Initiative and Referendum in Alabama

by Frank Dillman

 

Do you want and deserve greater participation in our Alabama state government? By legislative design, the citizens of Alabama have limited access to OUR government.

Our Open Records Act is a joke and ballot access for the Libertarian Party of Alabama, Independent, and other minor party candidates is one of the most rigid in the nation. Citizens’ screams for Recall routinely with regularity.  My Common Core friends have tried to convince our Legislators to remove Common Core from our state for nearly a decade.

Direct Democracy is the right to represent ourselves, most common with Initiative and Referendum (I&R) within state, county, and municipality governments.

Initiative = the citizens’ right to place statues and Constitutional Amendments on their ballot. Referendum = is the right to ratify or reject legislative action. Legislative Referenda is from the Legislature as compared to Popular Referenda from the citizens.

I&R is the process used for specific issues: recall, government, education, and election reform, gaming and lottery, term limits, tax reform, grocery tax, repealing pistol permits listing a few.

Citizens in 26 states and District of Columbia have this right in one form or another. Over 70% of the US population at the state, county, and municipal governments are armed with a form of this right. Birmingham citizens have this right; however, the signature threshold is deliberately high to render it out of reach.

Look no further than the unpopular Alabama 2019 Fuel Tax Act for an example where a Popular Referendum would place it on a ballot for the citizens’ ratification or rejection.

Citizens have been demanding Recall for years, if not decades. Besides the 2019 fuel tax, citizens wanted to recall former Governor Bentley, discussing of recalling public servants concerning the I-10 toll bridge, and the unbalanced scales of the Lady of Justice concerning former Speaker Mike Hubbard. Citizens want a lottery and gaming, fair ballot access, greater transparency of government, yet our legislators do not represent us; they do however, represent the PACs providing political favors and campaign contributions.

We possess the ability, energy, passion, and determination to solve these problems when and how we desire should our government fail us. However, first we must get the right of Initiative and Referendum to the electorate.

Citizens in California (1914) used of an initiative outlawing the poll tax (52% Yes), Arizona (1912) successfully used the same process for Women Suffrage (63.68% Yes and 36.32% No), St Petersburg, Florida (2013) rejected an unpopular Gulf pier design by >63% voting to reject, Mississippi citizens (2011) not wanting another Kelo, CT strengthened the oft abused Eminent Domain used to take and flip property for economic development with >73% favorable votes, Michigan (2018, about 61% favorable votes) and other states voting to take redistricting from their legislature. The list includes medical and recreational Marijuana (Michigan 2018, 55.89% Yes and 44.11 No), gaming, and the Alaska Libertarian Party (1980) heading up an initiative to eliminate the state personal income tax which generated enough pressure on the Legislature to act without a vote of the people. Citizens in Wyoming, Alaska, and other governments ratified citizen sponsored efforts for Term Limits.

Michigan voters took gerrymandering from the legislature (61% to 39%), and Colorado (>70%), Missouri (62% to 38%) and Utah (50.34% to 49.66%). Considering the recent US Supreme Court decision choosing not to hear a gerrymandering case and pushing it back to the lower court and states, expect to see more of the same citizen driven efforts to redistrict vice legislative gerrymandering.

House member Mike Ball (R, Dist 10) introduced I&R for nearly 15 years, with the bill pre-destined to failure for many years at the hands a committee chair, Randy Davis (R, Dist 96), who now has the notoriety of being indicted on conspiracy to commit bribery related to federal programs.

Final thought, of the 19 states with Recall, 11 states possess I&R.

The Libertarian Nation Platform article 3.6 is in favor of citizens having greater access to their governments, including Initiative and Referendum.

“3.6 Representative Government
We support election systems that are more representative of the electorate at the federal, state and local levels. As private voluntary groups, political parties should be free to establish their own rules for nomination procedures, primaries and conventions. We call for an end to any tax-financed subsidies to candidates or parties and the repeal of all laws which restrict voluntary financing of election campaigns. We oppose laws that effectively exclude alternative candidates and parties, deny ballot access, gerrymander districts, or deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives. We advocate initiative, referendum, recall and repeal when used as popular checks on government.”

In closing, human beings possessing different thoughts, objectives, and opinions cannot expect to be pleased with the outcome of all initiatives or referenda. The Alabama legislature determines what we can vote on as Constitutional Amendments yet ignores our involvement with statutes. Initiative and Referendum will encourage (cause) the legislature to adopt an attitude and practice of compromise and openness with We the People.

From in-person lobbying with legislators, speaking events, and running for office, Frank Dillman has fought tirelessly for I&R in Alabama for the last 10+ years.  For his tireless activism on behalf of I&R and the LPA, in March 2019, Frank was awarded a Lifetime Membership in the LPA and the 2019 Igniting the Flame Award for his campaign for Macon County Commission.  For more information about I&R, visit www.letbamavote.org and Let Bama Vote on Facebook.