Barb Foland Mathews, January’s winner

Voter referendums democracy in action

On Dec. 26, The Journal Gazette published a spot-on piece by Niki Kelly (“Lawmakers’ resolution for ’23? More listening”).

She documents how our representatives are missing the mark on what Indiana citizens really want, passing legislation that Hoosiers oppose while not pursuing our priorities. They are listening to their corporate donors or publicists instead of the voters, passing the open-carry law that was widely opposed by Hoosiers and enacting an abortion ban that also is not supported by the majority of voters. Now they are pursuing ridiculous bills to suppress the mythical teaching of critical race theory, also not widely supported.

I returned to Fort Wayne 10 years ago after living in Michigan for 35 years. Michigan is one of 23 states that allow popular referendums to strike down a law or put new legislation on the statewide ballot in a general election. This process varies from state to state, but in Michigan it involves gathering the signatures of registered voters on a petition to put a proposal on the ballot. It’s a bit complicated, and thousands of signatures are required, but I believe it allows the people to have a voice in their own government. Whether circulating a petition or just signing one, I always felt empowered by this process.

After Roe vs. Wade was reversed last year, Michigan voted to protect reproductive rights in their state constitution after more than 750,000 voters signed a petition to put this on the ballot. Of course, there are petitions that don’t get enough valid signatures, or successful petitions that fail in a general election. But even in failure, this process reflects the desires of the voters, not those of the representatives who may have ulterior motives or are simply not listening to their constituents.

I challenge one of our representatives to be brave enough to propose the enactment of popular referendums in Indiana. The process is democracy in action.