Back during the 2016 election cycle North Dakota voters cast their ballots overwhelmingly for Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment that was the hobby horse of (recently indicted) California billionaire Henry Nicholas.
Critics of the measure (including this humble observer) argued that the amendment would make a mess out of existing laws and policies governing the criminal justice system while simultaneously doing very little to help victims.
Today, courtesy of Bismarck Tribune reporter Jack Dura, comes a reminder that we critics were right:
A Mandan police officer has invoked Marsy's Law after shooting a man in a traffic stop Tuesday for warrants. Police are not releasing the injured man's name, as they are unsure whether or not he will also invoke his Marsy's law rights. https://t.co/gC1ZXBQYLw
— Jack Dura (@JackFromNoDak) October 15, 2018
With a raging national debate over use of force by law enforcement, here in North Dakota the public is routinely denied information about the officers who use force because they invoke their constitutional rights under Marsy’s Law as victims.
And the only way to fix that problem is another vote to amend the constitution again.
This is the problem with the initiated measure process. It asks the mercurial, often distracted and apathetic electorate to enact complicated public policy at the ballot box. Usually while heavily influenced by deep-pocketed, out of state interests like Nicholas (or Hollywood celebrities) who can not only pay to collect the signatures to put their pet projects on the ballot but then drown out opposition with slick PR campaigns.
The initiated measure process is a good way to enact terrible public policy like Marsy’s Law.