Sunday, March 5, 2023

Bill Crawford: Ballot initiative proposal a scam

 The media does a great disservice to the people of Mississippi when it declares that a concurrent resolution under consideration in the Legislature would “restore the public ballot initiative process.” 

The daft proposal now under consideration in the Legislature restores nothing. 

Remember, in 2021 the Mississippi Supreme Court threw out the state’s ballot initiative process. Adopted in 1992, that process required proponents to gather voter signatures from the five congressional districts then in existence. After Mississippi lost the fifth district in 2003, that requirement became technically unachievable. Since the court decision, the Legislature has been under pressure to restore ballot initiatives. 

Remember, too, the constitution itself gives the people of this state “the inherent, sole, and exclusive right … to alter and abolish their constitution and form of government whenever they deem it necessary to their safety and happiness.” But it provided no means to do so. The 1992 ballot initiative process provided that means. 

The new proposal does not restore that means. Rather than allowing citizens to amend their state constitution, it would only allow them to propose, amend, or repeal state laws. 

That’s a substantive difference. For example, the Legislature cannot change a constitutional provision without voter approval. A state law enacted through the new proposal could be changed or abolished by the Legislature at any time after it was implemented. 

The new proposal would also make it extremely difficult to get a referendum petition certified. 

Previously, proponents had 12 months to gather signatures totaling 12% of the total vote in the most recent gubernatorial election. The new proposal would allow only 9 months to gather 12% of the total number of qualified electors registered as of the prior gubernatorial election.

That is another substantive difference. Many registered voters do not vote. In 2019, the Mississippi Secretary of State reported about 1.9 million people were registered to vote. The Secretary of State later reported actual voter turnout in the November 2019 race for governor was 884,911. That computes to a 47% turnout rate. Based on that race, instead of 106,190 signatures, proponents would need to gather about 228,000 signatures.

Even worse, the new proposal would require a least 100 signatures from each of the state’s 82 counties. It would also restrict the number of signatures from any one county to 10% or less of the total, limiting the signatures from heavily populated counties.

The added signature and every-county requirements amount to poison pills for future referendums. Incurring the effort and costs to gather so many signatures to get a proposal on the ballot which could be undone by the Legislature after the fact would be foolish.

The pending resolution is nothing more than a scam. It lets legislators pretend they are restoring the initiative process when they are not. 

Of course, they really don’t want voters to have much control over their government.  

See that no one leads you astray” – Mark 13:5.


Anonymous said...

Not surprising. There is only one party in America trying to restrict voting and limit the peoples’ voice, constitution be damned. Oh, and still tring to claim elections they lose are stolen. Patently un-American and un-patriotic.

Anonymous said...

Mississippi, working hard to stay last, one law at a time; one politician at a time.

Bill Dees said...

Crawford is exactly right. But the reason we are where we are on the initiative and referendum is the political decision of the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2021. Abandoning all usual rules of legislative interpretation, the Court, in a purely political decision, refused to acknowledge the singular determinative fact: That the phrase "5 congressional districts" means "the 5 congressional districts as they exist on adoption of the law in 1992." Those 5 congressional districts as they existed in 1992 are easily determinable geographic areas, even in 2021. My conclusion is that the Court in 2021 made a purely political decision, ignoring the law, or the majority make up the stupidest group ever to wear those robes.

Anonymous said...

Yes I want the general public making laws on my behalf, not!!!! The only people who want an initiative are the old flag folks and California activists who want Medicaid expansion And legalization of weed.

Anonymous said...

Bill Dees - your opinion of the role of the court, and its actual role, are diametrically opposite. The Supreme Court is not there to make 'political' decisions - it is to make legal decisions.

In this case, the 'political' decision would have been to ignore usual rules of legislative interpretation (reading the statute within the four corners, as it is written - rather than attempting to interpret what the 'intent' of the legislature was when the statute was weritten) and declare the initiative as done totally acceptable.

You think that the phrase means 'as they exist on adoption of the law' but there is no basis for such a belief. The same legislature did write a statute that created the Court of Appeals and used that language - judges elected from each of the five congressional districts AS THEY EXISTED IN 1994. If they could figure out how to use that language when drafting the COA statute, they could also have figured out to do what YOU think they meant when drafting the I&R language.

My conclusion is (1) your legal interpretation is worthless; (2) you are upset that your political decision was not the opinion of a large majority of the Supremes; and (3) your analysis that this was a political decision by the court ignores the politics - elected judges overturning an issue that a majority of the voters in the state supported, based on the 57% of the voters that favored I-65.

Thanks for exposing your legal and political ignorance. Again.

Anonymous said...

Crawford, It will 'restore' the ballot initiative process. True, not the way it was before (something that was created AFTER you left the legislature - wonder that you didn't mention your crusading for this 'right' during your service in that august body). And true, not the way YOU would like to have it.

