Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ballot Initiatives Gone Wild

By Associate Clinical Professor Jessica Levinson

This op-ed originally appeared on Politix and was re-posted by The Huffington Post.

Here a ballot initiative, there a ballot initiative, everywhere in California a ballot initiative.

How did we get here? About a hundred years ago the processes of direct democracy spread across the country. States gave their citizens the ability to directly enact laws (via the ballot initiative), to directly repeal laws (via the referendum), and to oust elected officials (via the recall). The purpose of direct democracy is to empower average citizens and decrease the power than moneyed interests may have over elected officials. Sounds quaint, doesn't it?

Welcome to 2014, when the very special interests direct democracy was meant to guard against now direct and control those processes. And specifically, welcome to California, where we have not only ousted a governor (Gray Davis) via the recall, but where we frequently use the ballot initiative process. Want to change how many lawmakers it takes to pass the state's budget? Pass a ballot initiative. Want to change the definition of marriage? Pass a ballot initiative. Want to cut or increase taxes? Pass a ballot initiative. Want to change the penalties for criminal offenses? Once again, pass a ballot initiative.

Read the complete piece.

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