Initiative: When the Legislatures Don't Make the Right Laws

Initiative: When the Legislatures Don't Make the Right Laws

The initiative is a democratic procedure that allows laws or amendments to be initiated directly by the voters.The practice dates back to ancient Greece. It appeared in America in 1777, when the Georgia state constitution provided a means to adopt amendments with the voters' consent. In 1898, South Dakota granted its voters the right to initiate all forms of legislation. The initiative is available today at the state, county, and local levels in many areas.An initiative, which can be drafted by anyone, generally requires the signatures of a specific percentage of the district’s registered voters, often between five and 15 percent, to qualify for the ballot. If sufficient signatures are received and verified, then the measure is placed on the ballot for the next scheduled election or at a special election.Two types of initiative exist:

  • Direct Initiative: A direct initiative is the standard form of this process. Interested parties prepare the initiative and collect the necessary signatures. If they are successful, the issue is placed on the ballot. If approved by the voters, the measure becomes law.
  • Indirect Initiative: Indirect initiatives (mandated in some localities) require that measures receiving a sufficient number of valid petition signatures are then submitted to the legislature for action. Usually, if the legislature fails to pass the proposed legislation, it is submitted to the electorate for final disposition; however, in other areas, the proposal dies if defeated in the legislature.

No provision exists for the use of the initiative in federal legislation.

The initiative, along with the referendum and recall, won public attention because of the Populist Party platforms of the 1890s. They were promoted as means to stimulate unresponsive government.

Understanding the Ballot Initiative Process

The ballot initiative, a form of direct democracy, is the process through which citizens exercise the power to place measures otherwise considered by state legislatures or local governments on statewide and local ballots for a public vote. Successful ballot initiatives can create, change or repeal state and local laws, or amend state constitutions and local charters. Ballot initiatives can also be used simply to force state or local legislative bodies to consider the subject of the initiative.

As of 2020, 24 states allowed for some form of ballot initiatives. Citizen-submitted initiatives should not be confused with legislative referrals, which appear on the ballot by a vote of state legislators. In keeping with the intent of Article I, Section 4, Clause 1, of the U.S. Constitution, there are no federal laws that regulate the state ballot initiative process and the process of getting an initiative on the ballot varies by state. While all states require citizens to gather signatures of registered voters to have an initiative placed on the ballot, the number of signatures, geographic distribution of signatures, and timeframe for the collection of signatures vary. Some states allow for both laws and constitutional amendments to be considered as ballot initiatives, others only allow for new laws or amendments to existing laws.

The first documented approval for the use of the ballot initiative process by a state legislature appeared in the first constitution of Georgia, ratified in 1777.

The State of Oregon recorded the first use of the modern ballot initiative process in 1902. A major feature of the American Progressive Era from the 1890s to 1920s, the use of ballot initiatives quickly spread to several other states.

The first attempt to gain the approval of the ballot initiative at the federal government level took place in 1907 when House Joint Resolution 44 was introduced by Rep. Elmer Fulton of Oklahoma. The resolution never came to a vote in the full House of Representatives, having failed to gain committee approval. Two similar resolutions introduced in 1977 were also unsuccessful.
According to the Initiative & Referendum Institute's Ballotwatch, a total of 2,314 ballot initiatives appeared on state ballots between 1904 and 2009, of which 942 (41%) were approved. The ballot initiative process is also commonly used at the county and city levels of government. There is no ballot initiative process at the national level. Adoption of a nationwide federal ballot initiative process would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


By its terms, Article I, Section 4, Clause 1, also contemplates the times, places, and manner of holding elections being “prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof,” subject to alteration by Congress (except as to the place of choosing Senators). However, the Court did not have occasion to address what constitutes regulation by a state “Legislature” for purposes of the Elections Clause until its 2015 decision in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.382 There, the Court rejected the Arizona legislature’s challenge to the validity of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) and AIRC’s 2012 map of congressional districts.383 The Commission had been established by a 2000 ballot initiative, which removed redistricting authority from the legislature and vested it in the AIRC.384 The legislature asserted that this arrangement violated the Elections Clause because the Clause contemplates regulation by a state “Legislature” and “Legislature” means the state’s representative assembly.385

The Court disagreed and held that Arizona’s use of an independent commission to establish congressional districts is permissible because the Elections Clause uses the word “Legislature” to describe “the power that makes laws,” a term that is broad enough to encompass the power provided by the Arizona constitution for the people to make laws through ballot initiatives.386 In so finding, the Court noted that the word “Legislature” has been construed in various ways depending upon the constitutional provision in which it is used, and its meaning depends upon the function that the entity denominated as the “Legislature” is called upon to exercise in a specific context.387 Here, in the context of the Elections Clause, the Court found that the function of the “Legislature” was lawmaking and that this function could be performed by the people of Arizona via an initiative consistent with state law.388 The Court also pointed to dictionary definitions from the time of the Framers389 the Framers’ intent in adopting the Elections Clause390 the “harmony” between the initiative process and the Constitution’s “conception of the people as the font of governmental power”391 and the practical consequences of invalidating the Arizona initiative.392

State authority to regulate the times, places, and manner of holding congressional elections has been described by the Court as “embrac[ing] authority to provide a complete code for congressional elections . . . in short, to enact the numerous requirements as to procedure and safeguards which experience shows are necessary in order to enforce the fundamental rights involved.”393 The Court has upheld a variety of state laws designed to ensure that elections— including federal elections—are fair and honest and orderly.394 But the Court distinguished state laws that go beyond “protection of the integrity and regularity of the election process,” and instead operate to disadvantage a particular class of candidates.395 Term limits, viewed as serving the dual purposes of “disadvantaging a particular class of candidates and evading the dictates of the Qualifications Clause,” crossed this line,396 as did ballot labels identifying candidates who disregarded voters’ instructions on term limits or declined to pledge support for them.397 “[T]he Framers understood the Elections Clause as a grant of authority to issue procedural regulations, and not as a source of power to dictate electoral outcomes, to favor or disfavor a class of candidates, or to evade important constitutional restraints.”398


