Washington, DC – Last week, The Guardian and The New York Times covered the Fairness Project’s work to protect direct democracy from extremist lawmakers who are trying to shut down the citizen-led ballot measure process.
In response to the success of progressive ballot measures on issues like Medicaid expansion and minimum wage, several state legislatures have moved to make citizen-initiated ballot measures more difficult to pass. In South Dakota earlier this year, voters defeated a proposal to require that ballot measures pass by 60% — but in both Arkansas and Arizona, voters will see similar questions put forth by their state legislators this November. The Fairness Project is part of the coalitions seeking to defeat those measures and protect direct democracy.
“Kelly Hall, the executive director of the Fairness Project, a progressive group that focuses on winning ballot measures, hailed the results of the recent referendum in Kansas, where voters rejected a proposal to add a ban on abortion to the state’s Constitution.”
“Many of us had a delightful wake-up call on the power of ballot measures in early August with the vote in Kansas,” Hall said. “But it has also sparked a backlash,” she added, and “a lot of opposition spending.”
“What we’re seeing is red states trying to curtail this tool that citizens have used really successfully to move policies that are otherwise stuck for, usually, political reasons,” said Hannah Ledford, deputy executive director and campaigns director for the Fairness Project.
“Arizona is already one of the hardest states in the country to run ballot initiatives,” Ledford said. “And I think adding this extra layer of uncertainty around how many votes do you need to win, what subjects can it encompass, and will the legislature undo it immediately on the back end, I think just adds an extra layer of risk – and certainly – cost.”
One year ago, the Fairness Project launched its $5 million Ballot Measure Rescue Campaign to defend against these under-the-radar assaults on the democratic process. In addition to its Ballot Measure Rescue Campaign, the Fairness Project is also working proactively with local partners to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska, protect reproductive freedom in Michigan and Vermont, curb predatory medical debt in Arizona, expand Medicaid coverage in South Dakota, and enhance the accountability of law enforcement in Los Angeles County.