Sunday, August 1, 2010
Missourians on Tuesday will vote on a referendum aimed at nullifying the individual health insurance mandate enacted as part of the federal health care overhaul earlier this year. The ballot proposal, Proposition C, asks voters if the Missouri statutes--not its constitution--shall be amended to
[d]eny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful healthcare services?
Missouri is the first of at least three states to consider such a measure.
Proposition C is quite likely to pass on Tuesday, according to polls. Democrats have all but ignored it and framed it as a meaningless Republican straw poll; Republicans have framed it as a referendum on federal health care reform, an expansive federal government, and the Obama administration. The NYT reports here.
Whatever the measure's political significance, the ballot results will have no legal significance. If the federal government has authority to enact the individual health insurance mandate--a hotly contested issue, which we've covered here, here, here, here, and here--the Supremacy Clause prohibits states from interfering and nullifying. In other words, if the federal government has authority to do this--a question that will ultimately be decided by the courts--Missouri can't stop it by ballot initiative.
And if the federal government doesn't have authority, Missouri's vote will be irrelevant.