Thursday Round Up: A Look at a Petition Firm
DEPARTMENT OF MOON HOWLING: The Las Vegas Review & Journal takes a long look at one of the country's more important signature firms, National Voter Outreach and its CEO Rick Arnold. I've interviewed Arnold in his Carson City home, and found him to be one of the more thoughtful people in the petition trade, critical of its problems and clear-eyed about its limitations. This story is built heavily around criticism from the liberal/progressive Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which is quick to lable signature gathering as corrupt (at least in cases where it opposes the cause in question). There is a "shocked, shocked" quality to this criticism. The signature gathering business has plenty of problem workers, many of them poorly trained folks who, for lifestyle reasons, have taken a job that usually pays them in cash. But BISC and other critics invariably propopse to criminalize the process of gathering signatures, as in Oklahoma. In supporting these restrictions, liberals are hurting themselves, by establishing precedents restricting political speech that can be used by their political opponents. And such restrictions don't stop direct democracy. They merely slow it down, adding to the costs (and thus the influence of interest groups) that progressives love to denounce. The more you regulate, the more firms like National Voter Outreach will benefit.
BLOOMIE AND ARNOLD: Mike Bloomberg, deepening his involvement in California initiative politics, hosts a fundraiser tonight on behalf of Gov. Schwarzenegger's redistricting ballot initiative. It's still gathering signatures on the street.
MICHIGAN POT: Medical marijuana initiative makes the ballot in Michigan after legislature declines to adopt the measure itself. (hat tip to Ballotpedia).
INDIVIDUAL MANDATE: A ballot initiative to establish an individual mandate for health care in Michigan is now circulating on the street.
NO ANIMAL CONFINEMENT MEASURE IN COLORADO: Colorado's ballot will be a little less crowded, as animal rights advocates drop their farm animal confinement measure. The state legislature passed legislation similar enough to satisfy the initiative's backers.
OAKLAND YOUTH: Here's an interesting report on a city of Oakland (Calif.) ballot initiative to double funding for a youth services program.
NEVADA NEUTRALITY: School superintendents, never fan of teachers' union, are staying out of a coming mega-ballot war in Nevada over the union's effort to raise taxes on gaming to generate more funds for education.
MAINE DEBATE: A referendum question has been submitted in Maine that would remove "sexual orientation" from human rights and discrimination law, and bar same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples.
PARENTAL NOTIFICATION: Here's a description of another attempt, via California blalot initiative, to require parental notification for minors seeking abortions. A similar initiative went down in the 2005 special election. Over the past week, I found this initiative was a low priority for the state's signature gatherers. It's pay $1 or less a signature, half the price being paid by sponsors of redistricting, crime victims' rights, and alternative fuel measures.
FROM OVERSEAS: Croatians won't get to vote on their country's decision to join NATO.