Republican legislators want fewer initiatives and fewer voters

Sixteen thousand Idahoans signed a petition asking Governor Brad Little to veto SB 1110, which would make getting measures on Idaho ballots harder. He vetoed a similar bill in 2019.  Will he veto this one? 

Actually, the answer is unlikely to make a difference–SB1110 passed both legislative houses with enough votes to override a veto. Republicans split 26-2 in the Senate and 51-6 in the Senate. All Ada and Canyon County Republican representatives voted ‘aye” except Vanderwoude, who was absent. 

Republican legislators have to be quite aware that they are taking rights from those who’ve voted for them. We couldn’t have 60% of voters supporting Medicaid Expansion and 60% supporting Republican candidates without considerable overlap. 

 In December 2019 BSU polled voters on this issue and found that 68% of Republicans believed the difficulty of getting an initiative on the ballot here was about right. Only 10% of all those polled supported making the process harder. 

I suspect there would have been a 2020 bill to make initiatives more difficult if Republicans hadn’t feared that we’d remember in November.   

In the eight years since the requirements were last increased, only two out of 15 initiative attempts have succeeded in getting a measure on the ballot.  

Nationally, Republican legislatures have been making news by supporting measures that will lead to fewer people voting in general elections.

Recent developments undercut their argument that the problem is voter fraud. Responding to a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems, the defense team for Sydney Powell–a major lawyer supporting President Trump’s claims of voter fraud–claimed that “no reasonable person could conclude that [her] statements were truly statements of fact.” 

That’s quite an insult to all those who had trusted her.

And when Georgia passed its law on voter restrictions, nearly 200 companies joined in  a brief statement calling on elected leaders “to work across the aisle and ensure that every eligible American has the freedom to easily cast their ballot and participate fully in our democracy.” 

I think most Americans could support that, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell flipped out, warning companies to “stay out of politics” and  threatening “serious consequences.” 

And it’s not just Republican state legislators pointing out that not everyone should vote. This week National Review, a leading conservative magazine, published an article entitled, “Why not fewer voters?”  Think tank scholar Kevin Williamson says, “There would be more voters if we made it easier to vote, and there would be more doctors if we didn’t require a license to practice medicine.”

Clear enough?  Later he adds, “It is easy to think of critical moments in American history when giving the majority its way would have produced horrifying results. If we’d had a fair and open national plebiscite about slavery on December 6, 1865, slavery would have won in a landslide.” 

This makes little sense since, at the end of the Civil War,  the North outnumbered the South, 22 million to 9 million, but his point is clear. 

Williamson follows up with,  “The entire notion of representative government assumes that the actual business of governing requires fewer decision-makers rather than more.”

I don’t know that we can prevent our legislature from making initiatives nearly impossible, but I do know we must try. Contact your legislators (see https://legislature.idaho.gov/legislators/whosmylegislator/) Tell them if you voted for them and if you can continue to support them if they vote against your rights. 

And mention Reclaim Idaho, https://www.reclaimidaho.org/. If new restrictions are passed, that team will work to have a vote to reinstate the current initiative requirements.  

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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