Nebraska got an F on its ballot initiative process from a progressive think tank that wants to limit fraud in the process.

We're not alone.

Only five of 24 states that allow citizens to put initiatives on the ballot got a C or better from the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.

And just one scored above a C. Colorado got a B.

"It looks like they have some pretty stiff criteria by which they measure states. Not many states did well," said Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery, chairman of the Legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center is interested in protecting the integrity of the initiative process, which allows voters to put proposals for law changes or constitutional amendments on statewide ballots, according to the report.

In recent years, most successful petitions have had well-financed campaigns using paid circulators.

Supporters and opponents of a successful constitutional amendment banning affirmative action in public hiring and admission decisions raised more than $1 million in 2008.

At least one petition circulator has spent time in jail for falsely swearing his petitions were valid when they included signatures that appeared to be written by the circulator.

"I wouldn't read too much into the F," said Neal Erickson, deputy secretary of state for elections. "The vast majority of states are doing the same thing."

Both Secretary of State John Gale and Avery say they are always willing to look at new ideas to protect the integrity of the process.

"I'm not interested in doing something just to get more points in this report," Avery said.

He supports a balance in the petition initiative process: making the process as accessible as possible while maintaining its integrity.

But both Avery and Erickson said there is merit in some of the think tank's suggestions.

Some changes have been discussed, Erickson said, but haven't come to fruition.

Some court rulings have said states cannot require petition circulators to wear name badges, but Gale has talked about requiring them to wear numbers so his office can track down complaints, Erickson said.

According to the think tank, Nebraska flaws include the following:

* Circulators or circulator companies are not required to register with the state.

* Circulators convicted of fraud or forgery are not prohibited from circulating petitions in the state.

* No specific statutory penalties are set up for campaign committees that knowingly encourage violating state laws.

See the state-by-state report at http://www.ballot.org/" target= "_blank">www.ballot.org.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.