Two weeks ago we encouraged Democrats to assist with a petition drive to put the school voucher issue on the ballot. Since then we have been subjected to lectures on: the nature of “representative” government; the wishes of our Founding Fathers; accused of a “power grab”; advised not to take a stance on things we care about because of how “popular” we are in rural Utah; told it is a “waste of time, energy, and means”; and, that we should not “put the community through such a divisive and futile battle.”
We would like to point out something: Article VI, Section 1 of the Utah State Constitution clearly puts the voters of Utah on an equal footing with the State Legislature by vesting Utah’s legislative powers with the Senate, House and the People of the State of Utah.
This voucher legislation has significant implications for every public school and family in Utah. As such, we do advocate a “power grab” by the People of Utah to assert their constitutional rights
Regardless of your opinion on vouchers, the use of referenda to put laws passed by the legislature to a vote of the people is written into the Utah Constitution, which explicitly recognizes that power in our state rests with the people as co-equal to the rest of the legislative branch.
With public opinion polls showing strong opposition to vouchers and support for our neighborhood public schools, it is 58 Republicans serving us in state government who are putting Utahns through an unnecessary and divisive referendum battle. Had any one of 38 Republican State House members voting to support this scheme adequately represented the will of the people, Utahns would not be asked to vote on this issue. It is ironic that the motto over the House chamber is “vox populi” or “voice of the people.” Clearly, Republican State House members really think they are people’s voice and have taken numerous steps over the years to limit the actual ability of the People to have their say through referenda and initiative as a co-equal legislative voice.
Referenda are a necessary check on legislative power and an important means of fostering debate within our representative democracy, especially in a state that has seen considerable gerrymandering making it difficult for the people to truly hold their representatives accountable on Election Day.
It is well within the Utah Democratic Party’s mission to adopt and promote statements of policy. We proudly do so. Utahns of every political stripe -- even those from rural Utah -- should assert their constitutional authority and place this issue on the ballot. It is our patriotic duty to jealously protect the power of the People of the State of Utah to have their say on important matters like the school voucher scheme.