Monday, October 6, 2008

Goldwater Institute: How Not to Reform the Ballot Initiative Process

By Nick Dranias

The TIME initiative crumbled after a lawsuit proved its supporting signatures were rife with forgery and fraud. Normally that would be the end of the story, but the Arizona Capitol Times reports that both proponents and opponents of the initiative are now demanding reform.

They propose requiring signature-gatherers to be employees of signature-gathering businesses, rather than independent contractors as many are now. They suggest that signature-gatherers will be more accountable for their work if they are forced to work for someone else. This proposal not only lacks common sense, it would also violate the First Amendment.

The state has no constitutional power to dictate who can and cannot make a living by advancing ballot initiatives. This is because signature-gatherers help ordinary citizens and grassroots organizations organize and demand reform from their state government. Their stock-in-trade is free speech and free association, which is protected by the First Amendment.

In decisions spanning the ideological spectrum, the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that regulations cannot block entry into occupations that deal primarily in protected speech and association. New Dealers, for example, struck down efforts to regulate union organizers in Thomas v. Collins. The Rehnquist Court struck down efforts to regulate professional charitable solicitors in Riley v. National Federation of the Blind. Any effort to force ballot initiative signature-gatherers into apprenticeships with state-sanctioned employers would likely meet a similar fate.

The ballot initiative process may indeed need reform, but this is not the right approach.

Nick Dranias is the constitutional policy director at the Goldwater Institute.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute: Initiative signature verification process makes a mockery of rule of law

Goldwater Institute: Of Pigs and People

Arizona Capitol Times: Politicos call for massive reform to AZ initiative process


Evan Ravitz said...

Here are some ways TO reform the ballot initiative process:

Voters on ballot initiatives need what legislators get: public hearings, expert testimony, amendments, reports, etc. The best project for such deliberative process is the National Initiative for Democracy, led by former Sen. Mike Gravel: Also and

In Switzerland, petitions are left at government offices and stores for people to read and sign at leisure, so there are less aggressive petitioners more informed signers, and less $ required. The Swiss vote on initiatives 4-6 times a year so there's never too many on one ballot. Because they have real power, the Swiss read more newspapers/capita than anyone else.

Legislators have never tried to improve the ballot initiative process, but often try to make it even harder. They'd rather have absolute power!

In Switzerland, representatives are humbler, after centuries of local and cantonal (state) ballot initiatives, and national initiatives since 1891. They call their system "co-determination." This works well for couples, too!

Brandon said...

Brewer calls for this "reform" on the heels of a 9th Circuit Court loss loss in Nader v. Brewer where the court ruled against AZ's restriction on out of state signature gatherers. Now she wants the court to hand this one back to her too.

It seems like "prevent fraud" is the catchword for screwing up the initiative process just as "for the children" is tagged to socialist tax grab schemes.

NOprop200 said...

The ballot initiative process needs reform, and so does Arizona’s predatory payday lending industry. Out-of-state payday lenders are pumping millions into Prop 200 to try and convince Arizona voters that it would “reform” the payday lending system. That’s a bunch of bull. 200 is no reform at all.

Payday lenders don’t deserve a voter-protected permanent law – that’s just bad lawmaking.

No on 200: