House to take up bill that creates tougher requirements for initiatives

Williams want petitioners to gather more signatures to get measure on ballot

Posted: Tuesday, February 03, 2004

House lawmakers are considering perennial legislation to make it more difficult for voter initiatives to get on the ballot in Alaska.

Rep. Bill Williams, a Saxman Republican, wants a constitutional amendment to require initiative sponsors to collect signatures from a wider cross-section of Alaskans.

He wants petitioners to travel to more House districts and gather more signatures while they are there in order to get their measure on the ballot.

If approved, petitioners would have to gather enough signatures to equal at least 7 percent of the voter turnout in 30 House districts from the last election.

Under current law, petitioners need to gather signatures equal to 10 percent of the voter turnout in the last election. But they only need to get at least one signature from a registered voter in each of the 27 House districts.

Petitioners typically gather signatures in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Fairbanks and Juneau, where the majority of Alaskans live, Williams said.

"I'm trying to export democracy throughout the state," he said.

Too many initiatives are finding their way onto the ballot without substantial support from the far reaches of the state, Williams said.

Williams is proposing a bill and a resolution to change the state's initiative process. The resolution to amend the state constitution requires voter approval.

He's sponsored similar measures each year since 1999 but has been unable to muster the two-thirds vote in the Legislature to get them on the ballot.

Green Party activist Jim Sykes, who has worked on initiatives ranging from a ban on bear bating to campaign finance reform, is thankful lawmakers have been unwilling to pass the measure.

"I think it's just another attempt to put roadblocks in front of people trying to exercise their right to petition the government," Sykes said.

And Sykes said the measure could have an unintended consequence that keep petitioners from traveling to Bush Alaska to gather signatures. Most of the effort to gather signatures would be concentrated in the populated areas, Sykes said.

Supporters attempted to vote on the two measures but were blocked on Monday. They could come up as early as Wednesday for a House vote.



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