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.