Kansas needs citizen-powered democracy


Following is an op-ed by Paul Jacob that recently appeared in the Wichita Eagle, although this is the version he sent to me. Jacob is president of Citizens in Charge Foundation, a national organization that promotes the rights of initiative and referendum. The citizens of Kansas enjoy neither of these.

Fort Hays State University Professor Chapman Rackaway is entitled to his opinion that “Voter initiative sounds good but is bad idea” (September 14 Wichita Eagle), but not to make up his own facts to buttress this viewpoint.

Rackaway uses inaccurate claims about California’s initiative process to argue against Republican Secretary of State candidate Kris Kobach’s popular proposal to allow Kansans to petition issues onto the ballot for a statewide vote.

It’s instructive that the professor focuses on far away California, ignoring the states surrounding Kansas — Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma — all with voter initiatives. Note that a recent state ranking by the American Legislative Exchange Council placed all four neighboring initiative states ahead of Kansas for economic performance from 1998-2008.

Still, Rackaway’s assertions about California are not true. For instance, the professor states, “A typical ballot there has 50 or more initiatives…” The most initiatives ever on a single California statewide ballot? Seventeen. Back in 1914.

Professor Rackaway contends that, “Initiatives have marginalized that state legislature’s ability to budget …” But even the California Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded recently that “the legislature maintains considerable control over the state budget.”

Rackaway also cites several “silly initiatives” that are on this year’s California ballot. The only problem being that none of the initiatives mentioned by the professor are actually on the ballot. Oops!

“If we had 75 percent voter turnout and an electorate committed to informed participation,” wrote Rackaway, “the initiative would be a worthwhile proposal.” But in his view, Kansans currently aren’t up to the job of making decisions.

Both factually and otherwise, the esteemed professor is sorely mistaken. Kansans deserve the right to vote on the issues that affect their lives, especially on reforms like term limits opposed by self-serving politicians. Thank goodness Mr. Kobach is standing up for the average citizen.


2 responses to “Kansas needs citizen-powered democracy”

  1. Anonymous

    Kobach standing up for average citizens? Like what? Ultra conservatives like Kobach are anything but good for the state. Don’t think so? Remember the debate over evolution a few years back? How damaging was that?

    These types are often pontificating authoritarian narrow minded thinkers who concentrate on the power trip of forcing people to accept their own prejudices and mores and are intolerant of other points of view.

    The Secretary of State’s office is for Kobach a bully pulpit gateway to what he hopes will be higher office that has no business pursuing the issues he outlines for it. It needs to concentrate on what it does best as a peaceful efficient organization in a sea of contentiousness. It’s too important to this state to have an antagonist at the helm like Kline was to the Attorney General’s office. You need an ‘Elwill Shanahan’ in an office like that, not a political activist.

    If you want better government participation for the legislature one thing that could be done would be to shorten the session so more people could participate if elected. Right now you have those who are retired, basically unemployed, own their own businesses with others who run them, or professionals with time on their hand. It is very limiting.

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