I-517

It is not often that an initiative, a bill which is brought to ballot by the efforts of citizens and then voted on to become state law, causes so much conflict within similar groups of people. Oh, I-522 is getting plenty of heat, but the vast majority of conflict comes from isolated groups, i.e. corporations vs. citizens. Though there may be conflict on the quality of the law, it holds up or fails largely depending on the group, mainly because it holds emotional values to only one side, where citizens want to right to know and corporations want the right to cheaper labeling. Knowledge vs. money and no matter which holds more value, knowledge looks better on paper.

I-517 lacks the one-sidedness of such initiatives. On the one hand, advocates spearheaded by Tim Eynman, the conservative political activist who wrote the law argue that it allows for the safety of a person right to gather votes, a right protected by the first amendment. This will likely not pass through the State Court, of course, because the methods listed for doing so are themselves appear 1st right infringing. Since the law guarantees the right to gather votes in any public space, including sidewalks in front of the entrances and exits of stores, in a way that many consider intrusive, it is only natural to assume that store owners might tell petitioners to leave.

My first thoughts were of harassment, deliberate sabotage and no recourse. If a store owner cannot ask a petitioner to leave their property, what is stopping republican-paid signature gatherers from intentionally making a place seem less pleasant by their presence? I certainly would stop going to shop someplace where I got accosted every time I went inside and so the store owner suffers. I imagine lackeys, grunts for democrats looking for property-owners who vote republican or vice-a-versa and those same store-owners being forced to ‘pay for protection’ with their vote to save themselves from the wrath of private political affiliates.

This scenario is a drastic imagining that probably would never happen, but it is strange to ponder over simply because it could happen and property owners would have no means of punishing the signature-gatherers and in fact asking or forcing signature-gatherers to leave would be considered a misdemeanor.

And yet, I cannot quite say that I-517 should be so easily dismissed.

Initiatives are designed such that the average citizen can write and collect signatures for any issue that they so choose. It’s a powerful check and balance set in place by this state so that We, the People, are not hostage to the pace of the bureaucracy. And yet, local initiatives that follow every law and code can still be blocked from reaching a ballot by private parties who sue in State Court. The citizens have a right to vote on anything they put on the ballot, and I-517 would bypass this loophole.

In my opinion, these issues must be split and not dealt with under the same initiative. Initiatives should have the ability to bypass predated laws if it is the wish of the public. So when you send in your ballot, hopefully soon, vote no on I-517.

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