358 5 Stat. 491 (1842). The requirement was omitted in 1850, 9 Stat. 428, but was adopted again in 1862. 12 Stat. 572. 359 The 1872 Act, 17 Stat. 28, provided that districts should contain “as nearly as practicable” equal numbers of inhabitants, a provision thereafter retained. In 1901, 31 Stat. 733, a requirement that districts be composed of “compact territory” was added. These provisions were repeated in the next Act, 37 Stat. 13 (1911), there was no apportionment following the 1920 Census, and the permanent 1929 Act omitted the requirements. 46 Stat. 13. Cf. Wood v. Broom, 287 U.S. 1 (1932). 360 The first challenge was made in 1843. The committee appointed to inquire into the matter divided, the majority resolving that Congress had no power to bind the States in regard to their manner of districting, the minority contending to the contrary. H. R EP. NO . 60, 28th Congress, 1st sess. (1843). The basis of the majority view was that while Article I, § 4 might give Congress the power to create the districts itself, the clause did not authorize Congress to tell the state legislatures how to do it if the legislatures were left the task of drawing the lines. L. S CHMECKEBIER , CONGRESSIONAL APPORTIONMENT 135–138 (1941). This argument would not appear to be maintainable in light of the language in Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371, 383–86 (1880). 361 46 Stat. 13 (1929). In 1967, Congress restored the single-member district requirement. 81 Stat. 581, 2 U.S.C. § 2c. 362 14 Stat. 243 (1866). Still another such regulation was the congressional specification of a common day for the election of Representatives in all the states. 17 Stat. 28 (1872), 2 U.S.C. § 7. 363 Article I, § 4, and the Fifteenth Amendment have had quite different applications. The Court insisted that under the latter, while Congress could legislate to protect the suffrage in all elections, it could do so only against state interference based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude, James v. Bowman, 190 U.S. 127 (1903) United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214 (1876), whereas under the former it could also legislate against private interference for whatever motive, but only in federal elections. Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371 (1880) Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651 (1884). 364 The Enforcement Act of May 31, 1870, 16 Stat. 140 The Force Act of February 28, 1871, 16 Stat. 433 The Ku Klux Klan Act of April 20, 1871, 17 Stat. 13. The text of these and other laws and the history of the enactments and subsequent developments are set out in R. C ARR, FEDERAL PROTECTION OF CIVIL RIGHTS: QUEST FOR A SWORD (1947). 365 The constitutionality of sections pertaining to federal elections was sustained in Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371 (1880), and Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651 (1884). The legislation pertaining to all elections was struck down as going beyond Congress’s power to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment. United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214 (1876). 366 28 Stat. 144 (1894). 367 Pub. L. 85–315, Part IV, § 131, 71 Stat. 634, 637 (1957) Pub. L. 86–449, Title III, § 301, Title VI, 601, 74 Stat. 86, 88, 90 (1960) Pub. L. 88–352, Title I, § 101, 78 Stat. 241 (1964) Pub. L. 89–110, 79 Stat. 437 (1965) Pub. L. 90–284, Title I, § 101, 82 Stat. 73 (1968) Pub. L. 91–285, 84 Stat. 314 (1970) Pub. L. 94–73, 89 Stat. 400 (1975) Pub. L. 97–205, 96 Stat. 131 (1982). Most of these statutes are codified in 42 U.S.C. §§ 1971 et seq. The penal statutes are in 18 U.S.C. §§ 241–245. 368 Act of January 26, 1907, 34 Stat. 864, repealed by Pub. L. 94–283, Title II, § 201(a), 90 Stat. 496 (1976). Current law on the subject is codified at 2 U.S.C. § 441b. 369 Act of February 28, 1925, 43 Stat. 1070, 2 U.S.C. §§ 241–256. Comprehensive regulation is now provided by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, 86 Stat. 3, and the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974, 88 Stat. 1263, as amended, 90 Stat. 475, found in titles 2, 5, 18, and 26 of the U.S. Code. See Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976). 370 E.g., the Hatch Act, relating principally to federal employees and state and local governmental employees engaged in programs at least partially financed with federal funds, 5 U.S.C. §§ 7324–7327. 371 United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 314–15 (1941), and cases cited. 372 313 U.S. at 315 Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 13 n.16 (1976). 373 United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 315–321 (1941). The authority of Newberry v. United States, 256 U.S. 232 (1921), to the contrary has been vitiated. Cf. United States v. Wurzbach, 280 U.S. 396 (1930). 374 United States v. Mosley, 238 U.S. 383 (1915) United States v. Saylor, 322 U.S. 385, 387 (1944). 375 Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651 (1884). 376 United States v. Mosley, 238 U.S. 383 (1915). 377 United States v. Saylor, 322 U.S. 385 (1944). 378 United States v. Bathgate, 246 U.S. 220 (1918) United States v. Gradwell, 243 U.S. 476 (1917). 379 Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371 (1880) Ex parte Clarke, 100 U.S. 399 (1880) United States v. Gale, 109 U.S. 65 (1883) In re Coy, 127 U.S. 731 (1888). 380 Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371 (1880). 381 In Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112 (1970), however, Justice Black grounded his vote to uphold the age reduction in federal elections and the presidential voting residency provision sections of the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970 on this clause. Id. at 119–35. Four Justices specifically rejected this construction, id. at 209–12, 288–92, and the other four implicitly rejected it by relying on totally different sections of the Constitution in coming to the same conclusions as did Justice Black. 382 576 U.S. ___, No. 13–1314, slip op. (2015). 383 Id. at 2–3. 384 Id. 385 Id. at 2. 386 Id. at 18. The Court also found that the use of the commission was permissible under 2 U.S.C. § 2a(c), a statutory provision that the Court construed as safeguarding to “each state full authority to employ in the creation of congressional districts its own laws and regulations.” Id. at 19. 387 Id. at 18. 388 Id. 389 Id. at 24 (noting that “dictionaries, even those in circulation during the founding era, capaciously define the word ‘legislature’ ” to include as “[t]he power that makes laws” and “the Authority of making laws”). 390 Id. at 25 (“The dominant purpose of the Elections Clause . . . was to empower Congress to override state election rules, not to restrict the way States enact legislation. . . . [T]he Clause ‘was the Framers’ insurance against the possibility that a State would refuse to provide for the election of representatives to the Federal Congress.’ ”). 391 Id. at 30 (“The Framers may not have imagined the modern initiative process in which the people of a State exercise legislative power coextensive with the authority of an institutional legislature. But the invention of the initiative was in full harmony with the Constitution’s conception of the people as the font of governmental power.”). 392 Id. at 31, 33 (noting that it would be “perverse” to interpret the term “Legislature” to exclude the initiative, because the initiative is intended to check legislators’ ability to determine the boundaries of the districts in which they run, and that a contrary ruling would invalidate a number of other state provisions regarding initiatives and referendums). 393 Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S. 355, 366 (1932). 394 See, e.g., Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724 (1974) (restrictions on independent candidacies requiring early commitment prior to party primaries) Roudebush v. Hartke, 405 U.S. 15, 25 (1972) (recount for Senatorial election) and Munro v. Socialist Workers Party, 479 U.S. 189 (1986) (requirement that minor party candidate demonstrate substantial support—1% of votes cast in the primary election—before being placed on ballot for general election). 395 U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 835 (1995). 396 U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995). 397 Cook v. Gralike, 531 U.S. 510 (2001). 398 Thornton, 514 U.S. at 833–34.

Civil Rights Movement Timeline

The civil rights movement was an organized effort by Black Americans to end racial discrimination and gain equal rights under the law. It began in the late 1940s and ended in the late 1960s. Although tumultuous at times, the movement was mostly nonviolent and resulted in laws to protect every American’s constitutional rights, regardless of color, race, sex or national origin.

July 26, 1948: President Harry Truman issues Executive Order 9981 to end segregation in the Armed Services.

May 17, 1954: Brown v. Board of Education, a consolidation of five cases into one, is decided by the Supreme Court, effectively ending racial segregation in public schools. Many schools, however, remained segregated.

August 28, 1955: Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago is brutally murdered in Mississippi for allegedly flirting with a white woman. His murderers are acquitted, and the case bring international attention to the civil rights movement after Jet magazine publishes a photo of Till’s beaten body at his open-casket funeral.

December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Her defiant stance prompts a year-long Montgomery bus boycott.

January 10-11, 1957: Sixty Black pastors and civil rights leaders from several southern states—including Martin Luther King, Jr.—meet in Atlanta, Georgia to coordinate nonviolent protests against racial discrimination and segregation.

September 4, 1957: Nine Black students known as the “Little Rock Nine” are blocked from integrating into Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. President Dwight D. Eisenhower eventually sends federal troops to escort the students, however, they continue to be harassed.

September 9, 1957: Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1957 into law to help protect voter rights. The law allows federal prosecution of those who suppress another’s right to vote.

February 1, 1960: Four African American college students in Greensboro, North Carolina refuse to leave a Woolworth’s “whites only” lunch counter without being served. The Greensboro Four𠅎zell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil—were inspired by the nonviolent protest of Gandhi. The Greensboro Sit-In, as it came to be called, sparks similar “sit-ins” throughout the city and in other states.

November 14, 1960: Six-year-old Ruby Bridges is escorted by four armed federal marshals as she becomes the first student to integrate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. Her actions inspired Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With (1964).

1961: Throughout 1961, Black and white activists, known as freedom riders, took bus trips through the American South to protest segregated bus terminals and attempted to use “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters. The Freedom Rides were marked by horrific violence from white protestors, they drew international attention to their cause.

June 11, 1963: Governor George C. Wallace stands in a doorway at the University of Alabama to block two Black students from registering. The standoff continues until President John F. Kennedy sends the National Guard to the campus.

August 28, 1963: Approximately 250,000 people take part in The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King gives his “I Have A Dream” speech as the closing address in front of the Lincoln Memorial, stating, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”

September 15, 1963: A bomb at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama kills four young girls and injures several other people prior to Sunday services. The bombing fuels angry protests.

July 2, 1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, preventing employment discrimination due to race, color, sex, religion or national origin. Title VII of the Act establishes the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to help prevent workplace discrimination.

February 21, 1965: Black religious leader Malcolm X is assassinated during a rally by members of the Nation of Islam.

March 7, 1965: Bloody Sunday. In the Selma to Montgomery March, around 600 civil rights marchers walk to Selma, Alabama to Montgomery—the state’s capital—in protest of Black voter suppression. Local police block and brutally attack them. After successfully fighting in court for their right to march, Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders lead two more marches and finally reach Montgomery on March 25.

August 6, 1965: President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prevent the use of literacy tests as a voting requirement. It also allowed federal examiners to review voter qualifications and federal observers to monitor polling places.

April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray is convicted of the murder in 1969.

April 11, 1968: President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, providing equal housing opportunity regardless of race, religion or national origin.

State comparison

The chart below lists the 26 states with the power of initiative or referendum, shows what powers—initiated statute, initiated amendment, veto referendum, or some combination—are available to the people in that state. It also shows the signature requirement for each type of measure as of the 2021/2022 election cycle. The chart does not differentiate between different types of initiated statute or initiated amendment, such as between direct or indirect initiatives. Read details about the process in each state by clicking the links in the chart.

The Evolution of America’s Right-to-Die Movement

In 1975, Derek Humphry helped his wife, who was dying from breast cancer, take her own life. Five years later, Humphry founds the Hemlock Society, the first right-to-die organization in the U.S., in his garage in Santa Monica, Calif. Its mission is to help terminally ill people people die peacefully, and advocate for laws backing physician-assisted suicide. Humphry comes to be considered by many to be the father of the right-to-die movement, and within 12 years, the group grows to 80 chapters.

