only got worked over by the "jobs-jobs-jobs" legislature
Dennis Myers / Reno News & Review / 6-9-2011
Legislative Session Became a War Against Workers
And with the neglect of media stenographers, the workers lost >
Reno News & Review Editorial / 6-9-2011
on 8 freakin' years of war
MYERS: Boston Tea Party was a protest of a tax cut
Denny's Almanac 12-16-2010
Star: Myers STAR bonds exposés
News & Review, April 2 and 25, 2009
See also Cabellyup.com
MYERS : Ghosts of Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Latin America
Denny's Almanac 6-21-2005
person, one signature
By Dennis Myers
Sparks Tribune / December 5, 2003
On November 19,
a group of right wing political activists filed suit in federal court
to overturn a restrictive formula that signature gatherers must follow
to get an initiative petition on the Nevada ballot. The activists are
opposed to the tax plan approved by the 2003 Nevada Legislature.
By trying to open up the initiative process and make it easier to use
and fairer, they are doing a service for all Nevadans. For their trouble
they are being criticized for being undemocratic.
The formula they are challenging requires petitioners to get ten percent
of their signatures in each of three fourths of the counties. This means
that signature gatherers cannot simply go where the people are. They
must go into the hamlets of rural Nevada, which becomes a much more
expensive process and makes initiative campaigns, like candidate campaigns,
big business out of the reach of ordinary citizens. In recent
years, with one exception, no initiative petition has been able to make
it onto the ballot without paid signature gatherers.
To give an idea of how undemocratic the multi-county signature formula
is, consider this: An initiative campaign could gather signatures from
every human being in a dozen of the state's 17 counties, giving it nearly
100 percent of Nevada's voters on a petition, and would still fail to
qualify for the ballot because tiny counties like Esmeralda (in which
fewer than 450 people voted in 2002) were not represented.
Many years ago legislative researcher Andrew Grose did the math and,
while I don't remember the actual figures, it was something like one
voter's signature in Clark or Washoe was equivalent to three or four
signatures in the small counties.
The political process represents people, not geography. There is no
reason why the signature of one voter should be more valuable than another.
One person, one vote, one signature.
When the U.S. Supreme Court in its Reynolds vs Sims decision mandated
one person/one vote in the apportionment of state legislatures, Chief
Justice Warren wrote, "Legislators represent people, not trees
or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or
economic interests." The same may be said of initiative petitions,
which speak for people, not for artificial jurisdictions like counties.
The Las Vegas Sun last week criticized the lawsuit, editorializing that
this formula "was crafted in order to ensure that people throughout
the state would have a say on proposed changes that would affect them."
No, it wasn't. The Sun is rewriting history. The formula was crafted
by the Nevada business community in 1958 for the sole and single purpose
of preventing organized labor from putting measures on the ballot. In
a nifty case of unintended consequences, a business-oriented group is
now the victim of this anti-labor measure.
The Sun editorial writer further wrote, "The framers of the constitution
did not want densely populated counties dominating the process."
In fact, the framers of the constitution did not write this formula,
or, for that matter, the initiative law. The initiative was put into
the constitution 40 years after the framers of the Nevada Constitution
finished their work, and the restrictive formula was added 54 years
after that. But even so, what's wrong with densely populated counties
dominating the process? By an overwhelming margin, that is where most
voters live. (Nevada is one of the five most urban states in the nation,
since nearly everyone lives in the two largest counties.) The people
of the state, not its trees or mines, are SUPPOSED to dominate the process.
This signature formula is really just one in a long list of techniques
used by conservatives to win victories through process and procedure
that they cannot win by, you know, actually getting more votes in elections.
By making the political process less functional with techniques like
supermajorities, restrictive petition formulas, term limits, and so
on, right wing complaints about the uselessness of government become
self-fulfilling. Granted, those who filed this lawsuit are perfectly
comfortable using these techniques when it suits their purposes, but
the merit of an idea should not depend on its sponsor, and this idea
has great merit.
Dennis Myers is a longtime Nevada reporter. This column also appeared
in the Dec. 5 Pahrump
Valley Times. Copyright © 2003 Dennis Myers, used with permission.
to the November 23, 2003, Barbwire
of Right-to-Work in Nevada
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