Missouri has a long and proud history of ballot initiatives. There are always opportunities for voters to put items on the ballot and pass them beyond the state legislature, making direct changes to Missouri law. The Missouri legislature has fought back against this practice before, most recently by dragging their feet and then pushing back against Medicaid expansion. With more ballot measures successfully passing, Missouri Republicans are becoming worried they can’t shape their government to fulfill their deepest, darkest desires, especially when the statewide voters turn them down.
When Missouri voters delivered a victory for recreational marijuana in November, Republican elected officials saw the future of what a strong ballot initiative could do to so many of their proposals and they didn’t like it. Most of these proposals, like Medicaid expansion and marijuana legalization, are bipartisan in nature and the campaigns welcome members of both parties. That’s concerning if you are thinking about legislation to do more damage to things like voting rights, health care, and LGBTQ issues. With Kansas voters recently taking action on an abortion amendment, Missouri’s harsh legislation may run afoul of a voter-led initiative that could secure the right to reproductive health care, according to the Kansas City Star. Well as always, Republicans have a plan.
RELATED STORY: Abortion rights won in every state it was on the ballot. Let’s keep doing that
You see, in a deep dive, the Kansas City Star found that Missouri Republicans voiced serious concerns about how easy it is to influence Missouri voters to pass ballot initiatives and undo Republicans’ work. This is significantly different from the influence that, say, groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), anti-abortion organizations, the NRA, and numerous other conservative lobbying organizations have at the state level.
One way to kill new proposals is to change the votes needed to succeed. In Missouri, the measure to use is to change the fact you need a majority of all registered voters whether they vote or not. This proposed change would make it nearly impossible to pass any voter-supported initiative, as numerous voters never vote in any election despite being registered. This can occur for a variety of reasons: reports of moves, people who register with a driver’s license but never actually vote, deaths, sickness, and lack of interest make up a fair size of our overall electorate. Voters can also be disinterested in other races, find that their polling places are confusing or that lines are too long, or live in the belief they don’t know enough and shouldn’t vote.
By moving the goalposts in this way, Republicans believe that they have a chance to end voter participation in their government. Nothing says working on your behalf like statehouse representatives who are afraid you are going to be influenced by your own research more than they might be influenced by a lobbyist. But it’s never good when preventing voter participation seems like the best plan you have.
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Hell yeah! Election season is already here, and it's already off to an amazing start with Democrats' huge flip of a critical seat in the Virginia state Senate, which kicks off this week's episode of The Downballot.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard dissect what Aaron Rouse's victory means for November (abortion is still issue #1!) when every seat in the legislature will be on the ballot. They also discuss big goings-on in two U.S. Senate races: California, where Rep. Katie Porter just became the first Democrat to kick off a bid despite Sen. Dianne Feinstein's lack of a decision about her own future, and Michigan, which just saw veteran Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow announce her retirement.