transparent process in time for the redistribution in 2021,” said Kate Titus, Executive Director of Common Cause Oregon, at a news conference Tuesday with redistricting reform advocates. from many states.
At least 17 states have already taken steps to shift the redistribution process to special committees or institute other procedures to reduce the risk of partisan gerrymandering.
This year’s initiative efforts were changed by coronavirus prospects. Mass events, which are fertile ground for petition circulation pumps, were canceled and the personal petition meeting was suspended.
To adhere to social distance, Oregon activists sent petition signatures to about half a million households, each of which had at least two registered voters, Titus said. They receive thousands of signed petitions every day.
But “right now,” she said, “it’s really too hard to say” whether organizers are meeting the deadline for the 149,360 valid signatures needed for the proposed constitutional change.
Arkansas activists plan to sign signatures statewide this weekend to get the needed 89,151 valid signatures, said Bonnie Miller, president of Arkansas Voters First, who supports the initiative.
Proponents of the North Dakota initiative, which combines the reform overhaul with other election changes, have collected more than 18,000 signatures to date, said Carol Sawicki, president of North Dakota Voters First. Before the deadline they need 26,904.
Nevada petitioners would have been given a deadline on Wednesday to submit the 97,598 valid signatures needed to put a reshaping measure on the ballot paper, but it was pushed back to early August after the organizers sued.
Supporters of the initiative are now trying to convince Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak to issue an executive order that allows electronic signatures, said Sondra Cosgrove, president of the League of Women Voters of Nevada.
“If we are not allowed to use electronic signatures, we are going to violate the social order of the governor and organize big events in each of the petition districts so that we can get enough signatures,” Cosgrove told the AP.
Restrictive measures will also appear on the ballot this year in Virginia and Missouri, after being placed there by state lawmakers.
The Virginia measure would create a two-tiered committee to sign legislative districts. The Missouri measure would undo key parts of a 2018 voter-approved constitutional amendment by removing a non-partisan demograph position and pushing “partisan fairness” to the bottom of the priority list for the two-tier committees responsible for approving new cards.
Reform advocates had taken an initiative in Oklahoma, but actually had too little time to put it to the vote because of legal challenges and coronavirus restrictions on circulating petitions, said Andy Moore, executive director at People Not Politicians.
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