So, what exactly do you call an initiative that guts the initiative process, anyway?
You can call it “Majority Rules – Let the People Decide,” since it hasn’t yet been given a number.
Here’s what it does, from the text of the initiative:
TO PRESERVE AND PROTECT THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY THROUGH TRUE MAJORITY RULE, AN INITIATIVE MEASURE THAT ESTABLISHES, IMPOSES OR RAISES A TAX, FEE, OR OTHER REVENUE, OR MANDATES A SPENDING OBLIGATION, WHETHER ON A PRIVATE PERSON, LABOR ORGANIZATION, OTHER PRIVATE LEGAL ENTITY OR THIS STATE SHALL NOT BECOME LAW UNLESS THE MEASURE IS APPROVED BY A MAJORITY OF QUALIFIED ELECTORS THEN REGISTERED TO VOTE IN THIS STATE.
So, in other words, no matter how much an initiative wins by, if the election has a low turnout, forget it. Heck, even with a relatively good turnout, this would be a problem. The turnout in 2006 was 60.4%, which would mean that an initiative would have needed around 85% of the votes cast to pass. Needless to say, none of the initiatives or referenda on the ballot that year would have passed under these circumstances.
I always thought that the term “democracy” was from a Greek phrase meaning “Rule by People Who Bother to Show Up.” This initiative would basically give a veto to people who don’t think it is that important to vote. Heck, it would give a veto to the dead, folks who have moved away and possibly thousands of other un-purged non-voters on our state’s rolls.
The money behind this is interesting. It is backed by $50,000 from the Lincoln Strategy Group, which is the firm of Nathan Sproul. You may remember that he is the one that led the failed “Protect Marriage” effort in 2006, the only such effort to fail nationwide. Maybe he is bitter about the initiative process after that, who knows?
(So, is the firm called “Lincoln” because of their embrace of the policies and ideals of Abraham Lincoln, or is it called that to invoke Charlie Keating’s old company, Lincoln Savings?)
Another source of money is $50,000 from Services Group of America. These guys are led by Tom Stewart, who you may remember was the one who was run out of the state of Washington for selling tainted meat and giving illegal campaign contributions. Of course, he’s now found a home in Arizona funding right wing projects here.
Other contributors on the list include the Beer and Wine Distributors of Arizona. Yes, the usual suspects.
The talk I’ve heard is the people behind this initiative are now paying more than $5.00 a signature to get this thing on the ballot. This means that they are far behind, which I am perfectly okay with.
A bit of an addendum here: this invocation of “true majority rule” is reminiscent of a stunt that Governor J. Fife Symington tried to pull a bit more than a decade ago. Several initiatives passed in 1996 that weren’t to the governor’s liking, including a medical marijuana law, and he actually proposed that he could veto them based on the fact that these initiatives didn’t draw a majority of the votes cast (there was a drop off from the top of the ballot) even though there were more yeses than nos. This led to a rather funny exchange at a Democratic convention between the newly elected Sen. George Cunningham, who was giving a legislative report, and Tucson attorney Bill Risner, who was asking him questions from the floor:
Cunningham: The Governor believes that the statute says that an initiative has to get a majority of the votes to pass.
Risner: Senator, only a pinhead would read the statute that way.
Cunningham: Mr. Risner, Governor Symington and the legislative leaders are pinheads.