It is the people's initiative system. The government doesn't need to set up a system of filters for the initiatives as they make their way to the ballot.
The initiative process sometimes gets under the skin of elected officials.
Frankly, that's to be expected.
The initiative process serves to keep elected officials focused on representing the people.
If citizens aren't happy with what lawmakers are doing -- or not doing -- they can file initiatives, gather the required signatures to place it on the ballot and then have it voted into law by the people.
But at least one state lawmaker wants to pull the rug -- or maybe that's grass? -- out from under those who orchestrate these grassroot initiative campaigns.
Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, has proposed legislation requiring all signature-gathering businesses and paid signature gatherers to register with the Secretary of State. His bill also increases the fee for filing initiatives or referenda from $5 to $500, $450 of which would be refunded if the measure qualifies for the ballot, according to The Associated Press.
"The integrity of our ballot system will be made better if the voters have confidence that those issues that make the ballot have tremendous rigor and have an accountability to them," Reykdal said during a hearing on the proposal Wednesday.
Reykdal's views are heartfelt, but misguided. It is simply not the place of government to set up a system of filters to essentially purify the people's initiatives.
The people must do that themselves. That starts by voters being selective in signing petitions.
If the petition put in front of a voter is pushing a proposal that would be a rotten law, then the voter should not sign it. Keeping bad proposals from getting on the ballot is the best way to make sure they don't become law.
Tinkering with the initiative process, as Reykdal suggests, won't necessarily make the system better, just more complex. And those who run the signature-gathering businesses have the motivation and expertise to figure out how to make the new system work for them.
It's average citizens who will be left with fewer options to take action when their government won't.
Leave the initiative system alone and work harder to get voters to make better choices on what initiative petitions to sign -- and not to sign.
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