This Is Common Sense: Ballot Initiatives

I was at ALEC promoting a resolution in support of the power of the ballot initiative and referendum (I&R) process. I currently work for Citizens In Charge Foundation which protects the I&R process in the 24 states in which exist. Here is an interesting article from my boss, Paul Jacob, about the process in California. Even in a blue state like California voters said NO to several measures to increase taxes.

The Color of Contempt

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

The good sense that California voters exhibited at the polls in May has been rewarded with continual attack and derision.

Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO and Republican candidate for governor, recently said, “In many ways, the proposition process has worn out its usefulness.”

She’s criticizing the initiative, and she’s not alone.

Wrong target. California’s initiative process account for what little political sanity exists in the state.

The problem is spendaholic politicians.

But politicians and pundits continue bashing California’s ballot initiative process. Anything to deflect attention away from the inability of politicians to prioritize.

Even The Economist has taken up the bludgeon. A recent story, headlined “The ungovernable state,” said of the voter initiative process:


At first, it made sense . . . . The state in 1910 had only 2.4 million residents, and 95 percent of them were white. (Today it has about 37 million residents, and less than half are white.) A small, homogenous and informed electorate was to make sparing and disciplined use of the ballot to keep the legislature honest, rather as in Switzerland.

Is The Economist actually suggesting that a multi-ethnic electorate is incapable of democratic decision-making? I think we are witnessing the insider class move from condescending disdain for the people to a full-blown case of dementia.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

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1 Comment

  1. I’d like to point out that the blurb makes quite a leap of logic. It takes a poorly worded Economist article and draws a conclusion that because the Economist’s position is racist and it is critical of the ballot initiative process, then the ballot initiative process is sound.

    Despite the blurb’s conclusion that the problem in California is “spendaholic propositions,” it cites no facts nor figures to support that conclusion.

    Almost all news analysts and those familiar with California politics places the current budgetary woes of the state squarely on Prop. 13, which not only dramatically lowered property taxes, but also enacted the draconian 2/3rds requirement to raise new taxes. And Prop. 13 was, by its namesake, the result of the ballot initiative process that you are defending.

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