South Dakota's new regulation of people who circulate petitions for ballot initiatives is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.
The decision, if it withstands a potential appeal, would be a boon for advocates of direct democracy, which relies on small armies of people gathering signatures to put proposed changes to state laws before the entire electorate. Twenty-six states allow such citizen-led ballot measures.
A law signed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem last year requires petition circulators to register with the secretary of state and provide personal information including home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. But those "extensive and burdensome" disclosure requirements discriminate against those advocating for ballot measures in violation of the First Amendment because the same rules didn't apply to people actively opposing the measures, U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann ruled last week.
For this call, we are doing a deep dive into "One Nation, Two Realities: Dueling Facts in American Democracy." With us, we'll have authors Morgan Marietta and David Barker. The topic is something we talk about frequently among the Ballotpedia staff. Employing several years of original survey data and experiments, Marietta and Barker reach a number of enlightening and provocative conclusions: dueling fact perceptions are not so much a product of hyper-partisanship or media propaganda as they are of simple value differences and deepening distrust of authorities.
Marginal improvements have been made to help voters understand the questions posed to them on the ballot this November, a new study concludes, but such ballot measures still favor the college-educated — who represent a minority of the U.S. population.
This year voters in eight states will decide the fate of a collective 36 such propositions. In a study released Thursday, Ballotpedia assessed how easy it is to comprehend what each proposal would accomplish, concluding that the difficulty level had decreased compared with the referendums decided in the last off-year election of 2017 — but not by much.
In fact, according to a pair of well-established tests, 21 of the 36 ballot measures cannot be understood by the 40 percent of the voting-age population who never attended college.
Geoff Pallay is the editor in chief of Ballotpedia, a nonprofit and nonpartisan online political encyclopedia created a dozen years ago to provide a comprehensive chronicling of federal, state and local politics, elections, and public policy. He was hired in 2010 as a staff writer covering state legislatures and has had the top newsroom job since 2015. Originally from New Jersey, Pallay, 35, lives in Charleston, S.C., with his wife, Megan, and their two children. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
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