Two state constitutional amendments will be on the Wyoming ballot. These assessments of them were prepared for the LWV of Laramie by A. J. Barghothi of the UW Political Science Department on September 15, 2008. To pass, constitutional amendments must be approved by a majority of all those voting in the election.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment A:
This proposal would amend Article 6, Section 20 of the Wyoming Constitution, which sets forth the oath of office taken by all elected and appointed officials required to take an oath of office. Currently elected and appointed officials are required to take the following oath:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of this state and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity; that I have not paid or contributed, or promised to pay or contribute, either directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing, to procure my nomination or election, (or appointment) except for necessary and proper expenses expressly authorized by law; that I have not, knowingly, violated any election law of the state, or procured it to be done by others in my behalf; that I will not knowingly receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law.”
This proposed amendment would shorten, clarify and modernize the oath of office. While the current oath focuses on fraud and bribery, the proposed amendment would broaden range of misdoing relating to an official’s election or appointment. If ratified by a majority of the electors voting in the November 4th election, elected and appointed officials would be required to take the following oath:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the state of Wyoming; that I have not knowingly violated any law related to my election or appointment, or caused it to be done by others; and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.”
Proposed Constitutional Amendment B:
This proposal would amend Article 3, Section 52(c) (ii), which sets the signature requirement for initiative or referendum petitions. Currently, the Constitution requires that initiative and referendum petitions be signed by qualified voters equaling 15% of the qualified voters who voted in the previous general election and signed by 15% of the qualified voters in at least two-thirds of the counties in the state. This proposal would change the second part of the requirement to require 15% of the qualified voters in at least two-thirds of the senate districts of the state.
A primary motivation of this amendment proposal is to bring Wyoming’s initiative and referendum requirements into compliance with the one-person-one-vote doctrine. The one-person-one-vote doctrine, developed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Reynolds v. Sims (1964), requires that state legislative districts must be apportioned on the basis of population. As a result, all Wyoming senate districts are roughly equal in terms of population. Because counties in Wyoming are not equal in population and senate districts are, this proposal would make the initiative and referendum requirements more equitable from the perspective of the one-person-one-vote doctrine. It should be noted that in 2003 the Montana state legislature proposed a constitutional amendment that made the initiative and referendum requirements in that state similar to those currently in use in Wyoming (requiring signatures in counties rather than legislative districts). After that proposal was approved by the voters in Montana in the 2004 general election, it was challenged in federal district court. In 2005 the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana struck-down the law (PIRG v. Johnson).
The substantive change in this proposal is difficult to determine. While this proposed amendment does not change the signature requirement for initiative and referendum petitions (both the current constitutional language and proposed change require 15%), it is possible the proposal could reduce the total number of signatures required for initiative and referendum proposals because 15% of the qualified voters in two-thirds of the state’s senate districts would be less than 15% of the qualified voters in two-thirds of the counties of the state, if those signatures came from the sixteen most populated counties. However the proposed change could increase the total number of signatures required for initiative and referendum proposals if those signatures came from the sixteen least populated counties.