California's $2000 initiative poll tax?

Even as the Secretary of State and legislative leaders are championing legislation to make it easier for Californians to register and turn out to vote (for them), lawmakers don't seem to want Californians to be able to vote on ideas of their own.

A bill to increase the ballot initiative filing fee tenfold could pass the State Senate next week.

Multiplying the filing fee from the current $200 to $2000 would make proposing a ballot initiative in California more expensive than any other state. Only four other states, of the 26 with initiatives, require a filing fee at all: Mississippi $500, Alaska $100, Ohio $25, and Washington $5.

Initiatives are the public's last resort when special interest influence stands in the way of common sense reforms in the Legislature.  AB 1100's exorbitant fee would short circuit that process before some citizen ideas are able to get off the ground.

As Sunday's LA Times editorial put it:

California's legislators seem to believe that jacking up the fee for filing a ballot initiative to $2,000 from $200 will stifle frivolous ideas before they can be inflicted on the rest of us. But if the Legislature passes AB 1100, the only thing that will be stifled is the state's imperfect but still functioning system of direct democracy.

A higher fee would act as a kind of poll tax, unfairly excluding people with fewer means while not necessarily excluding the worst ideas.

 

It hasn't been that long since an all-volunteer citizen campaign passed an initiative to save the mountain lions in California. Volunteers with Consumer Watchdog gathered signatures in five cities across the state - all-volunteer - to successfully place conflict of interest laws on local ballots.

AB 1100 would strike one more blow against access by average citizens, in favor of whoever has the biggest bankroll.

Hiram Johnson won't just be rolling in his grave. He'll be a spinning rotisserie.

 

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