LINCOLN — It’s make-or-break week for organizers of petition drives who are trying to get their issue on the 2024 general election ballot in Nebraska.

And voter fatigue with paid and volunteer petition circulators has touched even some high-profile efforts making last-minute pushes for support from registered voters by Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline.

Crista Eggers, part of a group petitioning to legalize medical marijuana, told the Nebraska Examiner Sunday that her group still needed about 12,000 more signatures to feel secure.

In a tweet, the group said patients with cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, AIDS and chronic pain would benefit from access to medical marijuana and are hoping for voter support.

“We need them to get out … and sign the petition,” she said of her two initiatives. “It is absolutely down to the wire. If people take five minutes out of their day, we will get the numbers.”

One initiative would legalize medical marijuana. The other, related initiative would spell out the regulations for prescribing and using the medication.

Some critics of the push have argued that most states that pursue medical marijuana do so as a step toward broader legalization of recreational marijuana, which they oppose.

EPIC tax count coming

State Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, a key organizer of an effort to replace Nebraska’s property and income taxes with the EPIC Option consumption tax, said his group is seeing more interest.

People frustrated by rising property valuations are signing onto the petitions. Gov. Jim Pillen and other EPIC tax opponents have pointed out that the measure would make many purchases more expensive.

The EPIC tax petitioners are also circulating a petition that would exempt groceries from the tax.

Erdman said his group won’t know how many signatures it has gathered until its 250 volunteer circulators turn them in early this week.

“We hope to have enough, but we don’t know just yet,” he said.

Abortion trio sprinting to finish

All three abortion-related petitions being circulated are making late pushes for signatures. One petition drive would ask voters to include abortion rights in the state constitution. Two others are taking different approaches to restricting, limiting or banning abortions.

Protect Our Rights advertised this weekend on social media, seeking late signers for the abortion-rights petition. They say they are confident Nebraskans will help them reach their goal.

Protect Women and Children has been hosting signing events with U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts for the petition to restrict abortions after the first trimester. If passed at the ballot box, the measure would leave open the possibility of the Legislature passing further restrictions in the future.

Organizers declined to comment this weekend on how things were going. Several political observers said they expect this effort, as well as the abortion-rights petition, to reach the November ballot. Both efforts are using paid circulators.

The third group, Now Choose Life, continues organizing signings at Nebraska churches for its “personhood” amendment at churches. They say tens of thousands have signed on. But they got started late.

“We won’t stop,” organizer Rose Kohl said.

Schools petition has little longer

One group — Support Our Schools Nebraska — has until July 17 to gather signatures. The timing is different because this effort seeks to repeal a law enacted late in this year’s legislative session.

The group’s target is to reject State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan’s Legislative Bill 1402, which creates a $10 million-a-year, state-funded voucher program for students attending private K-12 schools. LB 1402 replaced a 2023 law providing a tax credit for donors funding scholarships to private K-12 schools.

Support Our Schools spokeswoman Karen Kilgarin said this weekend the group continues gathering signatures but may need the extra two-week window to finish the task.

The group says that the program would put public school funding at risk. Proponents of LB 1402 have said that poor Nebraska families deserve the opportunity to use such vouchers to attend a private school of their choice.

Paid sick leave turned in signatures

Another petition drive, which would require Nebraska employers to provide paid sick leave for more workers, turned in its signatures last week and said 138,000 voters had signed the petitions.

Petitions seeking to change state law, like that one, need about 87,000 registered voters’ signatures, spread throughout the state. Constitutional amendments need signatures from 10% of Nebraska registered voters, or about 123,000 people.

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