After string of abortion-rights wins, conservatives look to curtail the ballot measure process

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The Republican-led Congress is waging an increasingly fierce battle to limit the ability of citizens and other lawmakers to submit ballot measures. As abortion rights.

During the 2022 legislative session, 109 bills were introduced to the state legislature to change the citizen-led voting initiative process. 58 would clearly have made the process more difficult, according to a review by the Center for Ballot Initiative Strategy, which works with progressive organizations to help move ballot measures forward. Republicans seeking to curb the placement of such ballot initiatives have already introduced at least 11 such bills in at least three states ahead of the 2023 Congress, which begins in January and February.NBC Review by News.

Progressive groups, including organizations that advocate for productive rights and the voting initiative groups with which they regularly work, say the effort is a progressive move on issues such as expanding Medicaid and raising the minimum wage. It is a direct response to the success of the successful voting initiative.

Motivated by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, a string of victories by abortion rights groups has intensified efforts to curb the voting initiative process. increase. They won all six states this year featuring voting initiatives on access to abortion. These groups are now planning more measures in at least 10 states over the next two years.

But those efforts would be greatly curtailed if a conservative Congress went ahead with its own measures to make voting initiatives more difficult.

Chris Melody Fields Figueiredo, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, said: “Not only against reproductive freedoms, but also against the means by which reproductive freedoms organizations seek to protect those freedoms. , there is so much opposition: “We know that many politicians do not like to be told what to do. Critical to the success of the problem is whether we can sustain this process.”

“After successfully bringing reproductive freedom directly to people, there’s definitely been an increase in these efforts to change the rules to suit their game,” said J.J., deputy director of American Civil’s Liberty division. Straight added. The Liberties Union is working with local organizations to investigate how to vote for abortion rights in 2023 and he in 2024.

For example, last month in Ohio, Republican lawmakers worked with the Republican secretary of state to draft and advance a bill to put the ballot measure before voters in the May special election. If approved, a 60% support threshold would be required for future ballot measures to pass, as opposed to the current majority.

“The Ohio Constitution should serve as a framework for state government, not as a tool for special interest groups,” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said in a statement. “If you come up with a good idea and think it deserves to be put into the framework of government, it needs to be passed by the same standards found in both the United States Constitution and our own state legislatures here. ”

The Ohio legislature, which has Republican majorities in both houses because of its highly gerrymandered map, plans to take up the bill when it opens next month.

In Missouri, members of the House of Representatives have pre-sent at least nine bills to the legislature beginning next month, all of which meet the requirements or requirements necessary to pass a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution. Trying to raise the threshold. Currently, under Missouri law, all ballot initiatives are passed by simple majority vote.

Last month, voters in Missouri legalized recreational marijuana after approving a ballot initiative to amend the state’s constitution. In 2020, state voters expanded Medicaid using the same process, and in 2018 similarly legalized medical marijuana.

In Oklahoma, efforts to make citizen-led voting initiatives more difficult to implement have failed over the past two years, and conservative lawmakers who support such changes have vowed to push ahead next year.

“Constitutional amendments are inherently much more permanent and harder to change than state laws enacted by Congress. Rep. Newton said.

Newton said the constitutional amendment itself will continue to work to raise the bar by raising the bar for passing future constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 55%.

Abortion protesters react to a county vote against a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove abortion protections if passed, in Overland Park, Kansas, Aug. 2, 2022. rights advocates. (Dave Kaup / AFP – Getty Images file)

Republican lawmakers in South Dakota and North Dakota have said they will again seek to raise the bar for passage of citizen-led ballot measures to change the state’s constitution.

Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and North Dakota are among 17 states where citizen-initiated ballot measures that amend state constitutions are legal. Five other states and Washington, D.C. allow citizen-initiated ballot measures but not constitutional amendments. They are also one of 10 (out of 17) Reproductive Rights Group efforts to introduce a ballot measure enshrining abortion rights in the Constitution.

Spokespersons for LaRose, Newton, and several Missouri Republicans did not respond to questions about whether their proposal was designed in response to these efforts by abortion rights groups.

Those efforts will face an even steeper climb if measures to tighten standards are passed in these states.

Voting Initiative Group says that’s the point.

“There are many ways that this process can be interrupted, delayed, or basically terminated completely. This is one of the most obvious examples,” said progressive groups of citizens-led voting initiatives. Kelly Hall, executive director of the Fairness Project, a nonprofit organization that helps promote

Despite conservative pressure to cut ballot measures, the Republican legislatures in the red and purple states are willing to use the ballot measure process to make it more difficult for voters to amend their state constitutions. I spent the last year in. The results of my efforts were mixed.

In Arizona, Proposition 132 won, raising the threshold for enacting tax-related constitutional ballot initiatives to 60% (from a simple majority). Critics argue that the bill amounts to a test run of more comprehensive legislation that raises the threshold for all such constitutional ballot initiatives.

Another proposal, known as Proposition 128, was lost. It was to amend the state constitution to make it easier to repeal citizen-led ballot initiatives passed by Congress.

In Arkansas, issue 2 was lost. It also raised the threshold for voting initiative to amend the state constitution to 60% (from a simple majority).

Two out of three have failed, but they still have Red and Purple legislatures again trying to deny the practice of a “direct democratic” process that proponents say more accurately reflects voter attitudes on specific issues. We provide a roadmap to

“Ultimately, we believe [citizen-led ballot initiatives] It’s an accountability tool for people to send direct messages to government about their expectations and attitudes on big issues,” said Straight of the ACLU. “These legislators want less access to them, less ability for people to deal with government and participate in the policy-making process itself, and less ways for legislation to actually reflect the will of the majority of the population. It’s ironic that there are voters in their states.”

What about the idea that conservatives are using the voting initiative process to change the voting initiative process?

“They’re going to use the ballot measure — to change the ballot measure,” said Fields Figueredo of the Center for Strategy of the Ballot Initiative.

“I can’t understand how ironic that is.”

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