Today in Missouri, the Voter Protection Alliance  filed a constitutional amendment with the state that will better protect initiatives approved at the ballot box by voters. Citizens in Charge, along with the Humane Society and numerous other political groups, signed on to endorse this change to the state’s constitution. From the group’s press release:
In response to the continued attempts of a handful of career politicians to overrule the will of Missouri voters, the Voter Protection Alliance has filed a constitutional amendment to provide greater protections for voter-approved initiatives. The Voter Protection Act would require a three-fourths vote in both the House and the Senate, or a vote of the people by referendum, in order for the legislature to repeal or amend a citizen initiative. The group plans to gather signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2012 ballot.
State legislators in Jefferson City have been working to repeal or weaken citizen-approved ballot measures on issues such as puppy mills, clean energy, and minimum wage. The Voter Protection Act is a response to these threats to the voting rights of Missouri citizens. The measure has been endorsed by groups from the left to the right who are concerned about protecting the will of the people and the integrity of the ballot initiative process, including Citizens in Charge, The Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, Americans for Tax Reform, National Taxpayers Union, U.S. Term Limits, Stop Child Predators, and Americans for Limited Government.
“A narrow legislative majority should not override the vote of millions of Missourians,” said State Representative Scott Sifton, D-96, who supports the Voter Protection Act and has introduced a similar measure in the legislature. “The time has come for the Missouri Constitution to protect the will of the voters.”
The Voter Protection Act would provide constitutional protections for citizen ballot initiatives similar to those that exist in other states. The measure still allows the state legislature to exercise its legislative authority, and if there are major problems with an initiative they will be able to build consensus for a three-fourths vote. But it adds a layer of accountability and a higher threshold so the will of the people cannot be simply discarded with a narrow vote of the legislature.
Missouri is one of only ten states that allow the state legislature to amend or repeal an initiative statute at any time after its adoption by a simple majority of both houses. A number of other states—including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming—limit the legislature’s ability to unilaterally ignore the will of the voters.
“Elected officials should be accountable to the voters, not the other way around. Yet, the Missouri legislature has too often amended or completely overturned initiatives adopted by the voters,” said Paul Jacob, president of Citizens in Charge. “Citizens need to protect their votes so career politicians in Jefferson City cannot simply substitute their judgment for the wisdom of Missouri citizens. With the Voter Protection Act, the voice of the people will not be so easily drowned out in the capitol.”
“The Missouri Senate has voted to repeal the puppy mill measure passed last November before the law has even had a chance to take effect, just as lawmakers tried to repeal the voter-approved ban on cockfighting,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “If politicians are so easily able to defy the will of the voters and dismantle these measures, than what other issues will be next?”
This is a very important piece of legislation that will protect the will of the voter in Missouri. As noted in the press release, only ten other states allow the legislature to change voter approved initiatives. A chart that outlines those laws is available here . Recent polling in the state indicates that an overwhelming majority of citizens support  these kinds of safeguards for voter approved initiatives. Additionaly, a poll  conducted in Missouri by Citizens in Charge in 2010 found that citizens in the state support initiative & referendum by a whopping 7 to 1 margin.
Stay tuned for updates on this very important piece of legislation.