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Judge Blocks Prescription Drug Price Cap from Ballot

We will not get to vote on a prescription drug price cap this fall. On Monday afternoon, Judge Patricia Devaney ruled that the petition for Initiated Measure 26 lacks the required number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Judge Devaney did not review all 22,091 signatures submitted. Instead, as post-scriptually I reported on July 5, the state and the Big Pharma lawyers challenging the petition agreed to focus the challenge on the 710 signatures randomly drawn by Secretary of State Shantel Krebs to validate the petition. Judge Devaney accepted Big Pharma’s well-financed argument that the sample contained 316 bad signatures, 106 more than Secretary Krebs counted in April. The draft order proposed by the complainants itemizes the errors:

  • 265 of the 710 sample signatures must be found invalid to demonstrate that the Sponsor of Initiated Measure 26 failed to submit the requisite number of signatures to place Initiated Measure 26 on the 2018 General Election Ballot,
  • 200 sample signatures are invalid pursuant to the Secretary of State’s initial review process,
  • 8 sample signatures obtained by Sean Morck are invalid due to Mr. Morck’s failure to personally witness the signing, bringing the invalid signature total to 208,
  • 2 sample signatures obtained by June Balleard are invalid due to Ms. Balleard’s failure to personally witness the signing, bringing the invalid signature total to 210, and
  • 4 sample signatures are invalid due to being duplicative, bringing the invalid signature total to 214;
  • 38 sample signatures obtained by Ann Westberry are invalid due to the omission of a circulator verification, bringing the invalid signature total to 252,
  • 31 sample signatures obtained by LeeAnn Fjellanger are invalid due to the omission of a circulator verification, bringing the invalid signature total to 283, and
  • 33 sample signatures obtained by Vaughn Blaschke are invalid due to the omission of his residence address, bringing the invalid signature total to 316;
  • Following the procedures set forth in the Parties’ Stipulation dated June 7, 2018, and the Court’s Order dated June 11, 2018, the total number of invalid signatures (316) is deducted from the total number of random sample signatures (710) which equals 394 valid signatures. This results in a new validity rate of 55.49% (394÷710). When this validity rate is applied to the petition as a whole, it results in a finding of 12,253 valid signatures (22,081 [sic] total signatures presented x 55.49%) [proposed order, Johnson v. Krebs, 2018.07.16].

The prescription drug price cap petition thus fell 11.7% short of the 13,871 signatures required to qualify for the ballot.

With this defeat, is now 0 for 3 in placing measures on the 2018 ballot. Its vote-by-mail initiative petition fell 21.0% short of the 13,871-signature target. Its independent redistricting amendment petition fell 8.9% short of the 27,741 signatures required to put a constitutional amendment to a vote.

Absent a successful appeal by the backers of the prescription drug price cap (and I’ve heard no signals suggesting anyone wants to counter Big Pharma’s resources to wage such a battle), “Initiated Measure 26” disappears from the ballot, with that designation to be saved for the first initiated measure that citizens may place on the ballot in 2020. This year’s ballot questions are thus set at five:

  • Amendment W: Anti-Corruption and Voter Protection Amendment, IM 26 2.0.
  • Amendment X: raising the public vote necessary to amend the state constitution from simple majority to 55%.
  • Amendment Z: single-subject rule for constitutional amendments.
  • Initiated Measure 24: Mickelson’s unconstitutional and holey ban on out-of-state money for ballot question committees.
  • Initiated Measure 25: Mickelson’s tobacco tax for vo-tech tuition support.

Five ballot questions, only one of which is a true citizen initiative, the other four all coming from legislators.


  1. Debbo 2018-07-17 21:18

    That sucks.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-17 23:50

    Completely. But on the bright side, I can finally print my business cards with the list of all official ballot measures. :-)

  3. Donald Pay 2018-07-18 14:00

    This is the problem with top-down organizations. I remember saying several times that the biggest flaw in their efforts was the top-down approach they were taking to initiatives. Well, it came back to bite them hard. These were worthy efforts, but it really has to bubble up from the grassroots. Take It Back has some very excellent political minds on board, and they should know you can’t successfully organize these efforts from the top down. If they want to continue, they should put the money into grassroots organizing.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-18 14:04

    Donald, I can roll with that model. Set up the organization to help grassroots organizations. See which groups come with which ideas for the ballot. Help them build their local grassroots coalitions and get petitions out to volunteers and signers. As they get that ball rolling, turn to donors near and far and say, “Hey! Look at the great work these grassroots folks are doing with this issue they really give a darn about. How about helping out?”

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