Coronavirus didn’t kill the payday-lending-cap petition in Nebraska. Petition sponsors submitted more than 120,000 signatures Thursday, well above the 85,200 required to make the November ballot… but drive organizer Aubrey Mancuso says they needed a lot of money and an early start to make that happen:
Backers of the Nebraska petition drive spent nearly $1.5 million on the effort through late May, according to reports filed with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. The bulk of the money came from the American Civil Liberties Union, $712,317, and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, $355,000.
Mancuso said an early start helped the effort succeed despite having to suspend signature gathering for several weeks because of the coronavirus [Martha Stoddard, “Nebraska Group Behind Petition Drive to Cap Interest Rates on Payday Loans Turns in Signatures,” Omaha World-Herald, updated 2020.06.25].
Gambling and medical marijuana petitioners are still on the streets collecting signatures after taking several weeks off for coronavirus, but they are facing flack from Republican Governor Pete Ricketts, who in May was turning fear of coronavirus into another tool in his party’s nationwide war against the will of the people:
“To do a petition properly, to do it legally, the person has to read you the petition,” he said.
That means they will be in close contact for a period of time, and if they are infected, they could expose a person in close proximity.
“I would be really cautious about interfacing with any of those people. If they’re going to your house, then they’re going to the person next door and the person next door, that’s just a way to circulate the virus around your neighborhood,” he said [JoAnne Young, “July 3 Petition Deadline Close, Signatures Gathered from a Distance,” Lincoln Journal-Star, 2020.05.25].
At least Governor Ricketts provides support for the argument that Michigan socialists and I make, that for the sake of public health, states have an obligation to provide citizens alternative means and/or longer deadlines to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights.
It’s also nice to see Nebraska affirm the argument that I’m taking to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, that South Dakota has no compelling reason to require initiative proponents to submit their petitions a full twelve months before the election. Nebraska allows petitioners to collect signatures until July 3, a mere four months before the election. Nebraska initiative petitions require five times as many signatures as South Dakota’s, yet their Secretary of State manages to count all those signatures and print ballots without any of the difficulty that South Dakota’s officials weakly claim.