GOP's Latest Fun Trick: Overturn The Will Of The People, To Own The Libs!
Republicans in several states have decided the problem with American democracy is that it allows for too much democracy, so to protect states from voters with bad ideas like popular sovereignty, they're pursuing measures that would make it much harder for voter initiatives to ever get on the ballot. After all, this fall's elections resulted in a whole bunch of voters stupidly electing Democrats, leaving Republicans to fix that in lame-duck sessions aimed at stripping power from the incoming Dems. And since voters in red states passed initiatives that clearly defied Republican wishes, then for the sake of good government, it's time to knock that shit off, too.
Wisconsin won the blue ribbon for the most far-reaching power grab by a lame-duck Republican lege, but Michigan was right behind with an impressive effort to bypass the will of the voters. When initiatives to raise the minimum wage and guarantee sick leave got enough signatures to make it onto the ballot, the lege instead passed its own version of the laws, making the initiatives redundant and removing them from the ballot. Then after the election, Republicans in the lame-duck legislature simply gutted those laws by a simple majority. Isn't that smart? Under Michigan law, overturning an initiative the voters had passed would have required a three-fourths majority, so that two-step trick by the R's sure did short-circuit that silly "will of the people" nonsense. The founders surely had such ingenious fuckery in mind when they wisely instituted representative democracy, so the people could rest easy that Republicans in carefully gerrymandered districts would do the right thing for Republicans in carefully gerrymandered districts.
The Michigan lege also took urgently needed action to make sure mere majorities don't start thinking they deserve to make laws, passing a bill making it harder for initiatives to reach the ballot in the first place. In addition to measures aimed at making it harder to collect signatures on initiative petitions, the measure, signed into law by outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, the bill includes a provision that no more than 15 percent of an initiative's nominating signatures can come from a single congressional district. That's a brilliant way to make sure initiative backers can't get too much support from Urbans, because what do those people know about making laws? Instead, petitioners will now have to get the same final tally of signatures from much more sparsely-populated districts. Oh sure, that means far higher cost and difficulty getting signatures in rural areas, but it means Detroit and Lansing and Ann Arbor will no longer be able to get stuff on the ballot merely because large numbers of people live there. As Snyder explained in a masterful bit of bullshit, the measure will "promote geographic diversity" by making rural voters count more than urban voters.
It's like a Republican's dream come true. Wisconsin's state House Speaker Robin Vos said during that state's lame duck session, "If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority," which is why Republicans deserve to make all the rules. Just eliminate the places where the people live, and the REAL majority becomes clear. Michigan seems to have found a functional equivalent of doing that.
Then there's Ohio, another heavily gerrymandered state with a Republican majority. When voters passed an initiative that would make it harder for the legislature to draw gerrymandered districts, the Rs took swift action to ensure good Republican governance:
[T]he Republican-controlled Legislature introduced a bill that would require 60 percent support from voters to change the state's constitution, rather than a simple majority. It also states that signatures gathered for a citizen-led initiative are valid for only 180 days—previously, they didn't expire—and must be submitted by the beginning of April before a November election, instead of July. That would force signature drives to take place during the frigid winter months in Ohio, when it's toughest for groups to organize.
The gambit failed to pass in the lame-duck session, but the Rs are vowing to bring it back in the regular session to prevent too much democracy from limiting the God-given right of Republicans to engineer legislative majorities, because democracy is bad for freedom.
In Missouri, where dumb majorities of voters voted for dumb constitutional amendments allowing medical marijuana, raising the minimum wage, repealing a "right to work" law passed by Republicans, limiting the ability to gerrymander, and imposing dumb intrusive "ethics rules" on the legislature, Republicans are hopping mad, and want to make such amendments a lot harder. Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, is all for it, because sometimes people vote wrong and that shouldn't be allowed:
"Fundamentally, you think when the people vote you shouldn't be changing that vote," Parson said. "But the reality of it is that is somewhat what your job is sometimes, if you know something's unconstitutional, if you know some of it's not right."
Parson also indicated he would back efforts to restrict the ability to place any new questions on the ballot.
Another supporter of not letting the people interfere too much in their own governance, Dan Meehan, head of the Missouri state Chamber of Commerce and Industry, offered this beautiful doublespeak about making voter initiatives harder: "We're not at all denying the ability to do it [...] But we just want to make sure we're approaching it in a proper way." Like, by building in a permanent Republican majority, which the people really want as long as you talk to the right people. Backers of the Missouri proposals also want to demand "geographic diversity," because obviously it's too damn easy to get initiatives on the ballot where a lot of fools might be tempted to vote for 'em:
To put a statutory change on the ballot, petitioners must now gather signatures of 5 percent of registered voters in six of eight congressional districts. To modify the constitution, signatures from 8 percent of voters in six districts is required.
Clearly, they should force petition drives to meet those minimums in all eight congressional districts, because then the process would "be a truly statewide effort," as Meehan put it. And again, those awful Urbans wouldn't get to unfairly win simply because they have greater numbers. Besides, big liberal groups have spent money on ad campaigns supporting liberal initiatives, and how is THAT even fair?
Oh, yes, and as Mother Jones notes, the drive to roll back and limit initiatives has some awfully familiar players: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is helping with model laws, and the Republican State Leadership Committee are both involved. Hooray for national help for plucky little groups funded by giant corporations!
Surely they can somehow fend off all this damned popular voting.
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