“And everybody said I was crazy — America was not ready for physician-assisted suicide. And I said, ‘Oh, I think it is.’ And so I started out on a lonely path back in 1980, campaigning for the right to choose to die when terminally ill.”
—Derek Humphry

June: “Dr. Death’s” First Patient Dies

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who will earn the nickname “Dr. Death,” is present at the death of Janet Adkins, a 54-year-old woman from Portland, Ore. with Alzheimer’s disease. Adkins is the first to die in his Volkswagen van, using a “suicide machine” that Kevorkian built in his Michigan apartment from $30 of scrap parts the year before. During the next eight years, Kevorkian would acknowledge helping an estimated 130 people in taking their lives.

”My ultimate aim is to make euthanasia a positive experience. I’m trying to knock the medical profession into accepting its responsibilities, and those responsibilities include assisting their patients with death.”
—Kevorkian, in an interview with The New York Times after Adkins’ death

April: Doctor Helps Woman to Die, Sparks Nationwide Debate

A grand jury ultimately declines to indict Dr. Timothy Quill, a palliative care physician, for prescribing a lethal dose of barbiturates to a terminally ill patient, who subsequently died. Quill said the woman, who was dying of leukemia, had expressed her wish to die and that he had directed the woman to the Hemlock Society. She then asked Quill for medication she knew would end her life. The case sparked a nationwide debate about doctor-assisted suicide.

“It was not that different in my mind and in my personal experience from helping other people to die when I had taken them off a ventilator or helped them stop dialysis or done other things. These are big decisions. …You do them when it’s driven by a patient’s suffering and their circumstance.”
—Dr. Timothy Quill

April: “Aid-in-Dying” Legislation Proposed in Oregon

The Oregon Hemlock Society joins with state Sen. Frank Roberts, who was himself dying of cancer, to propose an “aid in dying” bill, but it fails in committee. But its supporters, including Barbara Coombs Lee, a Senate staff member who will go on to become a major leader in the movement, help to craft a new law that will go before voters in 1994.

“[Roberts] was a man who was dying, he was a man who was revered by his colleagues, and he was married to the governor at the time. But his bill got no serious consideration at all. And it was that back-scenes look at how disparaged and unwelcome in the political arena our conversations about the end of life, that really opened my eyes. Frank did die of his illness a few years later. He did not live to see the rights, the choices that he wishes for himself and other terminally ill people to come into being.” —Barbara Coombs Lee

May: Final Exit is published

Humphry, the Hemlock Society founder, pens the best-selling book, which offers explicit instructions for what he calls “death by self-deliverance.” Unable to find a publisher, Humphry releases the book himself, and it becomes a best-seller.

“It’s a how-to, but it also goes into things like life insurance family matters suicide notes, yes or no living wills. … There is a list of drugs, and there is the helium hood method described and illustrated, but it also goes into the sensitivities and the delicacies and the family responsibilities to do with end of life.”
—Derek Humphry

November: California Rejects “Aid in Dying” Measure

Voters soundly defeat a ballot measure, backed by the Hemlock Society, that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide. Some supporters suggest Kevorkian’s very public assisted deaths may be frightening Americans away from the idea of “death with dignity.”

“The Hemlock Society was founded 10 years before Kevorkian came on the scene. And he did a great job in publicizing the right to choose to die. … [But] our tactics were different. I wanted to change the law, to permit physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. He wanted to shock the medical profession by his antics and his show-offs on television and his costumes and all the rest of it. But that’s not how things work. Doctors will not step outside the law if they can possibly help it.” —Derek Humphry

February: Michigan Bans Assisted Suicide

Partly in response to Kevorkian’s efforts, Michigan Gov. John Engler signs into a law a bill passed by the legislature banning assisted suicide. After a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two terminally ill cancer patients and seven local doctors, the Michigan appeals court finds the law unconstitutional. Finally, in 1994, the Michigan Supreme Court upholds the ban on assisted suicide and rules that the act is illegal under the state’s common law.

May: Compassion in Dying Emerges

Compassion in Dying, an organization to provide support and advice for terminally ill people, forms in Washington state. The group, which will later come to be called Compassion & Choices, works with terminally ill people to make sure that they are aware of all their options for a peaceful death, including refusing food and fluids, stopping medication or declining certain procedures, or taking medication that will end their lives. Founded in part by people connected to the AIDS epidemic, the group wanted to help those who were contemplating violent suicides to end their lives more peacefully.

“These were people who were on the front lines at the height of the AIDS epidemic. People whom they loved and people whom they served were jumping from balconies and using guns and doing all manner of horrific things to avoid the terrible death that they had witnessed their partners or their loved ones endure.”
—Barbara Coombs Lee

November: Oregon Becomes First State to Legalize Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Voters in Oregon approve the Death with Dignity Act, which allows terminally ill adults likely to die within six months to obtain a prescription for lethal medication from a doctor. Patients must be at least 18 and state residents, and able to demonstrate that they are capable of making their own decisions. The measure is backed by Compassion in Dying and the Hemlock Society. Legal appeals, however, keep the law from taking effect immediately.

“We’d had several failures in attempts to reform the law, but we learned from our mistakes and we gathered strength. And in 1994, our team, emanating from the Hemlock Society, passed the first law in America permitting physician-assisted suicide for the dying.” —Derek Humphry

November: Major Study on End-of-Life Care

The Journal of the American Medical Association publishes the SUPPORT study, a massive study of end-of-life care with the objective of improving end-of-life decision-making, and reducing the frequency of a “mechanically supported, painful and prolonged process of dying.” Conducted at five U.S. teaching hospitals, the study involves 9,105 adults hospitalized with one or more life-threatening diagnoses. It finds shortcomings in communication between doctors and patients about their wishes, such as whether patients want to avoid CPR or be resuscitated. It also reports that half of the conscious patients who died in the hospital had been in “severe or moderate pain,” according to their families. The study leads to the expansion of palliative care, which focuses on pain relief and prevention, in hospitals nationwide.

“To improve the experience of seriously ill and dying patients, greater individual and societal commitment and more proactive and forceful measures may be needed.”
– Report conclusion

November: Oregon Reaffirms Physician-Assisted Suicide

Oregon voters reject a ballot measure to repeal its doctor-assisted suicide law by a wide margin, 60 percent to 40 percent. The law is opposed by religious groups, the Oregon Medical Association, and Not Dead Yet, an advocacy group of people with disabilities that opposes assisted suicide on the grounds that it perpetuates the idea that disabled people cannot live full lives.

“I think policy makers would be wise to look to Oregon, because Oregon has defined that line between assisting a suicide and offering a medical practice of aid in dying, and defined it very, very well. … These people who are terminally ill are not suicidal. …They’re making a choice between this kind of death and that kind.”
– Barbara Coombs Lee

November: Michigan Assisted Suicide Proposal Fails

Local right-to-die advocates gather enough signatures to place a referendum allowing assisted suicide on the ballot in November, but voters reject the measure by a wide margin after a campaign by a coalition that includes the Right to Life of Michigan, the Roman Catholic Church and the Michigan State Medical Society. With the measure defeated, the legislature-imposed ban on the practice remains in place.

March: Kevorkian Convicted

Kevorkian is convicted of second-degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance in the death of Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease. The doctor is sentenced to 10-25 years in prison, but is released after eight years, upon promising not to assist in another suicide.

Maine Voters Reject Assisted Suicide

Voters in Maine narrowly reject a ballot initiative that would have allowed physician-assisted suicide. The American Medical Association called it a “flawed” proposal that would impose on physicians’ mandate to do no harm.

New Name for the Hemlock Society

The Hemlock Society changes its name to End-of-Life Choices.

“I kept out of it. I said I didn’t want it to disappear, but by then I had no control, and [didn’t] want control. But the mission remains basically the same. … Some people said that they didn’t like the name Hemlock Society because it was associated with Socrates, who took his life. But then our argument was Socrates made a choice between death or exile. … Some people felt that it was time to drop such a name and have much more respectable names, like Death with Dignity or Compassion & Choices.”
– Derek Humphry, who retired from the society in 1992

Final Exit Network Emerges

A group of radical right-to-die activists break from Compassion in Dying to form its own group, Final Exit Network. Taking their name from Humphry’s book, they aim to help not only people who are terminally ill, but anyone who wants to die. The group gains more than 3,000 members nationwide, and volunteers who call themselves “exit guides” have been present at hundreds of planned deaths.

“The network was designed to be supportive of anyone who was mentally competent and suffering more than they could bear. They did not have to be terminally ill. We feel this is an individual rights issue, that they should have the right to determine how they live and how they die. And we believe, at the heart of our mission, no person should die alone.”
– Ted Goodwin, president from 2004-2009

Major Right-to-Die Groups Merge

End-of-Life Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, merges with Compassion in Dying to become Compassion & Choices. It becomes one of the leading right-to-die organizations in the U.S., leading the fight to legalize physician-assisted suicide, or what the group prefers to call “aid in dying.” They also help people outside Oregon and Washington find ways to end their lives without breaking the law.

