Alas, Republican representatives continue their push to undermine voters’ confidence in their own initiative and referendum process. Senator John Wiik (R-4/Big Stone City) apparently spent non-4-H time at the State Fair discouraging everyone from signing petitions:
Yes, heavens forbid citizens put anything to a vote that doesn’t have legislators’ stamp of approval.
Senator Wiik’s District 4 constituent and former legislators Fred Deutsch seconds Wiik’s anti-initiative sentiment with some false alarmism:
Until abuse of the petition process can be reformed, I won’t be signing any of them. I really like the ability of direct citizen involvement via petitions, but the process has been corrupted by out-of-state interests and out-of-state rich people. Let’s fix the process so people know what they’re voting on – “yes” should mean “I want this to pass” and “no” should mean “I don’t.” Every ballot petition should be part of the ballot for voters to read when they vote (summaries are not sufficient) so voters can read every word and they know exactly what they are voting on; should be restricted to under one-half page in length so voting doesn’t take three hours; should be authored by people that are residents of SD; should not allow words to be redefined outside of common meaning (e.g. the suicide measure re-defines “self-administer” to mean “ingestion” – this misdirection allows proponents to say the bill requires that only the patient can self-administer the deadly drug, when in fact it means only the patient can ingest it – this allows another person to administer the lethal drug, and is consistent with euthanaisa); and should not be allowed on the ballot if the AG or court believes it is unconstitutional. The constitutional test or challenge should come “before” we vote, not after [Fred Deutsch, comment to Wiik’s FB post, 2017.09.06].
There’s a lot of contradictory and elitist bushwah in that comment. Let’s try to pull it apart:
- “Abuse of the petition process”? Compared to 2015, when Jason Glodt used Henry T. Nicholas’s money to gather data for Marty Jackley’s campaign database and let his petition be used as cover for the payday lenders decoy petition and when out-of-state circulators were breaking the law and overtly harassing legitimate petitioners, I’d say 2017’s petition season has show far fewer instances of abuse and nothing that justifies a blanket rejection of any currently offered petition.
- “corrupted by out-of-state interests”? Again, I’ve seen far less out-of-state intrusion in this year’s petition process, nothing like Henry T. Nicholas’s and Rod Aycox’s wholesale co-optation of the process for their selfish purposes. If Deutsch won’t sign petitions that he thinks are backed with out-of-state money, he’ll have to explain why he’s willing to nominate and vote for Republican candidates like John Thune who receive a majority of their money from out-of-state PACs.
- “‘yes’ should mean…”—uh oh! Deutsch is pushing Will Mortenson’s Republican trick to make it harder for citizens to overturn Republicans’ bad laws. The initiative and referendum task force erred in approving Mortenson’s Draft Bill #83, which would require us to vote “Yes” to vote against a referred law and vote “No” to vote for the referred law. Not only is Deutsch arguing for a bad policy, but he’s arguing for a change to referendum which has nothing to do with any of the initiative petitions circulating this year.
- “every ballot petition should be part of the ballot”? Great—Deutsch would like to make the ballot dozens of pages long to include the text of every measure. I don’t mind having the text of every ballot measure available at the polling places, but including all that text on the ballot and burying the Yes/No checkboxes amidst all that text could easily result in people missing where they are supposed to mark the ballot. Besides, as with the out-of-state-money point, I’ll contend that if Deutsch thinks we need every word of every initiative and referendum on the ballot, then he must agree that we should have a full outline of every candidate’s position on every major issue written on the ballot.
- “restricted to under one-half page”? Here Deutsch tries to get around lengthy ballots by imposing an absurd limitation on the people’s right to legislate. In the Legislature, Deutsch regularly voted for bills (like the 2016 teacher pay formula) that run to multiple pages. By setting an effective word limit on initiatives (and referenda?), Deutsch isn’t seeking clarity; he is seeking to drastically restrict the number of issues and the kinds of policy solutions citizens can propose and enact through their constitutional right to legislate via ballot measure. Boo on that!
- “unconstitutional”—wow! Now Deutsch attempts to impose prior restraint on voters based on the fiat of the Attorney General! Shall we review how many unconstitutional abortion bans or discriminatory bills against LGBT citizens that Deutsch advocated in the Legislature? Shall we ask him if we should allow the executive or the judicial branch to shut down legislative debate on a bill just because of constitutional concerns? Deutsch voted for 2016 Senate Bill 106, the online sales tax that the Legislature designed to be unconstitutional. Apply Deutsch’s standard to the Legislature, and that court case about taxing remote sellers could never happen.
Deutsch’s comment supporting Wiik’s anti-petition attitude shows that the Republicans don’t want citizens to enjoy the same rights as legislators. The South Dakota Republican Party wants to further reduce our power to check their party’s excesses by exercising our right to petition and vote. We voters need to protect our rights by vigorously exercising our right to sign petitions, by opposing Mortenson’s proposal and others from the I&R task force that hurt the initiative and referendum process, and by voting out legislators like Wiik who are trying to hoard all legislative power to themselves.