Vouchers: Let the people decide?
Note: The following is in response to voucher opponents who complain that voucher supporters do not intend to abide by the vote of the people if vouchers are rejected.
Voucher opponents, confident that they will prevail in a popular vote, are demanding "Let the people decide on vouchers".
What they really mean is "Let the people decide on vouchers, unless they vote in favor of vouchers. Then let the courts decide." Everyone knows that, if vouchers are approved by the voters, many of the same people and groups who are yelling "Let the people decide" will wait a full two nanoseconds before yelling "Let the courts decide."
Most voucher opponents will not abide by a decision of the people if the voters support vouchers. Here's how the 5-step process works.
1. Let the Legislature decide? Yes, unless they decide to support vouchers.
2. Let the people decide? Yes, unless they decide to support vouchers.
3. Let the state courts decide? Yes, unless they decide to support/uphold vouchers.
4. Let the federal courts decide? Yes, unless they decide to support/uphold vouchers.
5. Let voucher opponents decide? Yes, even though they are a minority, there are enough of them to justify stopping the program.
This is how our political process works (at least the first four steps), but let's make sure we understand what is meant by "letting the people decide."
A little too confident about victory in a popular election?
In 2004, supporters of a statewide sales tax increase to preserve open space and build convention centers were confident of victory. The polls showed overwhelming support, about 2 to 1 in the early and intermediate stages of the campaign. They had the money, organization, smart consultants, and overwhelming media support.
The mantra was "Let the people decide because we don't like the Legislature's decision not to impose this tax increase."
Right after the polls closed on election night, Dan Jones confidently and cheerfully predicted that Initiative 1 would pass. Supporters partied on TV in a swanky downtown hotel, and opponents sat at home watching the results come in on their lap tops. When the dust settled, support for the tax increase came in at 45.1%. Even opponents were surprised.
Since steps three and four were not available, supporters of the tax increase went straight to step five and argued that even though they didn't get 50%, they got 45% and that was enough support to convince the Legislature that "something" had to be done about open space.