In a quiet battle that needs to get louder and more visible. Rep. Denise Provost (27th Somerville) is fighting for a rational ballot-initiative process. She and Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem are flanking this key field from different sides.
Provost is driving her bill H1830 to increase signatures required to advance an initiative toward ballot from 3% of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election to 7%. Creem’s S12 would limit matters for plebiscites to eliminate such travesties as voting on the rights of any citizen group.
We spoke today at Left Ahead about “how our democratic processes can be hijacked,” in Provost’s words. The right to petition to amend the MA Constitution or pass a law has been law since the Progressive Era (passing in 1917 and 1918 here). She lamented though that they have “become less and less about people and more and more about money.” This has gotten worse since Citizens United as well.
For her bill, she noted that the 7% requirement would bump us up from the easiest of the 24 states and DC that allow initiatives. It would bring us more in line with other states as well as the original requirements here. As it is, with fewer and fewer eligible voters going to polls, effectively our current 3% translates realistically in 1% of voters making these seminal decisions.
She spoke of those opposed to initiative reform. Of course, some special interest political groups, even those who pay professional signature gatherers to create the impression of citizen support, cry foul at the efforts. She said that some of her historic allies in progressive legislation who do not get it say bills like H1830 “cut into grassroots democracy.”
Click below to hear how and why she disagrees.
Her reform, like Creem’s, is not going to be easy, Provost admits. “Changing our Constitution in any way is always a hard struggle,” she said, adding that it should be for anything so fundamental. She also forecast that she may not have enough traction this time to get it passed. However, assuming her reelection, she intends to file it again in January and until it does pass.
This is a particular interest of mine as well. She and I agree that here, as in many states, the initiative/referendum processes have been abused and have gotten away from their original aims. In small, steady ways, I intend to support these reforms, by blogging, podcasting, social media posts, and of course, letting acquaintances know what’s up and what’s possible.
The other side is writing, calling or visiting my legislators to voice support. It’s the usual, critical drill, and real grassroots populism. You know those who want to keep things easy and cozy will be doing their do at the State House.