Monthly Archives: March 2006

Analysis of Michigan bill to shrink petition sizes to 8.5 by 11

I found a legislative analysis on HB 4328, which would shrink Michigan's initiative petitions to standard printer page. The bill passed their house 100-7 last year, but has not yet been discussed in the Senate. Most interesting parts are the arguments for and against:


Providing the option of eight-and-one-half by eleven petition sheets would make them more accessible to people through modern means, such as downloading from the Internet, faxing, and e-mail. This will be a public service to citizens who want to circulate petitions to get proposals on the ballot. The bill makes no change to other requirements, whether the content of petitions, the number of signatures required, who may circulate or sign petitions, or most other design features.


In previous legislative sessions there have been questions about how practical such a change will be, given the amount of information that must be on petitions to get issues on the ballot. There may be little room for signatures once all of the other necessary information and warnings are placed on the smaller page. It should be noted that eight-and-one-half by fourteen is the standard size for other kinds of petitions (such as nominating petitions).


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Housekeeping notes

A couple of things the last week.

Got a message at home from the Code Reviser's office. The sizes of petitions have been changed twice. In 1913 they were initially set at 12×14 (probably something to do with standard size of newsprint at the time) and again in the early 80s at the current 11×14. Seems that nailing down some details on the discussion in the early 80s on the current size would be a good idea.

This message reminded me as well that I haven't always said the right thing when I talked about the current requirments. They are 11×14, not 11×17 (which is twice the size of 8.5×11). I'll try to keep my story straight from now on.

Sent an email to Shawn Newman, local head of the Initiative and Referendum Institute, about what he knows on petition sizes. Newman isn't loved by all, but from my memory, he sounds like a straight shooter. Plus, he works at St. Martins now, and those monks don't just hired anyone.

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Seattle and Spokane already allows printer sized petitions


SMC 2.08.030

Specifications for petition.

When the ballot title has been established for a proposed initiative measure, the persons proposing such measure may prepare blank petitions, printed on single sheets of paper of good writing quality no smaller in size than eight and one-half (8 1/2) inches in width and eleven (11) inches in length and no larger in size than eleven (11) inches in width and seventeen (17) inches in length, with a margin of at least one (1) inch at the top.


The paper used for the petition sheets must be of sufficient weight and quality to accommodate printing and writing on both sides. Paper size should be between eight and twelve inches wide and between eleven and eighteen inches long. Printing should be no smaller than ten-point face, except that the text of the measure may be in smaller type if necessary to allow the entire petition to be on a single sheet of paper. For reasons of length of text or other practical necessity, the specifications of this section may be adjusted as the sponsor and city clerk may agree.

I couldn’t find any active initiative campaigns in Seattle or Spokane yet, but when I do, I’ll see if they post their petitions online.


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SoS office, not so much help

Looks like I’m headed down to the State Library in Tumwater and sending an email to the Code Reviser’s Office.

From: Clarke, Tina Mailed-By:
Cc: “Wills, Patricia”

Date: Mar 20, 2006 11:08 AM
Subject: RE: Initiative petition page size questions

I do not know what the history of RCW 29A.72.100 is; either the Washington State Library (; (360) 704-5221) or the Legislative Help Desk (800.562.6000) might be able to help you with some research on this.

Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
Thank you,

Tina Clarke
Secretary of State/Elections
PO Box 40237
Olympia, WA 98504-40237

By the way, if you haven’t been, the Washington State Library is a pretty nice place. Worth the trip if you’re into libraries. Very helpful there.

UPDATE: Email to CRO:

From: Emmett O’Connell
Date: Mar 20, 2006 11:50 AM
Subject: RCW 29A.72.10 questions

I’m interested in the history of the current RCW regarding initiative petition page sizes and any RCW that had in the past conditioned the size of a petition. Also would you be able to provide information on the reasons the legislature has changed size requirements?

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Effort in Michigan to change petition size

About a year ago in Michigan Rep. Leon Drolet (R) introduced a bill to allow petitions to be as small as 8.5 by 11. Right now in Michigan the rule spells out exactly 8.5×14, but Drolet’s bill which passed the house but seems to be stuck in the state senate, would allow two size options for campaigns. In addition to Drolet, all of the co-sponsors of the bill were Republicans. And, all seven house members to vote against it were Democrats. I should find out more about this.

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Legislative path of initiative laws

I did answer one question today, wasn’t hard to do. If there is a law changing the initiative process, what path would it take through the legislature?

This is an important question because what committees hear a bill is important because that bill will get as much or more consideration in committee that it every will be the entire house or senate. So, knowing who the members are and also the committee staff, is important “lay of the land” information.

Take a look at the path of EHB 1222, which added a petitioner gatherers disclosure on each petition.  It was considered in the house State Government Operations & Accountability committee and then the senate Government Operations & Elections committee. So, add another item on my to do list to talk to members, chairs and staff of those committees to talk about this idea.

One cool thing is that Rep. Brendan Williams (one of my local electeds) was a co-sponsor of EHB 1222 and Rep. Sam Hunt (another local elected) is on the house committee.

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Email to SoS elections office

This seems like a good first step. I wanted to set up some meetings with my local legislators, but I think I should cover my bases first:

Subject: Intitiave petition page size question

I’m working on a project to shrink the minimum allowed size of initiative petitions. I haven’t been able to find much information on the history of our laws regarding the current size requirement. Is there anyone with your office that might be able to help me out?

I’m interested in the history of the current RCW regarding size and any RCW that had in the past conditioned the size of a petition, and any information that is available on the reasons the legislature has changed size requirements.

Emmett O’Connell

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