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What’s not being voted on this November: Local democracy is being squashed from coast to coast

Corporations, courts, and politicians evade democracy by squashing local measures on fracking, wages, GMOs and more.

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Dave & the Crew File - This March 21, 2016 file photo shows the Flint Water Plant water tower in Flint, Mich. After months of national attention on lead-tainted drinking water in Flint, many are starting to ask questions about a 74-mile pipeline being built from Lake Huron to the struggling former auto manufacturing powerhouse. The $285 million project is rooted in political ambitions and long-simmering resentment toward Detroit, which for decades had near-total control of the city’s water rates. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio File)(Credit: AP/Paul Sancya/Carlos Osorio/Brennan Linsley)

Sunday, October 30, 2016 | People across the country have turned to the local ballot initiative process — by which citizens write, petition for and vote on legislation — to push the needle on key legislative battles around fracking, the minimum wage, police reform and many other issues. The response of state legislatures, wary of local activism, in passing state “preemption” laws to remove “local control” is well documented.

Less well known, however, is the role of courts and city governments in barring local citizens from even bringing these issues to a vote. In fact, the very power of local direct democracy to effect change on these contentious issues is in the crosshairs.

Despite petitioners collecting sufficient signatures, at least nine local ballot initiatives in Minnesota, Ohio and Washington state have been removed from November ballots. There are almost certainly other examples. Often the mere possibility or threat of state preemption is used as grounds to stop a duly qualified initiative from being voted on. Here are several of the more prominent examples.

Simon Davis-Cohen: freelance investigative journalist examining the powers of local governments and corporations in the United States.

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