The teapot is still boiling briskly in the City of Falls Church, a Northern Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., over recent changes in the regulations governing municipal elections. By a 4-3 vote in January 2010, the then Mayor and City Council was successful in changing city elections from even-numbered years in May to odd-numbered years in November. Appropriately, the City submitted the change to the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, for review and clearance as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Department subsequently reviewed and approved the change. The result is that, during the transition years, Council-Member terms will be shortened by six months. Then, in the May 2010 election, a major shakeup in the government occurred. The new Mayor, Nader Baroukh, a former City Council member who opposed the change, along with re-elected City-Council-members who were also opponents, is making efforts to “undo” the changes and to submit the matter to the citizens of the City in a referendum. Predictably, many residents of the City are hopping mad. [Read more…] about Can a Tempest, a Tea Party Make?
On November 2, Oklahoma voters will confront a long list of state referendum items on which they may vote “yes” or “no.” Second on the list—tucked between per-student educational spending and revised term limits—is State Question 746, which proposes to amend the state’s voter identification requirements. Supporters tout the measure as a necessary and low-maintenance way to keep state elections honest. After all, we require a photo ID for any number of mundane daily transactions, like writing a check or boarding an airplane. However, a small but impassioned group of opponents argues that while seemingly harmless, in reality the voter ID requirement is the partisan enactment of a runaway legislature, and it threatens the most basic of Oklahomans’ constitutional protections.
If Oklahomans vote “yes” on State Question 746, then effective on July 1, 2011, every person appearing to vote in Oklahoma must first present (1) a state, tribal, or federal government-issued photo ID or (2) a voter identification card issued by the County Election Board. All government-issued photo IDs must have expiration dates, and must not be expired on the date of the election, except for some identity cards issued to people over 65. These requirements would apply to all in-person voting, including in-person absentee voting. [Read more…] about Getting Carded: The Debate over Voter ID Law in Oklahoma
Last Sunday, two competing editorials were published in the San Francisco Chronicle discussing two proposed redistricting bills in California, Proposition 20 and Proposition 27. Both propositions focus on changing the Congressional redistricting process. Proposition 20 would give the task to the Citizen Redistricting Commission, which already draws the lines for the legislative districts. Proposition 27 would have the Legislature do it, but impose public oversight and strict guidelines on the process. The editorials dealing with these propositions took opposite views: Daniel Lowenstein of UCLA supported Proposition 27, saying it would reduce the cost and create equal districts; Alice Huffman, president of the NAACP, argued that Proposition 20 would prevent districts from being drawn for the benefit of politicians. Both disagreed strongly with the claims in the other.
So who’s right and who’s wrong? As is usually the case, the answer is not black and white.
|Initiative proponent/Dark Lord of the Sith Tim Eyman appears in front of the Washington Secretary of State’s Office|
This past January, for the second time in two years, a bill has been filed with the Washington State legislature to amend the State Constitution, removing the provisions allowing for citizen initiatives and referendums. If passed by the state legislature, the measure would be sent to the voters for their approval at the next general election. Citizen initiatives are the process by which citizens and nongovernmental organizations can directly propose legislation. If the proposed legislature receives a certain number of signatures (a number equal to 8% of the voters in the previous gubernatorial election), the proposal is then voted on by the people of the state, completely bypassing the legislature. Referenda require fewer signatures, but the proposed legislation must still be voted on by the legislature.
The bill, proposed by state Senator Ken Jacobsen, would remove the entirety of Article II, Section 1 of the Washington Constitution, as well as other sections that acknowledge the initiative and referendum process. The initiative process is constantly being challenged by lawmakers, and this bill is just the latest debate in a long battle in a number of states, mostly in the West, where the use of initiatives is common. Proponents of citizen initiatives argue that they are vitally important to ensuring the people have a say in their own government, while opponents argue that they interfere with the functioning of the legislature and government.
The initiative process has often been seen as the purest form of direct democracy, giving the most voice to individual citizens. Tim Eyman, intuitive guru and anti-tax crusader, had harsh words for Jacobsen and his initiative, as well the sponsors of other bills that would regulate the signature-gathering and initiative-filing process. Eyman calls the bill a “legislative jihad”, and claims that Ken Jacobson “is the most honest elected official on this issue. He’s openly pushing to take our rights away from us. The sponsors of the other anti-initiative bills…hide their opposition and seek to impose unneeded, costly requirements on citizens so as to effectively repeal the initiative process with a stealth “regulate to death” strategy.” [Read more…] about The Legislature Strikes Back: Citizen Initiatives in Washington State