“It’s our position that people who are terminally ill, who are looking at their death’s approach not at some distant time in the future but ‘Here it is, I’m approaching it now,’ those people can’t and should not have to wait for absolute clarity on the law before they too are empowered with the means to control their suffering.”
– Barbara Coombs Lee, president, Compassion & Choices

January: Oregon Law Reaffirmed

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, 6-3, fending off a challenge from the Bush administration. The federal government, which opposed assisted suicide, had challenged the law by arguing that doctors in Oregon who helped patients die under the law could be arrested under federal drug laws. Supporters of the law in Oregon say the court’s ruling is a victory for voters in the state, who supported the measure twice, in 1994 and 1997.

November: Washington OKs Physician-Assisted Suicide

Washington becomes the second state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide with the passage of a bill modeled on Oregon’s law. It takes effect in 2009.

February: Final Exit Network Members Arrested

Four of the group’s members are arrested in connection with the death of John Celmer, a Georgia man suffering from cancer, after a multistate investigation into the network. Tom Goodwin, the president, is charged, along with Lawrence Egbert, the group’s medical director, and two others, for helping Celmer die. The same year, Egbert and three other Final Exit members are indicted for helping a mentally ill Arizona woman, Jana Van Voorhis, die in 2007.

“I think the larger issue it raised was, again, the actions of these people. To me, even though it was an unusual crime that they were committing, they were still nothing more than vigilantes that they didn’t like what the law was, and that they chose to ignore it. … And that there are a lot of people out there who are vulnerable and susceptible, I think, to people like Final Exit, who, however well meaning they may be, they just don’t have any safeguards in place and don’t have any business doing what it is that they’re doing.”
– Penny Penn, Forsyth County, Ga. district attorney

December: Montana Supreme Court Upholds Doctors’ Role in Death

The Montana Supreme Court rules that doctors can’t be prosecuted for helping to hasten the deaths of terminally ill patients. But the court stops short of saying that the right to die is constitutionally protected in the state.

“Now the Montana medical community is putting that into practice and implementing it and incorporating [it in] end-of-life care, just as it incorporates any other end-of-life choice, just as they are incorporating palliative sedation, and incorporating the protocols for discontinuing ventilators on conscious patients.”
– Barbara Coombs Lee

April: Final Exit Network Survives Trial in Arizona

In the network’s first legal test, Arizona prosecutors argue that four Final Exit members, including Egbert, illegally helped Jana Van Voorhis to die. Van Voorhis, who had struggled most of her life with mental illness, wrongly believed she was terminally ill, and Egbert approved her application for help from the network. Two “exit guides” present at her death plead guilty to lesser charges, but Egbert, the group’s medical director, is acquitted. The jury cannot decide on the guilt of an exit guide, Frank Langser, and the judge declares a hung jury. Langser pleads guilty to a lesser to avoid a retrial. But the network remains intact.

Kevorkian dies of natural causes at the age of 83.

February: Final Exit Network Wins in Georgia

Goodwin and three others indicted in Georgia challenge state law, arguing that its ban on assisted suicide violates the First Amendment. The Georgia Supreme Court agrees, forcing prosecutors to drop the charges.

“When we founded the network, it was our desire to provide this activism to help dying people avoid the suffering death. I use the term ‘help’ not in the physical act, OK, but to support them — but also to effect change in legislation. And now the Georgia law has been thrown out. In a seven-to-zero ruling, the (state) Supreme Court said this was an unenforceable law. Our rights as American citizens had been more enshrined under the First Amendment because of this.”
– Goodwin, Final Exit Network

May: Final Exit Network Back in Court

Egbert, Final Exit’s medical director, and three other members are indicted in Minnesota for their alleged role in a 2007 suicide. The woman’s death is initially ruled to be from natural causes, but police begin investigating after they receive information from Georgia authorities about the network’s operations. The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18.

November: Mass. Rejects Physician-Assisted Suicide

Voters in Massachusetts narrowly reject a ballot initiative to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Support had initially been relatively strong for the measure, which is modeled on the Oregon law, but collapsed after an aggressive campaign led in part by a disability rights group, who argued that the law would be easily abused.

Important Civil Rights Legislation

  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954): This landmark decision allowed for the desegregation of schools. (1963): This ruling allowed for any accused individual to have the right to an attorney. Before this case, an attorney would only be provided by the state if the result of the case could be the death penalty.
  • Heart of Atlanta v. United States (1964): Any business that was participating in interstate commerce would be required to follow all rules of the federal civil rights legislation. In this case, a motel that wanted to continue segregation was denied because they did business with people from other states. : This was an important piece of legislation that stopped segregation and discrimination in public accommodations. Further, the U.S. Attorney General would be able to help victims of discrimination. It also forbids employers to discriminate against minorities.
  • 24th Amendment (1964): No poll taxes would be allowed in any states. In other words, a state could not charge people to vote. (1965): Probably the most successful congressional civil rights legislation. This truly guaranteed what had been promised in the 15th amendment: that no one would be denied the right to vote based on race. It ended literacy tests and gave the U.S. Attorney General the right to intervene on behalf of those who had been discriminated against.


85 For committee attractiveness during this period, see Charles Stewart III, “Committee Hierarchies in the Modernizing House, 1875–1947,” American Journal of Political Science 36, no. 4 (November 1992): 835–856.

86 Smith, Jeannette Rankin: 102.

87 Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1992): especially 494–522.

88 Quoted in William H. Chafe, The Paradox of Change: American Women in the 20th Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991): 27.

89 Gertzog, Congressional Women: 148–152.

90 For more on the temperance and Prohibition movement, see Ruth Bordin, Women and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873–1900 (1981 repr., New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990), and Thomas R. Pegram, Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800–1933 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee Publishers, 1998).

91 For Willard’s role as a lobbyist, see Gaines M. Foster, Moral Reconstruction: Christian Lobbyists and the Federal Legislation of Morality, 1865–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002): 84–91.

92 Steven W. Stathis, Landmark Legislation, 1774–2002 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2003): 185–186.

93 See, for example, Susan M. Reverby, Ordered to Care: The Dilemma of American Nursing, 1850–1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

94 For a thorough treatment of the Great Depression era, see David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear (New York: Oxford, 1999).

Initiative: When the Legislatures Don't Make the Right Laws - History

Last updated: June 22, 2021

Only 21 states allow citizen-initiated ballot initiatives, meaning in most states the only way to reform marijuana laws is via the legislature. With polls showing that 68% of Americans support making marijuana use legal and around 90% support allowing medical marijuana, lawmakers are finally starting to get the message that constituents want them to act on sensible and humane marijuana policies.

Four states have legalized cannabis in 2021 via the legislative process &mdash New York, Virginia, New Mexico, and Connecticut.

Meanwhile, Alabama&rsquos legislature and governor legalized medical cannabis this year, and Louisiana decriminalized possession of up to 14 grams. Click on the state names below (under the categories of reform) to learn more about efforts in your state and to take action in support of marijuana policy reform.

As part of our national reckoning with racism and violent policing, it is essential that we end the war on cannabis, which includes hundreds of thousands of arrests each year and even more traumatizing searches based on the real or alleged smell of cannabis. Despite nearly identical use rates, Black Americans are 3.6 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis as whites.

In addition, as we recover from the pandemic, it is all the more apparent that finite government resources shouldn&rsquot be wasted on cannabis prohibition. Legalization helps grow economies with new small businesses, good jobs, and hundreds of millions in tax revenue.

Marijuana Legalization Legislation

States where 2021 bills were proposed to legalize marijuana for adults: 31, including four that are now law

