Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann has ideas on how to reform the way Wisconsin’s government works, but unfortunately, some of his ideas aren’t really that great. As part of his five point “Strong Wisconsin Reform” plan, Neumann proposes the ‘Let the People Decide’ Reform, which would enable Wisconsin’s citizens to bring initiatives and referenda before all voters in Wisconsin via a statewide ballot:
An increasingly common complaint of Wisconsin citizens is that government ignores their calls for reform. As Governor, Mark Neumann will support allowing citizens to bring initiatives and referenda before all voters via a statewide ballot. In order to appear on the ballot, a percentage of supporting petition signatures from eligible citizens will be collected in a proportionate amount from every county.
While citizen-sponsored ballot initiatives and referenda certainly may seem like a good idea on the surface, there’s a key point Mark Neumann doesn’t acknowledge about such initiatives and referenda, that being that those referenda and ballot initiatives cost money. After all, it costs money to print ballots and run elections, and given Wisconsin’s budget difficulties, it seems foolhardy to mandate that the state spend more money on any random ballot initiatives and referenda that happen to get enough signatures to merit a statewide ballot. What’s more, if there’s a lesson to be learned from the state of California, it’s that giving citizens the ability to have ballot initiatives and referenda brought for for statewide consideration can be extremely costly:
Would more elections cost more money? Not necessarily. Statewide elections typically cost taxpayers anywhere from $50 million to $100 million. But by instituting a strict quarterly system, election officials could plan years in advance and perhaps cut cheaper deals with printers and other suppliers. A quarterly system could be combined with new measures to push voting by mail or reforms such as instant runoff voting (which permits voters to rank choices), thus reducing costs.
Granted, the costs associated with citizen-sponsored ballot initiative and referenda wouldn’t be quite as high in Wisconsin as in California, but even if such measures cost the state an extra $5-10 million per year more, the cost would hardly seem worth it, given our state’s fiscal difficulties.
Caffeinated Politics has more on this.