One way to take the pulse of the state’s political climate is to observe the issues raised in proposed referendum questions for the commonwealth’s electorate to consider.
Massachusetts voters next year likely will be asked to decide a handful of the more than two dozen proposed ballot questions submitted by Wednesday’s deadline.
That’s because only a few will make it through the laborious signature gathering — and legal vetting — process required to secure a spot on the ballot.
Of the 30 petitions filed, 28 are proposed laws for the 2022 statewide ballot, with an additional two constitutional amendments for the 2024 election, according to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.
Those two constitutional amendments do not include the millionaires’ tax proposal, which went through a separate legislative process to get on the ballot.
The questions encompass a wish-list gamut, from protecting whales and bringing back “happy hours,” to a measure that would require voters to produce IDs at polling locations.
A companion question to voter ID would mandate that all votes cast in the state be hand-counted.
In some instances, it’s fairly easy to recognize the forces behind certain initiatives. One that would limit the number of alcohol licenses any one company or individual can hold certainly has the support of package-store owners and associated trade associations, which fear that statewide chains like Cumberland Farms will use their scale to undercut their bottom line.
However, our hands-down favorite goes to the measure that would make it a felony to target an individual’s ability to make a living due to postings on social media, something that virtually everyone who regretted hitting that “send” button could support.
While we do agree that questionable statements made by an ignorant or impetuous youth shouldn’t be held against that person decades later, we can’t conceive of a law that could successfully protect someone from themselves.
Some ballot bids seem unnecessary, like the proposed ballot question submitted by the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance that would rescind the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a pact signed in 2020 by the governors of three New England states — Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island — and the mayor of Washington, D.C., aimed at reducing transportation pollution by taxing its source.
Promoted as a measure with wide regional support, that enthusiasm waned over time, from the 12 states supposedly ready to join that compact to the paltry three – and D.C. – that ultimately did.
Better to let it just die a flawed policy death.
Our vote for the most controversial, high-profile question goes to that voter ID mandate.
It drew the enthusiastic support of embattled state Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons, an avowed supporter of former President Donald Trump, which immediately gave it a third-rail dimension for state Democratic Party activists.
But what about average voters, especially that vast majority who claim to be independent of either party? Is it a voting impediment, specifically for minorities, as progressives claim?
For the record, according to Ballotpedia.org, which bills itself as a digital encyclopedia of American politics and elections, the majority of states require voter IDs of various sorts. Twenty require photo IDs, while in 15 other states, a nonphoto ID will suffice.
As for other democracies? France, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Northern Ireland and Switzerland are among those that require some form of voter ID, hardly a repressive bunch.
We’ve already expressed our opposition to happy hours and the millionaires’ tax questions, which proposes a 4% surtax on the portion of an individual’s annual income that exceeds $1 million, with the expected $2 billion in annual revenue generated to be used for education and transportation.
It will be instructive to see which of these petitions meet the signature requirement and pass legal muster.
When that’s known, we invite supporters and detractors of these referendum questions to state their case with letters to the editor, the guidelines of which can be found at the bottom of this page.