  • Connecticut&mdash S.B. 1201 &mdash which legalizes and regulates cannabis for adults 21 and older, with a strong focus on equity &mdash passed both chambers during a special session between June 15 and 17 Gov. Lamont signed it into law on June 22, 2021. During the regular session, the Senate passed Gov. Lamont&rsquos S.B. 888, but it ran out of time in the House. H.B. 6377 was a shorter bill focused on equity and labor peace in legalization. It advanced out of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. &mdash HB 150 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults. On March 24, the House Health and Human Development Committee approved HB 150 in a 10-5 vote. It advanced out of the House Appropriations Committee on June 4 and awaits a House floor vote. The legislature adjourns on June 30.
  • Florida&mdash H 291, H 343, H 1361, H 1597, S 664, S 1916, and S 710 would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults. The legislature&rsquos regular session adjourned without the bills being taken up. &mdash SB 263 would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults HR 281 and SR 165 would have referred a constitutional amendment on legalizing cannabis to voters. None advanced before the crossover deadline.
  • Hawaii&mdash SB 767, HB 1202, HB 238, SB 1376, SB 704, and HB 7 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults. The Senate approved SB 767 in a 20-5 vote on March 9 but included an effective date more than 100 years in the future. However, the chair of the House Health, Human Services, & Homelessness Committee failed to grant the bill a hearing before a legislative deadline, thus killing it for the year. The bills carry over to 2022.
  • Indiana &mdash HB 1154 and SB 87 would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults SB 223 would have legalized possession only and HB 1117 would have removed penalties for possession or cultivation of up to two ounces of marijuana. None advanced before the crossover deadline. &mdash SF 83 would legalize adults' possession of up to an ounce HF 751 would legalize and regulate cannabis and expunge convictions. The legislature&rsquos regular session adjourned without the bills being taken up, but the bills carry over to 2022. &mdash HB 2430 would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults. It did not advance before a crossover deadline, but it carries over to 2022. &mdash HB467 and HB461 would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults. The legislature adjourned without acting on the bills. &mdash HB 699 (formerly HB 524) would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults 21 and older. It advanced out of the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice on April 27 in a bipartisan vote. It was pulled from consideration on the House floor after a companion tax bill (HB 434) was voted down. Another legalization bill, HB 243, also advanced out of the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice in April, but it did not get a House floor vote. The legislature has adjourned. &mdash HB 32 and SB 708 would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults. HB 32 received a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on February 16, and SB 708 received a hearing in Senate Finance on March 4, but neither advanced before a legislative deadline. &mdash SF 757, HF 151, and HF 600 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults. On May 13, 2021, the House approved HF 600 to legalize cannabis in a 72-61 vote. The legislature&rsquos regular session has ended, but the bill will carry over to 2022.
  • Mississippi &mdash SB 2768 would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults SB 2164 would have legalized cannabis and SB 2585 would have legalized possession of up to 2.5 ounces. The legislature adjourned without acting on the bills.
  • Missouri &mdash HB 325 and HB 263 would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults HJR 30 would refer a constitutional amendment on legalizing cannabis to voters. The legislature adjourned without acting on the bills.
  • Nebraska &mdash LB5 46 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults LR2CA, if approved by the legislature, would refer a constitutional amendment on legalizing cannabis to voters. The Unicameral adjourned without the bill being taken up, but bills carry over to 2022.
  • New Hampshire &mdash HB 237 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults HB 629 would legalize personal possession and cultivation of cannabis. On January 27, 2021, the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommended retaining both bills, which would kill them for the year. &mdash A. 21, S. 21, and A. 1897 implement legalization (which more than two-thirds of voters approved in November 2020). The bills were signed by Gov. Murphy on February 22, 2021, along with a companion bill to set penalties for minors in possession of cannabis. &mdash HB 2 (special session), HB 12, HB 17, SB 13, SB 288, and SB 363 &mdash On March 31, the Senate and the House both approved HB 2 (22-15 and 38-32), which legalizes and regulates marijuana for adults 21 and older. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bills into law on April 12.
  • New York &mdash S.854, A.1248 &mdash S.854-A legalizes adult-use cannabis in New York and will set up a system for regulated sales. Gov. Cuomo signed it into law on March 31, 2021. The Assembly passed S.854-A in a 94-56 vote on March 30, and the Senate approved it the same day in a 40-23 vote. &mdash H576, H617, and S646 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults.
  • North Dakota &mdash HB 1420 would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults HCR 3031, if approved by the legislature, would refer a constitutional amendment on legalizing cannabis to voters. The House of Representatives approved HB 1420 in a 56-38 vote on February 23, but the Senate voted the bill down, 10-37, on March 25.
  • Oklahoma &mdash HB 1961, if approved by the legislature, would have referred a constitutional amendment on legalizing cannabis to voters. It did not advance before crossover. &mdash HB 210 would legalize personal possession of marijuana and cultivation of up to 12 plants. &mdash HB1180 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults. &mdash S0568 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults it advanced out of committee on June 14 and is expected to get a Senate floor vote the week of June 21. &mdash S 335 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults also, S 268 would create an advisory referendum on legalization in 2022. It did not advance before crossover, but the legislative session carries over to 2022.
  • Tennessee &mdash HB 413 and SB 1439 would have removed all penalties for possession of up to an ounce of cannabis. They would not have legalized sales or manufacture. The legislature adjourned without acting on the bills. &mdash HB 447, SB 140, and SB 269 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults SJR 16 and HJR 13, if approved by the legislature, would refer a constitutional amendment on legalizing cannabis to voters. &mdash SB 1406, HB 2312, SB 1243, HB 1815, and HB 269 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults SB 1406 and HB 2312 passed both chambers in their final form on February 27. Gov. Northam requested amendments &mdash including moving up legal possession and cultivation to July 1, 2021 instead of 2024 &mdash and the legislature accepted them on April 7. The bill is now law. &mdash HB 2291 and HB 2912 would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults. They did not advance before a crossover deadline, but they carry over to 2022.
  • Wisconsin&mdash AB68 and SB111 are budget bills that include the governor&rsquos legalization proposals. &mdash HB 209 would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults. It advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee in a 6-3 vote but did not get a House floor vote before a deadline.

Eighteen states have already passed laws to legalize and regulate cannabis (three of which did so this year): Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. All but five &mdash Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Vermont, and Virginia &mdash were by ballot initiative. Connecticut will become the 19th legalization state &mdash and the sixth to legalize legislatively &mdash when Gov. Lamont signs S.B. 1201 into law.

Bills to Remove Possible Jail Time &mdash Often Imposing a Fine &mdash for Simple Possession (&ldquoDecriminalization&rdquo)

States with decriminalization bills: 12, one of which was enacted

    &mdash SB 149 would have reduced the penalty for cannabis possession to a fine for up to two ounces, the penalty would have been a civil fine of up to $250 it advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 3. The legislature adjourned without the bill receiving a floor vote. &mdash SB 499 would have reduced the penalty for up to an ounce to a $200 fine. The legislature adjourned without acting on the bill. &mdash H 1215 would have imposed a civil fine of $100 or 10 hours of community service, plus court costs, for possession of up to 20 grams. The legislature adjourned without acting on the bill. &mdash SB 77 would have reduced the penalty for possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana to a fine of up to $300. The legislature adjourned without acting on the bill.
  • Indiana&mdash HB 1028 would have made up to 30 grams a Class D infraction. It did not advance before a crossover deadline. &mdash HF 648 would have removed jail time for possession but would have imposed a misdemeanor conviction and a hefty fine of between $105 and $855 SB 407 would have reduced various penalties involving cannabis, including reducing the penalty for adults 21 and older possessing up to a half ounce of cannabis to a $100 civil fine. The legislature adjourned without acting on the bills. &mdash HB 652 reduces the penalty for up to 14 grams of cannabis to a fine of up to $100 the House approved the bill in a 68-25 vote, the Senate passed it 20-17, and Gov. John Bel Edwards signed it into law.
  • Pennsylvania&mdash SB 107 would reclassify possession of a small amount of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a summary offense carrying a $25 fine. Public use would be a $100 fine.
  • South Carolina&mdash H 3228 (civil citation for up to 28 grams) and H 3571 (civil citation for up to 28 grams, penalty decrease for other drug offenses). The bills did not advance before a crossover deadline, but they carry over to 2022.
  • Texas&mdash HB 169 and HB 99 (would have made possession of up to two ounces a fine-only misdemeanor not subject to arrest) HB 585 and HB 616 (would have made possession of up to two ounces a fine-only misdemeanor not subject to arrest, unless it was a fourth or subsequent offense in 24 months) HB 441 and HB 498 (would have made possession of up to an ounce a fine-only misdemeanor). On April 30, the House of Representatives approved HB 441 in a 88-40 vote it did not receive a Senate vote. The legislature has adjourned without enacting any of the bills. &mdash SB 26 would have reduced the maximum penalty for possession of marijuana to no more than $1,000 without confinement. It did not advance before a crossover deadline, but it carries over to 2022. &mdash AB 130 and SB 164 would reduce the penalty for up to 10 grams of cannabis to a fine of up to $100.

Thirty-two states and Washington, D.C. have decriminalized or legalized marijuana possession.

