October 27, 2008
Oct. 25, 2008
We have suggested Arizona voters should reject a number of the ballot measures before them in the Nov. 4 general election. But one issue stands out as both deceiving and pernicious — Proposition 105, the proposed constitutional amendment would require passage of many future initiatives by a majority of all registered voters instead of a majority of those who cast ballots for or against the measures.
We understand the concerns that brought Prop. 105 before the state. Voters do seem to decide many ballot measures under the prevailing winds of current economic and political climates, with few philosophical underpinnings and little thought about the long-term challenges in carrying out conflicting mandates and public sentiments.
Initiative sponsors appear to spend a lot more time and money on election campaigns than they devote to writing measures that actually are sound, proper and effective without wasting tax dollars.
But adopting Prop. 105 to “reform” the initiative process would be sort of like striking the right to worship or free speech from the First Amendment because they often clash with other civil rights and American values.
Prop. 105 would grant power to people who deliberately choose not to take part in the election process, by treating their non-vote as a “no” ballot cast against certain initiatives. Refusing to vote always has been a right in the United States, but never before has Arizona said the opinions of such non-voters shall have the same weight and authority as those who do their homework on the issues, reach informed conclusions and put their views into action by casting a ballot. Prop. 105 would inject a cancer into the democratic process by honoring apathy and declaring that non-voters have made their choices known simply by doing nothing.
Furthermore, Prop. 105 offers the illusion that voters still can direct government spending or regulations on private businesses — if an idea is so fundamentally good that its widely embraced by a “true” majority of the public. But it’s an undeniable fact that no past Arizona initiative in our lifetime would have been adopted under the standard set by Prop. 105, regardless of the issue’s popularity or how many people voted for it.
If the concept behind Prop. 105 is that certain government policies are too complex or too important to be left to the whims of public opinion, then let’s propose directly to limit the reach of initiatives and declare some matters to be strictly under the sole control of the legislative process.
That kind of proposal would prompt an honest debate about the nature of a republican government versus the cherished Arizona tradition that the people have at least as much control as the governor and the Legislature through the ballot box.
Prop. 105 seeks to avoid that debate while seducing this year’s voters into giving away some of their future power to people who don’t join in our common civic duty. It’s ballot trickery that Arizona’s founders would expect the voters to reject out of hand.