I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.
The effort to make it all but impossible to put popular amendments and laws on the ballot, an effort that advanced again this year in the Arkansas legislature, is part of the national Republican agenda.
It joins vote suppression; end of women’s medical rights; opposition to gun safety, and protection of dark money contributors on the list of cookie cutter Arkansas legislation in 2021 that paralleled national Republican efforts.
I’m reminded by this New York Times report:
Through ballot initiatives, voters in red states have defied legislators’ wishes and produced liberal outcomes in recent years. Republicans want to make the practice harder, or even eliminate it.
The article continued:
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.
Medical marijuana and an increase in the minimum wage are two examples of popularly approved initiatives that the Republican-controlled Arkansas legislature didn’t want to become law and it doesn’t want to see such happen again.
One of the most effective anti-democratic measures was Sen. Breanne Davis’ proposal, now law, to prohibit payment of signature gatherers per signature. It’s the only realistic way to get productive paid canvassers.
Davis trotted out the “ballot integrity” catchphrase so popular with the Republican Party in vote suppression legislation, despite no evidence that fraudulent issues have reached the ballot or been adopted by fraud.
By ballot integrity, Republicans menn ballots should contain only issues they approve of — measures placed there by the Republican legislature, either for partisan reasons or to soothe a favored special interest. The League of Women Voters was all but hooted out of the committee room for saying it was another effort to quash any effort by the public to have a say in state governance.
And speaking of ballot measures to prohibit popular governance:
One of the legislature’s recommended constitutional amendments for 2022 is a measure that requires any proposal that should make the ballot to get a 60 percent vote for adoption. This initiative-discourage amendment will, of course, require only a simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote to be adopted.
Poll after poll showed that voters want ballot access and easier voting. Polls also showed that they wanted nonpartisan legislative districting commissions and open primaries to encourage broader political competition. Bad law and a bad Arkansas Supreme Court kept those two measures off the ballot in 2020. Davis’ bill and the amendment are meant to insure that those ideas don’t re-emerge or, if they do, that they will be very hard to pass.
Regnat populus? It may be the state motto, but it’s a fiction. Regnat GOPulus.