Effective Medical Marijuana Bills

States with bills to create comprehensive medical cannabis programs: 13, one of which is now law

  • Alabama&mdash SB 46 the Senate approved the bill on February 24 in a 21-8 vote the House followed suit on May 6 in a 68-34 vote, and the Senate concurred with the House&rsquos changes. On May 17, 2021, Gov. Ivey signed the bill into law. &mdash HB 738, SB 264 the legislature adjourned without action on either bill. &mdash H 108 the legislature adjourned without acting on the bill.
  • Indiana&mdash HB 1026, HB 1214, HB 1547, and SB 321 the bills did not advance before crossover. &mdash SB 92, HB 2184, and SB 287 on March 29, the House Federal and State Affairs Committee advanced HB 2184 in a 13-8 vote. The House approved a bill that had been amended to be a medical cannabis bill (SB 158) on May 6 in a 79-42 vote. The legislature has adjourned, but the bill carries over to 2022.
  • Kentucky &mdash HB 136 and SB 92 did not advance. The legislature adjourned without the bills even being assigned to committee. &mdash LB 474 the Judiciary Committee advanced the bill in a 5-2 vote on March 30, sending it to the floor of the unicameral legislature. The bill effectively died on the floor when the legislature came two votes shy of the 33 needed to stop a filibuster. &mdash S 669, S 711
  • South Carolina &mdash S. 150, H. 3361 on March 18, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee advanced S. 150 to the floor in a 9-5 vote. Sen. Hembree contested the bill on the floor, which puts it on the contested calendar and delays a vote. The legislature has adjourned, but the bill will carry over to 2022. &mdash SB 25, HB 601, HB 621, HB 666, SB 25, and SB 854 on March 4, the Senate Government Operations Committee advanced SB 854 in a 6-2 vote. On March 23, SB 854 was defeated in committee. On May 4, the Senate approved a bill (SB 118) to expand the CBD program and to create a commission to look into medical cannabis. The Senate followed suit on May 5, and Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill into law.
  • Texas&mdash HB 43, HB 809, HB 94, SB 250, SB 90 also HJR 11 and HJR 28, if enacted by the legislature, would have referred constitutional amendments on medical cannabis to voters. would have referred constitutional amendments on medical cannabis to voters. The legislature passed and Gov. Abbott signed a far more limited bill (HB 1535) to expand the state&rsquos low-THC medical cannabis law to include up to 1% THC (instead of 0.5%) and to expand qualifying conditions by adding PTSD and chronic pain. &mdash AB 68 and SB 111 are the governor's budget bills, which propose a medical cannabis program. &mdash HB 209 would have legalized and regulated cannabis both for adults and for medical use. It advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee in a 6-3 vote but did not get a House floor vote before a deadline.

Thirty-six states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have effective medical marijuana laws. Three additional states &mdash Georgia, Iowa, and Texas &mdash have more limited laws that allow regulated access to low-THC medical cannabis preparations.

Mississippi would be the 37th medical cannabis state, but the state Supreme Court overturned a voter-enacted initiative based on a numerically impossible-to-comply-with signature requirement. Gov. Tate Reeves said he may call a special session to enact a replacement law.

Don't see your state?

If you live in a state that still prohibits marijuana and no lawmakers have taken the lead to change that, send your state legislators a note to ask them to stand up for humane and sensible marijuana policies. Take a few moments to email them in support of medical marijuana, decriminalization, or legalizing and regulating marijuana.

Initiative: When the Legislatures Don't Make the Right Laws - History

Referendum: The state of Arizona and each municipal corporation within the state of Arizona shall have the right to engage in industrial pursuits.
Article II, section 34

Initiative: Women have the right to vote and to hold public office.
Article VII, section 2

Referendum: Reinstatement that judges are subject to recall, as are all public offices.
Article VIII, section 1

Referendum: School District Debt is limited to 10% of its property value.
Article IX, section 8

Referendum: The manner, method and mode of assessing, equalizing and levying taxes in the State of Arizona shall be such as may be prescribed by law.
Article IX, section 11

Initiative: Initiative or referendum measures approved by majority vote cannot be repealed or amended by the governor or legislature.
Article IV, part 1, section 1, subsection vi

Initiative: Prohibition of the manufacture or introduction into the state of all intoxicating liquor.
Article XXIII

Initiative: Prohibition of the possession, as well as the manufacture and introduction, of intoxicating liquor
Article XXIV

Initiative: County population determines legislative representation in the lower house.
Article IV, Part 2, section 1

Initiative: The legislature is to adopt laws governing the sale or lease of the lands.
Article X, section 10

Initiative: No individual, corporation or association shall be allowed to purchase more than one hundred sixty acres of agricultural land or more than six hundred forty acres of grazing land.
Article X, section 11

Referendum: Workmen's compensation coverage is extended to public employees.
Article XVIII, section 8

Referendum: The state may impose taxes on state land, but not on any lands or other property within an Indian reservation owned by any Indian.
Article XX, Item V

Referendum: Repealed Article XX, section 10, which had reserved to the United States all rights and powers to carry out the federal reclamation act of 1902 on water resource development.
Article XX, section 10

Referendum: Widows, soldiers, sailors, and army nurses are exempt from paying taxes on the first $2,000 of their property.
Article IX, section 2

Referendum: The salaries of all members of multimember bodies, such as courts, will be adjusted simultaneously, so as to equally compensate those who perform similar duties and hold similar authority.
Article IV, Part 2, section 17

Referendum: Questions upon bond issues or special assessments shall be submitted to the vote of real property tax payers, who shall also in all respects be qualified electors of the state, and of the political subdivision thereof affected by such question.
Article VII, section 13

Referendum: Public employment is limited to citizens or wards of the United States.
Article XVIII, section 10

Initiative: An Amendment adjusting the apportionment of the legislature.
Article IV, Part 2, section 1

Initiative: Articles XXIII and XXIV, which prohibit the sale, travel, or ownership of alcoholic beverages, are repealed.

Referendum: Executions shall be administered by lethal gas.
Article XXII, section 22

Initiative: Legislators are not to hold public office, with the exception of the office of school trustee, or as a teacher or instructor in the public school system.
Article IV, Part 2, section 5

Initiative: Vehicles that use Arizona highways are subject to be taxed by the state.
Article IX, section 11

Referendum: State lands may be leased for ten years for agricultural or grazing purposes, and for twenty years for mining purposes.
Article X, section 3

Initiative: Irrigation, power, electrical, agricultural improvement, drainage, and flood control districts, and tax levying public improvement districts . . . shall be political subdivisions of the state . . . but shall be exempt from the provisions of sections 7 and 8 of article IX.
Article XIII, section 7

Referendum: Property of military personnel is further exempt from taxation.
Article IX, section 2

Initiative: No person shall be denied the opportunity to obtain or retain employment because of non-membership in a labor organization.
Article XXV

Referendum: The governor may call a special session upon receiving a petition bearing the signatures of two-thirds of the members of each house.
Article IV, Part 2, section 1

Referendum: If the governor becomes unable to serve the duties of office, the secretary of state, if holding by election, shall succeed to the office of governor.
Article V, section 6

Referendum: "The style of process [of law] shall be 'The State of Arizona', and prosecutions shall be conducted in the name of the state and by its authority.”
Article VI, section 25

Referendum: City managers do not have to be qualified electors of the city, and may therefore be non-residents.
Article VII, section 15

Referendum: The legislature shall meet once a year, beginning on the second Monday of January.
Article IV, Part 2, section 3

Referendum: Manufacturing establishments are exempt from paying taxes on their inventories.
Article IX, section 13

Referendum: The legislature may lease state lands without advertising.
Article X, section 3

Referendum: Vehicle registration, licensing, use and fuel fees and taxes are to fund street and highway construction and maintenance.
Article IX, section 14

Referendum: On Senate Membership and Appointment
Article IV, Part 2, section 1

Referendum: The salary of the justices of the peace may change during their terms of office.
Article IV, Part 2, section 17

Referendum: The introduction of intoxicating liquors for resale purposes into Indian country is prohibited within this state until July 1, 1957.
Article XX, item iii

Referendum: The legislature may change or redefine the boundaries of the state, pending approval of the United States Congress.
Article I, section 2

Referendum: Any bank that is a member of the federal deposit insurance corporation is not liable for any amount of their stock "in addition to the amount already invested in such shares or stock."
Article XIV, section 11

Referendum: In the context of a teacher exchange program, a teacher who is not a citizen or ward of the United States may be employed by the state.
Article XVIII, section 10

Referendum: On the Salaries of legislators
Article IV, Part 2, section 1

Referendum: Judges who have retired are permitted to serve.
Article VI, section 26

Initiative: Rewrites to all sections of Article VI. In section one, it adds a reference to an "integrated judicial department" of a supreme court, appellate courts, and a superior court. Section 2 expands the size of the supreme court from a minimum of three justices to a minimum of five justices, and specifies that the court many not decide a law is unconstitutional except when it is "sitting in banc." Section 3 adds that "the supreme court shall have administrative supervision over all the courts of the state." The fourth section stipulates that the "justices of the supreme court shall hold office for a regular term of six years."
Article VI

Referendum: In the context of "university or college faculty members", a person who is not a citizen or a ward of the United States may be employed by the state.
Article XVIII, section 10

Referendum: In the event of emergency situations caused by enemy attacks, the legislature will provide for the continuity of government.
Article IV, Part 2, section 25

Referendum: The legislature has the authority to prescribe voter qualifications for presidential electors.
Article VII, section 2

Referendum: If a vacancy occurs in the United States Senate or House of Representatives, there shall be primary and general elections as prescribed by law to provide for a representative in Congress.
Article VII, section 17

Initiative: The real estate industry has the broad power to draft and complete instruments incident to a sale, lease, or exchange of property, but it cannot charge for this service.
Article XXVI

Initiative: The inventory of wholesalers is exempt from taxation.
Article IX, section 2

Referendum: There will be a licensing tax on aircraft registered in Arizona, with the exception of commercial planes, the inventory of aircraft dealers, nonresidents who operate aircraft less than ninety days a year, aircraft that exists exclusively for state service.
Article IX, section 15

