Repetition of Subject Matter

Rejection at the polls of a particular amendment has not been an obstacle to resubmission of the amendment by succeeding legislatures or adoption by the voters.

Witness the proposal for an absentee ballot. This amendment was submitted by both the 1937 and 1939 legislatures. Between 1949 and 1957, it was referred by five consecutive legislatures. During the 25-year period 1947 through 1966, the question of absentee voting failed to appear on the ballot only four times.

Another example is the question of reimbursement for legislators. The framers fixed the allowable per diem and mileage into the constitution, making it exceedingly difficult to change except by submission to the voters. It was not until 1953 that legislative per diem was increased from $10.00 to $20.00 and it took another 18 years (1971) to increase it to $40.00 in spite of the great leap in the cost of living during that period. It was another 11 years (1982) before the voters raised the allowance to $75.00, where it remained for another 14 years before the voters allowed it to be fixed at the per diem rate allowable for Santa Fe in the IRS rules. All in all, the question was presented 19 times to the voters before the fixed rate was changed.

The annual session proposal was first introduced in the legislature in 1953 and thereafter in the legislatures of 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961 and 1963. It was submitted to the voters in 1953, 1960 and 1961 before it was finally adopted in 1964.

There is no ready explanation of why the voters, after rejecting a proposal several times, reverse themselves and adopt it, sometimes with an overwhelming majority. In many instances, there was no major organized opposition or support for the measure. It has been suggested that frequent submission might have a gradual educational value.

Then again, it might just be a matter of the mood of the electorate at any particular election. Other factors might be the composition of the ballot, such as the presence of a gubernatorial or presidential race, or the length of the ballot, particularly with respect to the number of constitutional amendments and bond issue questions appearing on it.

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