"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; Indeed, It's the only thing that ever has." Dr. Margaret Mead.


The Right of Redress
an editorial by Frank Sims

The rights of the individual are not derived from government agencies, municipal, State or Federal, or even from the Constitution. They exist inherently in every man, by endowment of the creator, and are merely reaffirmed in the Constitution and restricted only to the extent that they have been voluntarily delegated by the citizens to the agencies of our government. The people's rights are not derived from the government, but rather the government's authority comes from "We the People." The Constitution but states those rights already existing, and when legislative encroachment by the State, municipality or the bureaucracy invade these original and permanent rights, it is the duty of the citizens to reclaim their right.

"We the People" have an inalienable, indefeasible right to settle our grievances against government via the citizen petition, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution and by Article 1, Section 16 of the Delaware Constitution. Nevertheless, our Legislators are insulating themselves from citizen control by refusing to establish a petition process. The scheme is to develop a way to take power away from the people, through the bureaucracies, without the citizens' knowledge or in such a way that the citizen has no political remedy. Changing Legislators has not changed the violation of the citizens First Amendment Right of Redress. Fostering ignorance of the Citizens Constitutional Rights is the method, best evidenced by the DPI bureaucracy and their attendant devaluing of core subjects and civics. The more freedoms and liberty are viewed as conditional and relative, the more easily freedoms and liberty can be taken away. So called " political moderation" in Delaware is used as a pretext to excuse away political accountability to the citizens of Delaware.

Example: We are the only State in America whose Legislature is unwilling to allow it's citizens to vote and ratify amendments to our own Constitution!

Example: Article 1, Section 16 of the Delaware constitution states "We the People" have the "Right to petition the government for redress of grievances." (Meaning the procedure used by voters to propose new bills and laws via the petition process and enact or reject them at the polls, independent of the public officials.) Not in Delaware!

Example: In 1905, the Legislature passed advisory, non-binding initiative and referendum. In 1906 the proposal was approved by a vote 17,248 to 2,162, but the legislature has never taken steps to give effect to the expressed popular will of the people except to seek the citizens opinion once, about bingo!!!!!

The l&R process provides a legal orderly way for voters and reform-minded public officials to by-pass the political establishment and place important issues on the ballot themselves, provided they gather enough valid signatures during the allotted time period. I&R is reserved for the times when government fails to act as needed or takes actions that are contrary to the general will. So long as government does its job, there is no need for a petition drive to be launched. The l&R process in no way usurps the legitimate powers of legislators. The duties of the legislators remain exactly the same with l&R as without l&R. In fact, the courts have repeatedly ruled that the lawmaking powers awarded the legislature are additional to those retained by the citizens.

The citizens own the government. Our Senators and Representatives should be treated with respect. But remember, they are the hired help. They work for the citizens. When they campaign, their campaigns are actually applications for employment. It is the citizens' right and duty to supervise those hired to represent us.

We can no longer be passive observers of government. Our political system is not an athletic event that can be won by sending in a fresh string of new players or a better coach. Democracy in not a spectator sport. We must hold our legislators accountable.





an editorial by Frank Sims

" All 50 states allow for some form of ballot measure or referendum," in a recent statement by a national newspaper. Let's change that to 49. Delaware does not allow any form of initiative or referendum. Not only does Delaware not have in place a process for the citizens to practice their First Amendment right, we are the only state that does not allow it's citizens to vote on changes to their own Constitution. But, that could change.

Nationally in 2002, 53 of the 202 ballot measures were citizen-initiated. Voters decided against a tax cut on food and medicine in Arkansas and a repeal of the personal income tax in Massachusetts. In Washington, a measure cutting car license fees passed. Arizona and Missouri considered raising tobacco taxes. Arizona's passed but Missouri's failed. Voters in Tennessee and North Dakota passed new lotteries.

In education, California's Proposition 49 passed mandating more state spending on before and after school programs. In Florida, measures on the ballot implementing class-size reductions, state-funded preschool and a new governing board for the state university system passed. Bans on bilingual education passed in Massachusetts but failed in Colorado. Gambling and lottery measures to fund education passed in Arizona, Idaho, and Tennessee.

Election day registration proposals failed in California and Colorado. Colorado voters defeated a proposal to shift entirely to mail ballots and eliminate polling places on election day. Florida voters passed a measure requiring that all initiated constitutional amendments be accompanied by an economic impact statement.

Measures legalizing the possession of marijuana or easing property forfeiture laws failed in Arizona, Nevada and Ohio. Voters in the District of Columbia passed a measure mandating treatment in lieu of incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.

In gambling related measures Arizona voters voted down slot machines at racetracks and passed a legislative referendum to continue the state lottery. In Idaho a measure allowing video gaming machines at tribal casinos passed, as did new state lotteries in North Dakota and Tennessee.

In health care, Florida voters passed a measure banning smoking in workplaces. Arizona voters passed a measure to increase tobacco taxes to fund health care programs, but a similar measure in Missouri failed. Realocating tobacco settlement revenues to health care programs passed in Montana and failed in Michigan.

These are just some of the grass-roots efforts that have helped reenergize voters and preserve an outlet for direct democracy. Research shows that when there.s an initiative on the ballot voter turnout increases 3 to 7 percent.

Lawmakers, who have an inherent distrust of such measures ("You elected us, don't take our power away"), have been inclined to put extra effort into denying and/or creating more restrictions on the citizen-initiative process.

But, there is a solution. House Bill 119, Advisory Initiative and Referendum sponsored by Rep. Cathcart and cosponsored by Reps., Caulk, Valihura, B. Ennis, Hall-Long, Maier and Sens., Sokola, Bonini, Cloutier. The bill is a compromise in that it preserves the authority of the Legislature to create legislation while granting the citizens a formal process to submit issues to the Legislature.

Once a formal petition is presented to the General Assembly, it may:

  1. Enact Legislation
  2. Fail to enact legislation
  3. Enact separate legislation relating to the primary intent or subject matter contained in the initiated legislation.
  4. Place the initiative on the ballot for the next general election for consideration by the electorate at large.

Democracy should bubble up, not trickle down.

For the details call 1-800-282-8545 and ask for HB 119.

For the Initiative and Referendum Coalition of Delaware

Frank Sims