Referendum: The state board of education shall be composed of the following members: the superintendent of public instruction, the president of a state university or college, three lay members, a member of the state junior college board, a superintendent of a high school district, a classroom teacher and a county school superintendent.
Article XI, section 3

Initiative: The income derived from the investment of the permanent state school fund . . . shall be apportioned only for common and high school education in Arizona.
Article XI, section 8

Initiative: Each organized county of the state shall have the following elected officers: a sheriff, a county attorney, a recorder, a treasurer, an assessor, a superintendent of schools and at least three supervisors, each of whom shall be elected and hold his office for a term of four years . . .
Article XII, section 3

Referendum: Commencing January 1, 1967, all watercraft registered for operation in Arizona, excluding watercraft owned and operated for any commercial purpose, is exempt from ad valorem property taxes.
Article IX, section 16

Referendum: Changes in the salary of the legislators.
Article IV, Part 2 section 1

Referendum: The terms for state-elected officers will be four years long.
Article V, section 1

Referendum: The office of the state auditor is abolished.
Article V, sections 1, 6 & 9

Referendum: Tax exemptions for veterans are slowly phased out.
Article IX, section 2

Referendum: Instituting of limitations on tax exemptions for widows.
Article IX, section 2

Referendum: Household goods are exempted from personal property tax.
Article IX, section 2

Referendum: Mobile homes "shall not be subject to the license tax imposed . . .but shall be subject to ad valorem property taxes."
Article IX, section 11

Referendum: The insurance department is no longer a part of the corporation commission.
Article XIV, section 17 Article XV, section 5

Referendum: The office of the state examiner is abolished.
Article XXII, section 18

Referendum: Just compensation—secured by bond or paid into the state treasury—must be made before private property is taken or damaged.
Article II, section 17

Referendum: Persons who have committed felony offenses while already admitted to bail for a separate felony charge, will not be allowed on bail.
Article II, section 22

Referendum: On the compensation of elected state officials.
Article IV, Part 2, section 1 Article V, section 13 Article VI, section 29 Article XV, section 18

Referendum: Establishes a new constitutional mechanism for policing the conduct and performance of sitting judges.
Article VI.I

Referendum: The legislature has the authority to increase aid to the urban areas of the state.
Article IX, section 14

Referendum: "The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate." A jury's size will be determined by law, but no jury may have less than six people.
Article II, section 23

Referendum: On the composition of the Legislature
Article IV, Part 2, section 1

Referendum: A bill no longer requires one full reading.
Article IV, Part 2, section 12

Referendum: Prescribing jurisdiction of superior court in civil actions.
Article VI, section 14 Article VI, section 22

Referendum: Those who wish to hold public office must be "a qualified elector", and therefore must be residents.
Article VII, section 15

Referendum: Cities and towns may incur a larger amount of debt, and may acquire and develop spaces for recreation.
Article IX, section 8

Referendum: The legislature shall provide for the distribution of the proceeds from the vehicle tax to the state, counties, school districts, cities, and towns."
Article IX, section 11

Referendum: The child labor amendment now allows children less than sixteen years of age to work at night.
Article XVIII, section 2

Initiative: Means of appointing judges changes from election to 'merit selection', Justices and judges must retire by the age of 70 no justice shall "hold any office in a political party or actively take part in any political campaign other than his own for his reelection or retention in office."
Article VI, sections 3, 4, 12, 20, 28, 30, 35 through 40

Referendum: The legislature has discretion as to the timing of a recall election.
Article VIII, Part 1, section 3

Referendum: A unified school district "may become indebted to an amount not exceeding twenty per cent of the taxable property of the school district."
Article IX, section 8, item 1

Referendum: Public service corporations now include profit-making sewage system operators.
Article XV, section 2

Referendum: The advice and consent of the senate must be given "in the manner prescribed by law" to certain commission appoints by the governor.
Article VI, section 36

Referendum: The legislature is given flexibility in the senate confirmation process by adding "in the manner prescribed by law" to the end of the amendment on the composition, appointment, term and vacancies of judicial conduct.
Article VI.I section 1

Referendum: State senate consent for gubernatorial appointments will be made "in the manner prescribed by law."
Article XI, section 3

Referendum: Senate confirmation of regents, rewritten to include all three of Arizona's universities.
Article XI, section 5

Referendum: "A director of the department of insurance shall be appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate in the manner prescribed by law for a term which may be prescribed by law."
Article XV, section 5

Referendum: Limiting state expenditures and establishing regulations for state revenues.
Article IX, section 17

Referendum: Modifying tax exemptions
Article IX, section 2

Referendum: Widowers are exempt from paying certain taxes.
Article IX, section 2.1

Referendum: There are limited exemptions to property taxes for disabled persons.
Article IX, section 2.2

Referendum: The legislature may increase tax exemptions.
Article IX, section 2.3

Referendum: The amount of debt that cities and towns are allowed to incur is raised from 4% to 6% for the base debt and from 10% to 15% for the county and school district debt, as well as to 20% for cities for "additional debt" for specific purposes. Unified school districts can incur 30% debt.
Article IX, sections 8, 8.1

Referendum: In the amendment limiting state expenditures from 1978, "state tax revenues" are broadened to be "state revenues", limiting state appropriations in any fiscal year to 7 percent.
Article IX, section 17

Referendum: Ad valorem taxes are limited on residential property to 1% of the property's full cash value.
Article IX, section 18

Referendum: More limits on the expenditures of local governments.
Article IX, section 20

Referendum: Limits on expenditures by school districts and community college districts.
Article IX, section 21

Referendum: The state treasurer may serve two consecutive terms.
Article V, section 10 (Repealed in 1992)

Referendum: Motor carriers and airlines are no longer considered "public service corporations."
Article XV, sections 2 and 10

Referendum: Workman's compensation: third parties and fellow employees may provide compensation to an injured worker. An injured worker may sue after the injury if there is evidence that the employer willfully endangers his employees.
Article XVIII, section 8

Referendum: Elected officials must "resign to run" for other office.
Article XXII, section 18

Referendum: Persons who have been charged with a felony offense who pose a substantial threat to any other person in the community will not be released on bail.
Article II, section 22

Referendum: "The legislature may provide for the regulation of ambulances and ambulance services in this state in all matters relating to services provided, routes served, response times and charges."
Article XXVII

Referendum: Increase school district spending limits by 10%.
Article IX, section 21

Referendum: A candidate for an executive office must win the majority of the votes to be elected.
Article V, section 1

Referendum: Removal of the clause that only men were eligible for state office
Article V, section 2

Referendum: Establish commission on judicial conduct
Article VI.I, sections 1 through 5

Initiative: "The English language is the official language of the state of Arizona [and is therefore] the language of the ballot, the public schools, and all government functions and actions."
Article XXVIII

Initiative: A bill of rights for victims of a crime, such as the right to be informed of the status of the status of the convicted person, and to receive prompt restitution.
Article II, section 2.1

Referendum: The monetary jurisdiction limit is raised from $2,500 to $10,000 for justice of the peace courts.
Article VI, section 32

Initiative: Term limits for elected officials: No senator or representative may serve more than four consecutive terms. The treasurer may no longer serve two consecutive terms. U.S. Senators from Arizona may not serve more than two consecutive terms, and U.S. representatives may not serve more than three consecutive terms. Corporation commissioners may not succeed themselves after they have served one half or more of a single six-year term.
Article IV, Part 2, section 21 Article V, sections 1 and 10 Article VII, section 18 Article XV, section 1 and 19

Referendum: Restore plurality election for state executive officers
Article V, section 1 Article VII, section 7 Article VIII, Part 1, section 4

Referendum: More public process for judicial appointments and evaluations
Article VI, sections 12, 18, 30, 35-38, 40, 41, 42

Initiative: Allow more frequent elections to adjust local government spending limits
Article IX, section 20

Initiative: Requires 2/3 vote to raise taxes
Article IX, section 22

Referendum: Allows counties with a population of 500,000 or more the opportunity to exercise "home rule" under a charter form of government.
Article XII, sections 5-9

Referendum: Mine inspectors will serve for a four-year term.
Article XIX

Referendum: Capital punishment will be conducted though lethal injection.
Article XXII, section 22

Referendum: A person who owns livestock, poultry, aquatic animals or honeybees is exempt from paying property taxes on the animals if the person is principally engaged in agriculture.
Article IX, section 13

Referendum: The Legislature will exempt from taxation the first $50,000 of "full cash value" of a taxpayer's "personal property" if it is used in agriculture or in a trade or business.
Article IX, section 2

Initiative: Juveniles who are 15 years of age or older and who are accused of murder, rape, armed robbery, or are chronic offenders will be prosecuted as adults.
Article IV, Part 2, section 22 Article VI, section 15

Referendum: The public retirement system shall be funded with contributions and investment earnings. Their assets are independent trust funds, and shall be invested and administered solely in the interests of members. Membership is a contractual relationship that shall not be hurt by any law, and benefits shall not be decreased or impaired.
Article XXIX

