Republicans across the country are working to make it harder to pass ballot measures — a direct threat to abortion-rights advocates and other liberal groups’ efforts to bypass governors and legislatures and take issues directly to voters.
The next major test for the strategy comes in November: Arizona and Arkansas’ GOP-controlled legislatures are asking voters to approve constitutional amendments that would raise the threshold for ballot initiatives from 50 percent to 60 percent. Arkansas’ proposal would apply to constitutional amendments and citizen-initiated state statutes on any subject matter, including abortion. Arizona’s applies only to taxation-related measures, though some see it as a prelude to a broader version.
“Our state constitution … should only be amended when there is genuine consensus among voters,” said Arkansas state Rep. David Ray, the Republican who sponsored the proposed amendment. “[The ballot measure] provides a much-needed guardrail so that big money, out-of-state special interests quit trying to hijack our state constitution and ballot initiative system by pulling the wool over voters’ eyes and effectively buying new laws and constitutional amendments.”
The Republican push to regulate ballot measures has escalated in recent years as citizen-led initiatives have been used to legalize marijuana, expand Medicaid, create independent redistricting commissions and raise the minimum wage in purple and red states.
But the tactic is under new scrutiny after deep-red Kansas’ anti-abortion referendum failed by a wide margin, which gave abortion-rights supporters around the country hope that ballot measures can be a viable way to circumvent GOP-controlled legislatures and restore access to the procedure.
Some progressives worry they could lose one of their last remaining tools to defend or advance abortion rights in a post-Roe country.