But, prior to 1993, the state went over eight decades without having such a process as the one that was added to the 1890 constitution was found to be unconstitutional as well.

Frankly, I'm glad that the legislature this time had sense enough to not make the process add amendments to the constitution - as I65 proved, concepts with a lot of money behind them such as marijo was, under the guise of medical purposes, can create much out of nothing when there is no money available on the other side to present the case against it. And as the sponsors readily admitted following the SC's ruling on the language that says five can't be four, the wording they put in their amendment was extreme and needed toning down. As an amendment to the constitution, that would have required another vote on the issue.

You fail to mention the other changes from the 1992 I&R - the competing legislative proposal to go on the ballot. Hmmmm (as you would write) makes one wonder why you left of those betterments.

And the requirement of using registered voters vs votes in the last election is another positive. Registered voter numbers remain fairly stable, unlike the differences in turnout of differing election cycles. Granted, the 12% bar is high, and may well be tuned somewhat in conference (Senate last year wanted this number, House wanted roughly half - sounds like a conference issue to me.) And using registered voters might be cause to encourage many counties to purge their voter roles to bring them closer to reality. Yes, we do have 1.9 million register names, but that number problem represents closer to 1.4 million individuals. The failure of counties to purge the roles is the leading cause of what many (like you) wail about the low voter turnout in elections. Get the books correct and the turnout will approximate 60% rather than the low 40's, and would reduce the number of signatures that these citizen-legislators would have to gather to become statute authors.

Anonymous said...

"as I65 proved, concepts with a lot of money behind them such as marijo was, under the guise of medical purposes, can create much out of nothing when there is no money available on the other side to present the case against it."

It wasn't money that voted for medical marijuana. It was voters. And it isn't like this was something that snuck through under cover of darkness. The issue has been well-publicized since at least 2013 when Colorado passed it.

The fact is, a lot of people want to smoke pot, or don't care if other people do, or believe legalization is a lessor of evils, or whatever. I just don't believe the voting public listens to whoever walks up with the biggest pile of money (many politicians seem to, but that's another story).

Anonymous said...

5:28 pm I appreciate your thoughtful comments, but I'm afraid I remember when the GOP Madison County Election Commissioner "purged" 11000 names. Even your now prominent Republicans(who may have still be Dems) saw the attempt to erase legitimate voters from the rolls. Please put guardrails on any purges. I'm not opposed to clerks accurately cleaning up the roles.
At every opportunity, the legislature has sabotaged any effort by the people to petition their government on a policy issue.It's frankly hard to get a hearing with any of you and not just get platitudes or dismissals.
The way the marijuana initiative was worded on the ballot and later easily challenged is the perfect example.
I would suggest those of you who think a ballot initiative has to be like that in California look at other States, including some Red ones, where initiatives demonstrated to recalcitrant legislatures that they are not in touch with the majority of their constituents on an issue.
IF there were ever again a successful initiative under this new plan, it would certainly pass overwhelmingly.

Anonymous said...

@11.47 as previously stated, constitution be damned…

Anonymous said...

@11.47 as previously stated, constitution be damned…

Anonymous said...


THe problem is not money for or against the resolution. The problem is that voters were going to recklessly lock a bunch of legislation into the constitution and it would be extremely hard to fix mistakes.

I am all for having a ballot initiative process that doesn't commit funds, basically negative rights. Had the marijuana initiative simply said the State shall not make marijuana for medical purposes illegal but may subject it to reasonable regulation" or something else that allows the legislature to work out details, that'd be fine.

We also came relatively close to giving ultimate appropriations power in the STate to the Hinds County Chancellor, subject to review by the Supreme Court. That would have been a disaster.

It might be even better to just have a ballot initiative that enacts statutes that are subject to legislature amendment. Legislators can fix unworkable statutes and they will have to risk voter ire if they try to negate the voters' will.

Anonymous said...

852 - the Madison County Election Commission's purge of those voters was a proper action ------ except that it occurred within 90 days of an election. The purge was removed for that election, but then went into effect.

Purging of the voter roles is a proper and required function of the election commissioners, but many don't do it at all, and many others do it halfass.

When counties have more registered voters than they do residents over the age of 18 (as Madison County did ten years ago, which was after the purge that you reference) and as several other counties do today, it is the result of the commissioners not doing their job. Hell, there are dozens of precincts in Hinds County today that have more registered voters than the total population of those precincts.

Commissioners should be forced to do their job, and do it properly. The failure of one commissioner when she did it three weeks too late is not a reason to question purging of voter roles.

Anonymous said...

This thread seems now to have covered everything from the cost of prunes to voters who can't pour piss out of boots. If it were a casserole, we could stick a fork in it.

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