It’s just a little democracy. What are people so afraid of?
In this, the year of the citizen initiative, Utahns have taken lawmaking into their own hands at a level not seen in decades, perhaps ever. It will be two more weeks before we know which of four initiatives have enough signatures to be on the ballot in November — but we already know who is feeling threatened.
Two of the four faced late rescission campaigns, in which petition-signers were tracked down and asked to take back their willingness to let the people vote.
We’ve apparently arrived at a point where if you sign a petition, you may hear from your LDS bishop.
The Tribune’s Lee Davidson reported this week that a bishop and Relief Society president in at least one LDS ward in Davis County organized a rescission effort over the medical marijuana initiative. One woman in the congregation was distraught because she had signed the petition and was now being asked to help undo it.
The church is on record opposing the initiative, but a church spokesman declined to publicly address the specifics of that case. Instead he referred to the church’s standing statement that it encourages members’ political participation but does not allow “church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes.”
The other initiative getting a rescission campaign is the effort to clean up the process for putting candidates on primary ballots. In that case, opponents wanted to kill a petition to improve petitioning, the latest act of desperation from the same Republican insiders who plunged their party into debt in a still unsuccessful lawsuit to keep party delegates as the only path to primaries.
Utah already has arguably one of the most difficult processes in the nation to get a citizen initiative on the ballot, the product of the politicians who aren’t particularly interested in sharing their power. Those same politicians also added a mechanism for letting people later remove their signatures, creating a window of opportunity for petition opponents to intimidate them into doing just that.
Signing a initiative petition simply acknowledges that you want the issue before voters. It doesn’t necessarily mean you want it to pass. It’s a call to let the people’s voice be heard. Even Gov. Gary Herbert, who opposes the medical marijuana initiative and didn’t sign the petition, has said he’s OK with it being on the ballot.
Will he hear from his bishop?