Referendum: The investment options for money in the trust funds of the state may be invested in equity securities as well as interest-bearing securities. The permanent trust funds will be managed by a Board of Investment under specified conditions.
Article IX, section 7 Article X, section 7 Article IX, section 8

Referendum: "The Legislature shall enact a direct primary election law, which shall provide for the nomination of candidates for all elective national, State, county, and city offices, and any person who is not registered under a specific party may vote in the primary election of any one of the political parties that is qualified for the ballot."
Article VII, section 10

Initiative: A ballot that is approved by the majority of the people may not be vetoed by the Governor and needs a three-fourths vote in order to be repealed by the legislature.
Article IV, Part 1, section 1, item 6 Article IV, Part 1 section 1, item 14 Article IV, Part 1, section 1, item 15

Referendum: The language in the constitution referring to people with disabilities will be modernized. The minimum voting age is 18, and it is necessary to be a resident of Arizona for 29 days before voting.
Article VII, sections 2 and 3 Article IX, section 2.2 Article XI, section 1Article XVI, section 1 Article XXII, section 15

Referendum: The Corporation Commission will now consist of five members and the term of office is four years. A member may only serve two consecutive terms in office and member must be out of office for at least one full term before being eligible to serve again.
Article XV, section 1

Referendum: The value of the primary residence of qualifying owners may remain at a fixed amount if the owner applies for a "property valuation protection option" with the county assessor and the owner meets specific requirements.
Article IX, sections 1 and 18

Referendum: The Legislature may exempt from property tax cemetery property that is set aside and used for human burials.
Article IX, section 2

Initiative: An appointed Redistricting Commission will redraw the boundaries for Arizona's legislative districts and Congressional Districts in a grid-like pattern across the state, in order to meet specific goals.
Article IV, Part 2, section 1

Referendum: Necessary qualifications for the property valuation protection option.
Article IX, section 18

Referendum: Bail is prohibited for any person who is charged with a crime of sexual assault, molestation or sexual contact with a minor, if the court finds evident proof that the person committed the crime. 
Article II, section 22

Referendum: Specifying expenditure limits for school districts and community college districts.
Article IX, section 21

Referendum: If an initiative or referendum measure proposes a mandatory expenditure of state revenue, the measure must also designate an increased source of revenues sufficient to cover the entire costs of the measure.
Article IX, section 23

Referendum: A temporary justice of the peace must be an attorney and have the same qualifications as a justice of the peace, but does not have to reside in the precinct in which the justice will serve.
Article VI, section 31

Referendum: The State Board of Education must include a president or a chancellor of a community college to replace the state junior college board. The State Board will also include one additional public member and one owner or administrator of a charter school.
Article XI, section 3

Referendum: Bail is prohibited to any person who is charged with a serious felony if the person entered or remains in the United States illegally and the court finds proof that the person committed the crime is evident or the presumption that the person committed the crime is great.
Article II, section 22

Referendum: Unused taxing capacity is removed and each taxing entity's limit is reset to the actual tax levy of that county, city, town or community college district. The new levy limit will increase by 2% per year, plus any new construction.
Article IX, section 19

Referendum: A person who wins a civil lawsuit may not receive punitive damages if the person is present in this state in violation of federal immigration law related to improper entry.
Article II, section 35

Referendum: Representatives of the state or a local government are required to preserve, protect and enhance the role of English as the official language. State or local government may act in a language other than English only when required by federal law, in teaching languages, in preserving Native American languages, in actions to protect the public health and safety, to provide assistance to hearing impaired or illiterate persons, in informal translations among government officials and the public, or for tourism, commerce, and international trade.
Article XXVIII

Referendum: Incorporated cities and towns may include debt for the acquisition and development of public safety, law enforcement, fire and emergency facilities and streets and transportation facilities in the 20% debt limit, upon voter approval.
Article IX, section 8

Initiative: The state or any county, city, town or other political subdivision of the state is prohibited from directly or indirectly imposing any new tax or on the sale, purchase, or transfer of any interest in real property.
Article IX, section 24

Referendum: "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state."
Article XXX

Referendum: People cannot be compelled to have Health insurance they or their employers may forgo insurance, pay directly for health care, or obtain insurance from a private company.
Article XXVII, section 2

Referendum: Preferential treatment may not be given to, and there may not be any discrimination against, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
Article II, section 36

Referendum: Voters have the right to vote by secret ballot when a local, state, or federal law permits or requires an election, designation, or authorization for employee representation.
Article II section 37

Referendum: Crime Victims Protection Act of 2012. A crime victim is not liable to a person who was harmed while attempting, committing, or fleeing from a felony.
Article II, Section 31, Article XVIII, Section 6

Referendum: Capped the annual increase in the value of real property used to calculate property taxes to 5% over the previous year’s value.
Article IX, Section 18

Referendum: The Enabling Act passed by Congress when Arizona became a state provided Arizona 10.9 million acres of state trust land to produce revenue for public institutions including schools, colleges, and prisons. The formula for the annual distribution of revenue was established in the State Constitution. The referendum changed the formula for fiscal years 2012/2013 through 2020/2021 to set a fixed distribution each year.
Article X, Section 7

Referendum: The Enabling Act passed by Congress when Arizona became a state provided Arizona with 10.9 million acres of state trust land to produce revenue for public institutions including schools, colleges, and prisons. The referendum added a new section to the State Constitution to allow the State to exchange state trust land for other public land if certain conditions are met, including voter approval.
Article X, Section 12

Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Florida

A summary of current felony disenfranchisement policies and legislative advocacy in Florida.

Disenfranchisement in Florida

In 2018, nearly 65 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which automatically restored voting rights to as many as 1.4 million Floridians, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, who had completed the terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.

On June 28, 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7066, prohibiting returning citizens from voting unless they pay off all legal financial obligations (LFOs) imposed by a court pursuant to a felony conviction, including LFOs converted to civil obligations, even if they cannot afford to pay.

The Brennan Center and other civil rights groups filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the law, and our suit was consolidated with similar cases filed by others. An expert report submitted to the court showed that the law’s requirements would prevent at least 770,000 people from voting — and it would hit Black Floridians the hardest. The court found that the overwhelming majority of those impacted are unable to afford to pay what they owe. Moreover, the State does not reliably or consistently track data on what people owe, so it is often impossible to make eligibility determinations.

On May 24, 2020, the federal court issued a ruling finding Florida’s “pay-to-vote” system unconstitutional in part. The State appealed, and the Eleventh Circuit agreed to hear the case and it stayed the district court’s order until it rules. Arguments were heard in the appeal on August 18, 2020. On September 11, 2020, the en banc Eleventh Circuit issued an order reversing and vacating the district court's ruling. More information about this ongoing litigation can be found here.

The History of Amendment 4

Prior to Amendment 4, Florida’s constitution permanently disenfranchised all citizens who had been convicted of any felony offense unless the Clemency Board restored their voting rights – a process that will now apply to those who have not had their rights restored by Amendment 4, including anyone convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of disenfranchised Floridians grew by nearly 150,000 to an estimated total of 1,686,000. In 2016, more than one in five of Florida’s Black voting-age population was disenfranchised.

After years of advocating for change with the courts and governors’ offices, the Brennan Center joined with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and others to draft Amendment 4 and push for its inclusion on the 2018 ballot.

On January 23, 2018, Floridians for a Fair Democracy announced that their campaign, Florida Second Chances, had surpassed the 766,200 signature threshold to get Amendment 4 on the 2018 ballot. For the next 10 months, the campaign worked to build a massive groundswell of bipartisan support that culminated in the Amendment’s passage on November 6, 2018. Amendment 4 went into effect on January 8, 2019.

For more information about applying for clemency, the Clemency Board’s website can be accessed here.

Rights Restoration Developments Before Amendment 4

In 2000, the Brennan Center and co-counsel, representing more than 600,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit – Johnson v. Bush challenging Florida’s permanent disenfranchisement constitutional provision under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2005, despite evidence that Florida’s constitutional provision was rooted in 19 th -century efforts to evade the mandate of the Fifteenth Amendment and deny Black men the right to vote, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the law to stand.

Executive Actions

In April 2007, then-Gov. Charlie Crist took an incremental step towards reform when he issued revised rules of executive clemency. Notably, this change created automatic rights restoration for people completing sentences for certain felony convictions. A year later, in 2008, Gov. Crist’s office announced that over 115,000 Floridians had regained voting rights since the new rules were implemented.

In March 2011, then-Gov. Rick Scott eliminated Gov. Crist’s reforms and created additional barriers for people seeking to have their voting rights restored. The Brennan Center and other national civil rights organizations strongly opposed the plan in a joint letter to the Clemency Board. The American Probation and Parole Association also submitted its own letter encouraging the Board to maintain Gov. Crist’s clemency reforms. The Governor’s regressive move set the stage for the effort to ultimately pass Amendment 4 years later.

Watch the video: Entertv: Ο τυφλός δικηγόρος Βαγγέλης Αυγουλάς δίνει μαθήματα ζωής