The citizen initiative depends on a few habits and institutions.
Free speech and free association, for instance. It does no good trying to gather signatures to put an issue to a public vote if one is badgered and beat down every time one tries.
Fair play is another. If the government doesn’t allow time to petition, or takes any excuse to invalidate a petition, then the democratic part of the citizen initiative goes out the window.
In recent years we’ve seen a growing sense of hardball against the initiative process. Harassment has become all too common. Many states have begun to “crack down” on gathered petitions, finding the niggliest neutrinos of law to invalidate petitions for initiatives they don’t like.
And now, in Utah, politicians combine post-signature unfairness with the harassing of signatories. State law already allows citizens to withdraw their signatures from a petition. But new legislation would exempt those seeking to remove signatures from the rules petitioners have to follow. The bill would also allow the political parties to call up signatories for a month after the petition is filed and harangue them with reasons why the iniative is a bad.
You guessed it, Utah has initiatives in the offing that politicians would like to off. One is an ethics measure that legislators especially despise. So they seek to twist the rules to scuttle the chance for an open, public vote.
Despicable, but all too common.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.