by David Ammons | June 10th, 2009
Remember those old references to the “bed sheet” ballot in crowded election years gone by? Sponsors of Referendum 71 can’t quite top that, but they are packing around petitions that are map-sized, nearly 2 feet by 3 feet when they’re opened.
A little-noticed provision of state law says that petitions for any referendum must print IN FULL every single word of the legislation being submitted to the voters for an up-or-down vote. In the case of Senate Bill 5688, the “everything but marriage” domestic partnership expansion that passed the Legislature recently, that’s a whopping 114 pages of text!
Presumably no one will stand there and read all that while the signature-gatherer is waiting to see whether he or she will sign the petition, but it’s a requirement nonetheless that it be shoehorned into every referendum. And the bill can’t just be a bunch of stapled little book of text – state law requires it all to be on “one sheet” and “readable.” Tall order!
Larry Stickney and the sponsors have devised a way to get it all on an petition that includes an 11x17 cover page with signature spaces, followed by zillions of words on subsequent pages and capped with a page of their testimonials. Opened up, it’s 23×34 3/4.
The text of the bill is in 6-point font. The format was reviewed by the state Elections Division, and sponsors are in the field now. The full text is also on the SecState initiative and referendum website or at the Legislature’s site . Sponsors must collect 120,577 valid signatures of registered voters by July 25 in order to secure a vote on the November statewide ballot. If R-71 makes the ballot, the sponsors will be asking voters to reject the law, which has not yet taken effect. Backers of the domestic partnership bill would be asking voters to affirm the measure.