The national Republican strategy to suppress voting, as evidenced in several pieces of Arkansas legislation this year making it harder to vote, is not the whole story of the party’s attack on the democratic process.
Salon writes about Republican attacks on direct democracy — voters taking issues to the people.
Missouri voters last year passed a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. Arizona approved a new tax on the wealthy to fund schools. South Dakota legalized marijuana. But Republicans are trying to block those measures from being implemented and dozens of state legislatures are pushing new bills to make it harder to get voter initiatives on the ballot in the first place.
Which brings us to Arkansas. To name two:
- Sen. Breanne Davis’ new law severely limits, if not put out of business, paid petition canvassers for ballot measures with onerous citizenship and criminal background check requirements and other restrictions, including the prohibition of paying for signatures.
- The proposed constitutional amendment, offered up by former Koch political machine operative Rep. David Ray, to require a 60 percent vote for approval of any ballot measure that reaches the public.
The Ray amendment wouldn’t have killed the popularly referred minimum wage increase (though canvassing restrictions might have kept it off the ballot in the first place.) It would have killed medical marijuana.
“As more progressive issues are winning at the ballot, from Medicaid expansion to legalization and decriminalization of marijuana to raising the minimum wage, paid family and sick leave, increasing access to the voting process, we have seen concerted efforts by state legislators to undermine the will of the people,” Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, executive director of the progressive Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC), said in an interview with Salon.
BISC is tracking 125 bills to change the ballot measure process in 28 states, including measures that would increase the thresholds to get initiatives on the ballot or approved. Other proposals would require ballot initiatives to pass multiple times, increase filing fees and change the signature requirements. Republican lawmakers have also introduced more than 300 bills to restrict voting, dozens of anti-protest bills, and numerous measures that would undermine or snatch power from state courts and local election boards.
The effort to reverse voter-led ballot measures is “deeply connected to what we’re seeing across the country after yet another election where people of color and young people turn out in record numbers demanding a different future,” Figueredo said. “We see all of this as a concerted effort to limit and reduce people-led and people-initiated power.”
This has all happened in Arkansas and without much of a peep of resistance.
One thing to remember: If the legislature has put an amendment on the ballot, the proper vote is NO! That’s for sure this year, with the ballot initiative-killer amendment, a legalized discrimination amendment dishonestly pitched as religious freedom and an amendment allowing the legislature to call itself into special session whenever for whatever.
NO, NO, NO.
Legal challenges are possible to the Arkansas legislature’s assaults on democracy, but the growing Republican tilt of the Arkansas Supreme Court tempers optimism. Perhaps federal courts would be better, as long as a lawsuit doesn’t draw the graduate of Leslie Rutledge’s staff recently installed there.