Initiative reform finds bipartisan support

by Jay Stevens 

It’s nice to see some bipartisanship on initiative reform. Yesterday state attorney general Mike McGrath (D) and secretary of state Brad Johnson (R) called for changes in the initiative law that would limit signature gathering to state residents, and forbids paying signature gatherers by the signature. (The sponsors of the bill are Sen. Carol Williams [D-Missoula] and Rep. Alan Olson [R-Roundup].)

We know why these proposals were made, don’t we? Pervasive fraud in the signature gathering for Howie Rich’s anti-government initiatives.

Guess who’s against the reform?

[Trevis Butcher] questioned requiring state residency for signature gatherers and prohibiting per-signature payments. Residency is established easily and the payment rule could be circumvented by paying more to people who collect many signatures than to those collecting relatively few, said Butcher, son of legislator Ed Butcher, R-Winifred.

It’s sort of ironic that T. Butcher is complaining that the new rules could still be exploited, isn’t it? I mean, he’s living proof of why the current rules…well…suck:

Eric Feaver, the president of the MEA-MFT union, which helped lead the campaign against the proposed limit on increases in most state spending, welcomed the legislation. The ballot-measure process needs an overhaul to help control “fraud and deceit,” Feaver said.Payment per signature becomes an incentive to collect signatures that may not be valid, Feaver said. Signature gathering by nonresidents is a problem because “when they leave, if you have questions as to how they collected signatures, you can’t find them,” he said.

Basically, the old rules allowed one person to organize a ballot initiative drive quickly and quietly. All you have to do is dump a lot of money into the project, truck in a bunch of professional signature gatherers and get to work.

The new rules would help ensure that a Montana ballot initiative involves Montanans. After all, changing the state’s constitution should be difficult.

I’ve heard rumors that Sideshow Scott and his assorted geeks, bearded ladies, and fire-eaters would likely obstruct initiative reform. Hopefully Johnson and Olson’s participation in the reform signals a willingness by Republicans to do the right thing.

  1. 1 The Butchers’ overhaul of the initiative process elicits — or deserves — little interest « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] pitfalls. She, and most of the other opponents, urged the committee to give its support instead to Senate Bill 96, which was drafted with the concurrence of the Justice Department and the secretary of […]

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