Washington state got an F in initiatives last week.
Not that the state enrolled in Ballot Measures 101 or anything. We graduated with a degree in initiatives and referendums in 1914, when state residents added that power to the constitution.
But the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a Washington, D.C., group which bills itself as a place that “strengthens democracy by building a national progressive strategy for ballot issues”, annually grades states for the kinds of changes it thinks the states should make to “ensure the integrity of their initiative process.” It has looked at our laws and determined that we don’t rate. For the third year in a row.
Don’t be smirking over there, Idaho. You got an F, too.
In its 25-point test, Washington got graded down for not having 14 of the things the center thought a good state should have. Things like keeping folks from re-running the same initiative for at least three years or requiring notarized affidavits that all signatures are gathered within the law or banning companies for paying people based on the number of signatures they gather. They have some interesting and even debatable ideas, which could be why the Legislature has debated many of them, but never approved them.
Chances are good some Washington progressive groups will propose legislation along those lines again next year.
But those groups might want to think twice about citing Washington’s failing grade from the Center as a reason to change state law. In grading all 24 states that have the initiative process, the Center flunked half, gave out one B, one C, and the rest Ds. That’s not a curve, it’s a slope like a ski jump.
Most teachers who turned in a grade book like that would be answering questions about what was wrong with their methods, not with their class.
Seems like a more honest way to grade initiatives might be to give states that don’t allow them an F, and work up from there. Just sayin.