Ballot measures have become a popular way to enact new policies — from minimum wage hikes and legalized marijuana to abortion restrictions and ethics reforms. But voter-approved measures are meeting more pushback. Republican legislators in several states are fighting ballot measures on two fronts: As was the case following the 2016 election, they are trying to overturn provisions of some laws that voters just passed in November. They are also seeking legislative changes that would make it harder for ballot measures to pass in the future. “Lawmakers are undermining the will of their constituents by unraveling these voter-approved changes and attacking the ballot measure process,” says Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which promotes progressive ballot measures.
Progressives in particular have sought in recent years to push ideas through the initiative process that couldn’t win approval through legislatures, such as minimum wage increases and the creation of independent redistricting commissions.
“Since the direct initiative is a vehicle through which voters can enact policies that the legislature or governor may not have wanted, it makes sense that politicians would want to make it relatively difficult to pass measures,” says Craig Burnett, a political scientist at Hofstra University who studies ballot measures. “When high-profile measures pass over the objection of lawmakers, it is not surprising to me to find that additional states would try to adopt policies that limit the ability of ballot measures to succeed.”