South Dakota makes the New York Times again, this time as part of the Republican Party’s nationwide effort to curb any and all voting rights that threaten their diminishing minority’s grip on power. This time, the subject is the power of initiative, the ability of citizens to enact popular laws that their partisan, elitist, out-of-touch legislators refuse to pass. Republicans, of course, don’t like the people having a say in their own governance, because the people don’t follow the Republicans’ strict party line. Republicans must thus create all sorts of bureaucracy and government regulation to keep us from making our voices heard:
So far in 2021, Republicans have introduced 144 bills to restrict the ballot initiative processes in 32 states, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a liberal group that tracks and assists citizen-driven referendums. Of those bills, 19 have been signed into law by nine Republican governors. In three states, Republican lawmakers have asked voters to approve ballot initiatives that in fact limit their own right to bring and pass future ballot initiatives.
“They have implemented web after web of technicalities and hurdles that make it really hard for community-based groups to qualify for the ballot and counter why ballot initiatives were created in the first place,” said Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, the executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. “This is directly connected to every attack we’ve seen on our democracy” [Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti, “Republicans Move to Limit a Grass-Roots Tradition of Direct Democracy,” New York Times, 2021.05.22].
To highlight the absurdity of this devious Republican over-regulation, Epstein and Corasaniti discuss this year’s Senate Bill 77, which this blog covered in detail and disdain during the 2021 Legislative Session:
In South Dakota, where in 1898 a socialist Catholic priest named Robert Haire pioneered the American ballot initiative process, Republicans this year passed a law mandating a minimum type size of 14 points on ballot initiative petitions. Combined with a requirement that all initiatives, along with their signatures, fit on a single sheet of paper, the new type size will force people gathering signatures for petitions to tote around large pieces of paper, including some that unfold to the size of a beach towel. The new rules will increase the cost of ballot initiative efforts and limit the scope of the text that explains often-complex legislative proposals [Epstein and Corasaniti, 2021.05.22].
Asked for comment, SB 77 sponsor Senator Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) smirks that petitioners are “resourceful” and face “no restriction on the size of the paper.” Of course, petitioners wouldn’t have to be so resourceful if they didn’t face this ever-changing and ever-deepening thicket of bureaucratic regulations that price grassroots organizers out of the initiative process. But that’s what Novstrup and his fellow apartheidist elitists want: politics that are so complicated and costly that the only people who can afford to meaningfully participate are their rich white friends.