Well, one bad idea down, five to go.
The Legislature’s interim task force on initiative and referendum has decided not to pursue capping the number of ballot measures allowed on each year’s ballot. AT yesterday’s meeting, the task force decided to drop Bill Draft #5 (also titled 355Z0076).
As I mentioned in my first analysis of Bill Draft #5, limiting the number of initiatives, referenda, and constitutional amendments on each ballot would allow wealthy special interests to rush dummy measures to the ballot and prevent grassroots citizens from accessing the ballot. Such a cap would also likely be unconstitutional: the people’s constitutional right to initiate and refer laws outweighs any concern that state might have about harms caused by long ballots. The Legislative Research Council’s summary of research on the impact of ballot measures on voter turnout indicates that more ballot measures do not depress voter turnout.
SDPB quotes Senator Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) and Senator Ernie Otten (R-6/Tea), two opponents of direct democracy, on turning down the ballot measure cap:
“We should not go down this road at this time,” Bolin says. “There is a feeling out there, at least in the legislative district I represent, the volume of the issues that are on the ballot before the public is too great.”
…“If you don’t like something on the ballot, then vote ‘no,’” Otten says. “I have some problems with putting any constraint on that” [Lee Strubinger, “Task Force Abandons Legislation to Place Cap on Ballot Questions,” SDPB Radio, 2017.07.19].
Senator Bolin’s willingness to reject a cap on ballot measures sounds flimsy and temporary: he still sounds like he looks forward to a time when he can limit our rights. Senator Otten at least sounds the proper response democratic response: if you don’t like ballot measures, don’t vote for ’em.
Now let’s hope the I&R task force has the good sense to trash the five other bad bill draftss in its hopper so far, proposals that further delay ballot measure petitioners (#1, #2, #3), restrict the length of ballot measures (#6), and a new clunker posted yesterday, #12, which would reverse the Yes/No recitation on the ballot for referred laws. I understand the confusion that can arise on referenda, but it sounds like a sneaky trick by legislators to protect their bad measures from the default No to which voters seem to resort when they don’t understand a measure. Let’s keep those Yes/No recitations consistent: “Yes” means enacting a new policy; “No” means keeping the status quo.