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Allowing tyranny of the apathetic majority

There are several propositions on the ballot this year, and some have been more widely talked about than others. One of the others is Proposition 105, also known as the “Majority Rules Initiative” by its supporters.

Looking at my mail-in ballot, the proposition is rather simply worded. The basic premise is any initiative that “imposes additional taxes or spending” must pass by a majority of all registered voters, rather than a majority of those who cast a ballot.

On its face, it seems to uphold the basic ideas of American democracy. It emphasizes the importance of voting and the idea of our country being founded on the principle of majority rule.

However, the deeper meaning is much more upsetting.

If passed, the initiative would make it nearly impossible to pass fiscal initiatives. Any initiative proposed, a bond for a school district to raise money, to increase the sales tax or to use state money for a road improvement, would likely never pass. According to a July report of the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee, no initiative, with or without fiscal aspects, has passed by a majority of all registered voters since 1998.

This is not a matter of “majority rules” as the supporters would like you to think. Rather, it is a matter of ignoring the majority that takes the time and effort to make their voice heard.

Because the initiative requires a majority of registered voters, those who do not vote are counted as an automatic “no” vote.

Voting is a right, but like many rights, you must assert it. It is not difficult to request an early ballot, take a few minutes to connect the arrows and mail it in before Election Day. Those who take the time and make the effort to do so — go to a polling place on Election Day — should not be automatically overrule those who don’t.

Secondly, the initiative would substantively count those who are recently deceased — and thus, clearly unable to vote — as an automatic “no” vote. Not only is that undemocratic, it is illogical. If these people are dead, with all due respect, the fiscal initiative will not affect them anyway.

Lastly, the initiative ignores those who actively choose to exercise their right to not vote. Many people choose to not vote out of protest or to make a point. While I disagree with this tactic, it is a legitimate choice and a minority should not take that right away.

All in all, the initiative has too many hidden dangers.

Pragmatically, it would eliminate the initiative as a means for passing fiscal measures as well as diminishing the power of real majority rule. It is unfortunate that Arizona voter turnout is so low; however, to empower those who do not bother to vote with the ability to overturn those who do is tantamount to tyranny of an apathetic majority. This would indeed be a sad testament to American democracy.

Passing Proposition 105 would be an even sadder one.

Janne can be reached by e-mail at

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