Well, surprise, surprise. Stymied once again at the ballot box, Florida Republicans want to change the rules for statewide ballot initiatives…

On Tuesday, the Florida House Judiciary Committee proposed PCB CDJ 19-01, a cynical power grab by the majority party to crack down on the citizen initiative process.  Over the past 20 years, Floridians, in a state dominated by Republican lawmakers, have consistently approved progressive ballot measures–from High Speed Rail, to Raising the Minimum Wage, to Fair Redistricting, to Medial Marijuana, to Felon Re-infranchisment.  When fellow citizens place these statewide constitutional amendments on the ballot for public consumption, Florida voters consistently gobble them up.

Now Republican lawmakers want to crackdown on the initiative process itself, changing the rules of the game so as to stymie future efforts to have citizens approve statewide ballot issues the majority party can easily bury in the legislative process.

PCB CDJ 19-01 is not the only attack on the process of direct democracy in Florida this session.  SJR 232 would require citizen-initiated constitutional amendments to pass with a 2/3rds supermajority, up from 60% (which, itself, was jacked up from a simple majority by a statewide referendum placed on the ballot by the Republican legislature in 2006).

This is all part of a coordinated attack on the initiative process, and not only in Florida (see what’s happening in other states in this Brennan Center piece). It’s not new (I wrote about similar efforts more than a decade ago); as it was then, it is clearly motivated by partisanship and control of the policy agenda.

So, it’s not rocket science as to why Republican-controlled legislatures try to change the rules of the game, curtailing the power of citizens to use the initiative process.  Progressive statewide ballot measures often are approved in states where conservatives dominate the state legislature. In these states, Republican lawmakers aren’t used to, nor do they like, ceding the legislative agenda to the people. After all, in the first part, in many states they control state government precisely because they were able to successfully gerrymander legislative districts–drawing favorable districts to afford them a majority of seats in both legislative chambers, thus controlling the policy agenda.

Of course, direct democracy is no panacea for what ails our republic, and over the past 25 years I’ve written critically about the process. But as Woodrow Wilson, no fan of the initiative process himself, conceded in 1911 while on the presidential hustings, citizen lawmaking can serve as the “gun behind the door–for use only in case of an emergency, but a mighty good persuader, nevertheless.”

Published just in time for #PROGRESSxBISC. “Who Signs? Ballot Petition Signatures a Political Participation” #GNV #LGBT

Who Signs Abstract

My favorite geo-spatial visual is where the registered voters who signed an invalid ballot petition reside. The density of invalid petitions much higher along Gainesville’s city limits.  Many of the petition signers, especially on the west side of the city, clearly thought they lived in the City of Gainesville. Invalid Signatures

Get your copy of the article here.

Leaders Overruling their Voters? Say it ain’t so

Research here:

Daniel A. Smith. 2001. “Homeward Bound? Micro-Level Legislative Responsiveness to Ballot Initiatives,” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 1 (1): 50-61.

Josh Huder, Jordan Ragusa, and Daniel A. Smith. 2011. “The Initiative to Shirk? The Effects of Ballot Measures on Congressional Voting Behavior,” American Politics Research 39 (3): 582-610.

Get ’em while they’re Hot! (SPPQ has open-access to all those fine ElectionSmith articles you’ve been dying to download)

 

 

MI Republicans adopt strict Voter ID bills in lame-duck session. Wonder if electoral competition is tight…

William D. Hicks, Seth C. McKee, and Daniel A. Smith, “The Determinants of State Legislator Support for Restrictive Voter ID Laws,” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 16:4 (December): 411-31.

 

Abstract

We examine state legislator behavior on restrictive voter identification (ID) bills from 2005 to 2013. Partisan polarization of state lawmakers on voter ID laws is well known, but we know very little with respect to other determinants driving this political division. A major shortcoming of extant research evaluating the passage of voter ID bills stems from using the state legislature as the unit of analysis. We depart from existing scholarship by using the state legislator as our unit of analysis, and we cover the entirety of the period when restrictive voter ID laws became a frequent agenda item in state legislatures. Beyond the obviously significant effect of party affiliation, we find a notable relationship between the racial composition of a member’s district, region, and electoral competition and the likelihood that a state lawmaker supports a voter ID bill. Democratic lawmakers representing substantial black district populations are more opposed to restrictive voter ID laws, whereas Republican legislators with substantial black district populations are more supportive. We also find Southern lawmakers (particularly Democrats) are more opposed to restrictive voter ID legislation. In particular, we find black legislators in the South are the least supportive of restrictive voter ID bills, which is likely tied to the historical context associated with state laws restricting electoral participation. Finally, in those state legislatures where electoral competition is not intense, polarization over voter ID laws is less stark, which likely reflects the expectation that the reform will have little bearing on the outcome of state legislative contests.

 

Full article available here: