There exists an argument for high hurdles to make new laws.
The great Swedish economist Knut Wicksell thought that the only just rule for voting in a representative democracy should be by supermajority: 70 or 80 percent or more in favor . . . then only should a law pass.
If a new proposal cannot merit supermajority agreement, then it doesn’t deserve to be made a law. A proposal backed only by bare majority (or, even, effective plurality) support indicates that it helps its supporters at the expense of its detractors.
And is thus bad law.
Fine in theory. But in practice . . .
We don’t live in a world where the bulk of our laws have been passed that way, or one in which current legislatures work that way. Most laws that are passed in state and federal legislative houses possess only tiny support from the citizenry. And that only superficial. (Say, they like the promise but haven’t read the bill. Which is pretty much the same for the legislators themselves, in this decadent stage of our democracy manqué.)
Which means that while representatives could use a supermajority requirement, we the citizens shouldn’t be stuck with it, or any other high hurdles, for our initiative process. As long as bad laws remain on the books, and as long politicians go native and continually enact even worse laws, we sure could use ballot access and effective petitioning rights.
Just to bring some balance to the system. You know, a check in addition to the mostly discarded checks established in the U.S. Constitution.
So, at least a half-hurray for the ruling by U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon, who declared unconstitutional a Nebraska requirement that initiative petitions sign up 5 percent in each county for qualification.
The legislated requirement presented a somewhat obstructive hurdle for the people.
The judge ruled that it made rural votes worth more than city votes. Whatever the rationale, the outcome is good.
Nebraskans may contemplate putting tougher requirements on their democratic process . . . but only after the Unicameral is socked with even stricter ones.