Ballot initiatives: The dirty dozen?

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It appears that none of 12 possible ballot initiatives reached the signature threshold to appear on the November ballot in Montana.

Frankly, we are glad.

Could you imagine the alternative? That all 12 of the initiatives would appear on the ballot, along with the two measures already put there by the Legislature?

That scenario would have asked our state’s voters to become experts on game management (banning trapping on public lands), medical insurance (expansion of Medicaid in order to take advantage of “free” federal money), tax policy (Charter Communications was protesting how its taxes were assessed) and drug policy (legalizing marijuana, on the one hand, or repealing Montana’s medical marijuana law and adopting federal statutory language about controlled substances on the other hand).

Well, you get the picture. And that’s just five of the 12 failed initiatives. We doubt anyone except maybe the secretary of state could even tell you what all 12 of the proposed measures were.

There is something almost intoxicating about the opportunity for voters to decide by direct vote what is and isn’t legal in Montana, but direct democracy is a tyranny of the majority waiting to happen. The voters don’t always know best, especially when you ask them to make decisions about complicated topics that involve life and death, freedom and turning off the federal spigot. Our Founding Fathers gave us a republic for very good reason.

Far be it from us to say that the Legislature is always capable of making wise decisions after thorough debate unswayed by money or special interests, but those legislators serve at our discretion and we can hold them accountable. What happens when a voter initiative turns out to have costly unintended consequences? Do we impeach ourselves?

In conclusion, all citizens need to take their responsibilities seriously. We are glad that there is a relatively high threshold for initiatives to make it on to the ballot, and whenever voters do have to make a final decision on what shall become law, we pray they do their duty and learn both sides of the issue before casting their vote.

And yes, it’s important to remember those two legislative referendums that will appear on the ballot Nov. 4. One proposes to end late voter registration on Election Day, while the other would change the name of the state auditor to the commissioner of securities and insurance. Study the pros and cons and make an informed decision.


Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Daily Inter Lake’s editorial board.

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