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Columbia Missourian

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Initiative process is public and transparent lawmaking

By Dane Waters
March 8, 2012 | 1:21 p.m. CST

This letter is in response to a letter from Mindy Patterson that was published on Feb. 28 in the Columbia Missourian.

Mindy Patterson suggests that our founding fathers would oppose the initiative process because of a fear of majority rule, based largely on a quote of dubious origins that she improperly attributed to Thomas Jefferson.  In fact, our founding fathers, including Jefferson, were very supportive of the concept of majority rule. "I know of no safer repository of the ultimate power of society," Jefferson wrote, "but the people."

The initiative process, which is available to the citizens in 24 states, has led to some of the most important and fundamental reforms we enjoy today, including helping women gain the right to vote. It was never envisioned as a replacement for representative government, but an enhancement to it. The U.S. Supreme Court and numerous state courts have ruled that the initiative process does not run contrary to a republican form of government, and is highly consistent with representative government.

Although Missourians have enjoyed the initiative option since 1907, 99.99 percent of all the laws ever adopted in the state have been through the traditional legislative process.  Of the laws that have come about via direct vote of the people in Missouri, more have been placed on the ballot by the legislature than by people using the initiative.

It is both disingenuous and preposterous to claim that the people make wise choices when voting for the individuals who will represent them and when they vote on laws placed on the ballot by these same elected representatives, but that somehow the people become ignorant when they vote on initiatives. But that is the premise of the position taken by Patterson and her allies.

In the end, the initiative process is a much more public and transparent lawmaking process than the lawmaking process in Jefferson City.

The Your Vote Counts campaign is simply an effort to make representative government still more representative, and it’s sad to discover people who are opposed to that.

Dane Waters is the campaign manager for Your Vote Counts.