State Legislatures Drag Their Feet On Voter-Approved Ballot Initiatives

Another factor that explains this year’s legislative backlash is the proliferation of ballot measures regulating the political process itself. After voters approved two anti-gerrymandering measures in Ohio, for example, lawmakers have attempted to restrict citizens’ ability to get measures on the ballot next election. Todd Donovan, a political scientist at Western Washington University, said legislatures are most likely to water down initiatives that limit their power to govern and their likelihood of being re-elected.

This also explains why lawmakers in Florida may be moving to limit the impact of the constitutional amendment giving felons the right to vote. “A changing electorate challenges a party’s power,” Donovan said. “Representatives in Florida might be thinking, ‘We’ve got to do this because it’ll be a different electorate next time and we’re toast.’ They’re abandoning the norm that when you lose an election you lose power.”