Kansas City Star editorial board member Barb Shelly posted this earlier today in response to the failed attempt by the Missouri campaign to erode equal opportunity in that state:
Nice to see the cynically named “Civil Rights Initiative” fall short of the petition signature requirements in Missouri.
This was, in my mind, the most offensive of several constitutional amendments being pushed by out-of-state groups. It would have barred schools and employers from giving preference to applicants based on race.
Schools and employers should have the right to determine whether it’s in their interests to boost minority representation. If Missourians thought affirmative action was a problem here, proposals to curb it would have bubbled up from the General Assembly or from a grass-roots initiative.
But the petition drive that’s been taking place was spearheaded and largely financed by California businessman Ward Connerly. And many of the signature-gatherers are not Missourians upset by affirmative action. They’re employees of another creatively named company, National Ballot Access of Georgia.
Another petition drive, to recall the $500 loss limit for gamblers at Missouri casinos, is being coordinated by National Petition Management Inc., a Michigan firm.
A good story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has more details about the business of signature gathering.
Some states have passed laws banning gatherers from being paid by the signature, on the theory that it promotes deceit about the petitions. Rep. Rachel Storch, a St. Louis Democrat, has proposed such a measure for Missouri.
I’m for it. It’s good for a state to have a vigorous citizen initiative petition process. But the process is being manipulated in an unhealthy way by monied out-of-state groups and individuals. Some correction wouldn’t be a bad thing.