OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A federal judge has ordered a preliminary injunction blocking Nebraska from enforcing its requirement for ballot initiatives to reach 5% of voters in at least 38 counties.
Judge John M. Gerrard wrote in his 46-page opinion that the rule violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The preliminary injunction means the judge believes the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in the end.
"The State of Nebraska is absolutely free to require a showing of statewide support for a ballot initiative—but it may not do so based on units of dramatically differing population, resulting in discrimination among voters," Gerrard wrote.
The ruling comes weeks before the July 7 deadline for signatures.
The lawsuit from Crista Eggers and NMM, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, was filed against Secretary of State Bob Evnen in mid-May. Evnen is responsible for overseeing ballot initiatives.
Gerrard wrote that the Nebraska Secretary of State and Attorney General's Office argued that "if the 38-county rule treats voters differently, then the entirety of Nebraska's initiative and referendum process should be struck down." (Italics are Gerrard's.)
"For the State to argue that the baby must go with the bathwater is eyebrow-raising," he wrote.
Nebraska's constitution allows items to be placed on the ballot with signatures from 7% of registered voters for a law, and 10% for a constitutional amendment. The judge ruled that the additional requirement for signatures from 5% of votes in two-fifths of counties to be unenforceable.
Read the full ruling is below: