Moving Against One Man, One Vote, Once

Republicans want to make it harder for citizen petitions to change the constitution:

Now Republican lawmakers are pushing back, especially on citizen changes to the state constitution, which they can’t reverse without voter consent.

Among legislation floated this session are resolutions that would require petitions to get a higher percentage of votes to pass a constitutional amendment.

Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, filed one such resolution. It would ask voters to raise the bar on themselves and require a two-thirds majority to pass future constitutional amendments.

“The percentage to pass right now is 50 percent plus one,” Sater said. “I think that is entirely too low. I think if it’s such a good idea, it needs to be an overwhelming vote in favor of it.”

As you might expect, gentle reader, I agree.

Whenever I go into the library, I’m approached by petition signature gatherers, and I don’t sign any of them whether I support the cause or not. The petition method of amending the state constitution is ripe for, well, not abuse, but certainly gaming for a favorable permanent outcome. Proponents of a measure gather signatures from supporters, people who think it’s a good idea, or people who think the people should have a vote on an issue one way or another, and then the measure gets put on a ballot for a low turnout election day, wherein its supporters all turn out and normal people skip because they don’t want to miss work to vote on Fire Protection District officials and a constitutional amendment. And the item passes, and it’s part of the constitution forever.

Not to mention the impact that the Secretary of State can have on these measures; I’ve written in the old days about what Democrat Robin Carnahan used to do to ballot initiatives (Robin Carnahan: Ghostwriter and Convenient Technicalities amongst others).

So I am not a fan of this process as it is. I understand the rationale for it, but groups and, dare I say it, special interests can too easily game this system. Raising the bar for constitutional amendments would certainly stifle some of the gaming and emphasize the importance of changing the constitution, for Pete’s sake.

Remember, gentle reader, if you matriculated from school which still had a Civics class, that to change the U.S. Constitution, you have to get two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the states to approve the amendment. Ever heard of the Equal Rights Amendment? It passed Congress but fell a few states short of actually amending the constitution.

The United States Constitution sees this process as a bulwark against the passions of the populace (building a better republic, natch). It would behoove the state of Missouri to have both the ballot initiative process that protects the population from the passions of focused special interest groups who game it.

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