Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Sid Salter: Voter Initiative Has Been a Hard Right to Win & Harder RIght to Keep

 Mississippians have been fighting over what would seem the very straightforward power of state voters to bypass the Mississippi Legislature and directly propose state constitutional changes for the better part of a century.

Perhaps a more apt description would be to say that the legislative and judicial branches of Mississippi government have waged that battle, egged on frequently by the executive branch.

The recent Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that derailed the state’s medical marijuana initiative - overwhelming supported by the state’s voters - is just the latest salvo in that long, curious battle.

In the 2020 elections, Mississippi voters approved a voter initiative authorizing a medical marijuana program outlined in Initiative 65 over the express objections of the majority of legislative leaders.

Mississippi voters gave Initiative 65 a 73.7% approval while giving the legislative alternative Initiative 65A only 26.3% of the vote. The pro-marijuana initiative outpolled Republican incumbent President Donald Trump by some 20 percentage points with state voters – even outpolling the state’s 72.98% decision to change the state flag.

Now that the high court has thrown out Initiative 65, the Legislature now faces changing the initiative process’s procedures that lawmakers crafted after the 1992 constitutional amendment passed. In the alternative, lawmakers face explaining why they failed to fix the process that gave voters the power they believed they had prior to the high court’s recent ruling.

To be sure, the modern initiative process in Mississippi is one that was designed by the Mississippi Legislature to be difficult for those citizens who wish to circumvent lawmakers and get into the business of directly writing or changing laws for themselves.

Since 1993, there have been 66 instances in which various Mississippi citizens or groups have attempted to utilize the state’s initiative process. Like a carton of milk left unconsumed, 52 of those attempts simply expired for lack of certified signatures or other procedural deficiencies.

The Legislature adopted an earlier initiative process in 1914. The State Supreme Court upheld it in 1917 but reversed that ruling five years later in another case. The high court passed on a chance to undo that ruling in 1991.

Mark Garriga, now a partner at the Butler Snow law firm and a former chief of staff to the late Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice, wrote a fine history/analysis of Mississippi initiative process in which he concluded: “After surviving the equivalent of a political near-death experience with the near passage of a 1995 term limits initiative there are undoubtedly those within the legislative branch who consider the I&R process a threat to legislative preeminence and want this power back” and later in the paper observedthe citizens of Mississippi with the passage of the initiative and referendum amendment to the Mississippi Constitution in 1992 reserved for themselves the power to propose amendments to their constitution. This authority is shared with the Legislature.

“Recent events suggest that the Legislature, with the passage of H.B. 472, would like to make this power theirs exclusively once again,” Garriga concluded. That bit of prophecy was well before Initiative 65.

Initiative 42 sought to put “adequate and efficient” public school funding in the state constitution and empower the state’s chancery courts to enforce such funding. It failed, but by a tight margin. Initiative 42 not only made it to the ballot, it became the defining issue in the 2015 statewide elections. From start to finish, the pro-42 effort was a well-oiled, well-financed political effort.

On Initiative 65, the political lessons of Initiative 42 were evident in the relatively easy passage of the medical marijuana plan.

Today, the rhetoric of politicians supporting a “fix” to the broken voter initiative process is free and easy. Just as the initial adoption of the modern initiative process was difficult, so, too, will be the “fix.” But in the social media era, lawmakers will face tough re-election sledding if they fail to restore the initiative process

 

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

 

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where was the article by Garriga published?

Anonymous said...

Where was the article by Garriga published?

Found it with a simple search. Do some work on your own for a change.

Anonymous said...

@8:44 - this looks like it:
http://www.iandrinstitute.org/docs/Garriga-Initiative-and-Referendum-in-Mississippi-IRI.pdf

Anonymous said...

So Salter is continuing the great lie of 73%!!

Get the facts, Sid. The actual, final, certified (on the Sec off State website if you want to confirm) number of voters who voted in favor of 65 was 57.8%.

The 74%ers love telling this lie because it makes them feel more important.

But elections are funny things - the facts are there for easy confirmation.

57.8% is not equal to 73.7%

Not today, not last November.

Anonymous said...

Mark Garriga was student body President at Mississippi State in 1980 when he got a referendum to legalize beer in Starkville. He knows about power to the people.

Anonymous said...

It real simple 73% of the people who voted in favor. If you didn’t vote two bad it was only 56% of those who could have voted.

Anonymous said...

11:10 am You are conveniently playing with stats based on the " either/neither" and the "65 or 65A" nonsense the MS Legislature used to try to weaken the Initiative and play your political came after. Rounding it to the nearest whole,74% of Mississippians voted to approve making use of marijuana legal in with or without some restrictions. The last step was "either/neither" redundancy unless that's what the Sec of State used to throw not count the prior vote boxes.
As GOP lies go, this isn't the worst but in my book, lying by omission is still lying.

Anonymous said...

Pretty bad that the GOP can’t acknowledge election results anymore. It’s almost like they are a bunch of fascists who only care about their own stranglehold on the state.

Anonymous said...

@11:10 - got a link to the results? Not that it even matters since the GOP establishment decided not to honor the vote, but still curious how you guys are coming up with numbers differently.

A Percentage of Those Selecting That One said...

3:42 - Simple math can't be taught to an adult who can't understand basic cyphering. How would a link help you?

Anonymous said...

Back to Salter, if I may. What does he point to that indicates voter initiative 'has been hard to keep'?

What he should decry is the fact that the process is cumbersome and intended to fail. Walking around the state (or district) with clipboarded petitions asking for signatures is medieval, at best.

The system, when designed by the legislature, was footnoted with: "Look here. We gave the citizens a right to petition the government, but (chuckling icon here), we made it so farkin' difficult, most of your efforts will never succeed."

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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