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Flashcards in Direct Democracy Deck (35):

What is a proposition?

often called initiatives they are bottom up processes that allow people to bypass the state legislature by placing proposed laws and in some places state constitutional amendments on the ballot.


How many states have propositions?

24 have a proposition process


What is the difference between direct and indirect propositions?

A direct proposition must get a certain % of voters on the petition but then it goes straight on the ballot if it meets this qualification.

Indirect propositions have to get enough people but then must be looked at and approved by the state legislature.


What are the general rules for the submission of a proposition?

The proposition must be filed with a designated state official

It must be reviewed for conformance with state legal requirements

Given a formal title and summary for the ballot

submitted to state officials for verification of signatures

circulated to the state wide electorate to get enough signatures, usually a percentage of the electorate from the previous big election.


How does the number of signatures required to place a proposition on a state ballot vary?

In Alaska its 10% of the votes cast from the previous general election

In California it's 5% of the votes cast in the last Governors election for a law and 10% for a constitutional amendment. Turnout makes this figure vary


What are the chances of success for an initiative?

45%, once a proposition is on the ballot the requirement to pass is generally a majority vote


In 2010 which rights were gained and where through citizen's initiatives? What rights were lost and where through citizens initiatives?

Arizona, S Carolina and Utah got secret ballots in Trade union elections

Affirmative action was stopped in Arizona


What were the important initiatives in 2012?

Same sex marriage, Maryland, Maine and DC all approves same sex marriage initiatives

marijuana, Colorado and Washington state approved recreational marijuana


What are the advantages of propositions?

creates a way to enact reform on controversial issues state legislators may be unwilling to address
e.g. medical marijuana, campaign finance reform, term limits for state legislators

increases responsiveness and accountability of state legislators.

helps increase voter turnout as controversial propositions make people vote.
e.g. in Ohio in 2004 same sex marriage was on the ballot which bought out many conservative voters and meant GWB won the state

increases citizen interest in state policy issues
-may encourage people to join pressure groups


What are the disadvantages of propositions?

vulnerable to manipulation by interest groups,high spending campaigns and media advertising mean a simple and misleading argument can win.

lack of flexibility in the legislative process, the measure cannot be amended until after it has been adopted and in some states it is difficult to amend a law made by proposition. Propositions are set in stone from the start and cannot be amended during the process as laws are.


What are referenda?

Top Down

essentially allow people to veto bills passed by state legislatures as in some states certain measure have to be refered to the electorate for approval.


How many states have referendums?

all 50


What do referendums tend to concern?

the state constitution and local taxation

e.g Oklahoma now have a four day school week


How do referenda extend democracy?

a popular veto, the voters get what they want democratic!

e.g. S Dakota in 2006 got rid of horrible abortion laws that were very harsh by popular referendum


What are recall elections?

elections that votes out a representative before their term is over, meaning bad representatives can be gotten rid of


How many states have provisions for recall elections?



what are the disadvantages of recall elections?

indulges whims, can be seen as 'throwing the toys out of the pram'

buyers regret- changing mind after short term dissatisfaction

destabilises governing process

means legislators may be restrained, not good for representative democracy


does the federal government use direct democracy?

NO! direct democracy is only at state level


What propositions were there in California in 2008?

Proposition 8 which looked to ban same sex marriage was passed 52-48.

Approved a measure for a high speed rail link between LA and San Fran

stopped a measure that would have meant under 18s needed permission from a parent to get an abortion.

approved measure to give state legislative district redrawing to an independent bipartisan commission.

gave farm animals more space in their enclosures


In 2012 how many referendums were put on the ballot by state legislatures?



How many states have popular referendum?


if the state passes a law voters do not approve of they may gather signatures and demand a referendum on the law. Popular veto.


How many recall of state governor elections have there been?


Arnold Schwartznegger beat Grey Davis in a recall election for the governor of California in 2003.


How many recall elections of state legislators were there 1913-2012?


11 of these in 2011
4 of these in 2012
of these 15 5 were recalled


What happened in Colorado over recall elections?

in 2012 in Colorado gun control laws were passed

the NRA targeted state legislators Giron and Morse for recall elections due to this. Although 82% of Colorado's people supported the background checks, they were recalled on turnouts of 36% and 21% respectively.


what example shows direct democracy encourages participation?

in 2012 Maryland held a veto referendum on the state's equal marriage law passed that year. Voter turnout rose from 61% in 2008 to 69%


What example shows people don't understand the consequences of direct democracy?

When California voted to reduce property tax in 1978, it quickly became clear that schools were short of funding. so in 1988 Prop 98 increased funding to schools. By 2003 this accounted for $30 billion a year

This has led to continued budget crises in California


How can you show direct democracy undermines representative democracy?

Decisions should be made after informed debates by people elected to represent their constituents, otherwise decisions cannot be fully weighed up.

For example, in 1978 proposition 13 cut property tax in California, property taxes paid for California schools. California's school results went from best in the country to 49th.


Many campaigns are not equally funded and the interests of big businesses are over represented at the expense of the consumers. Give examples of unequal campaigns?

Measure 92 in Oregon proposed the labelling of genetically modified foodstuffs. Agri-business groups in Oregon spent $20million on the 'No campaign. The 'yes' campaign spent $11m. The No campaign won.

In 2008 Utah Mormons spent $20m successfully supporting proposition 8 which outlawed gay marriage in California.


Give an example where direct democracy has led to the tyranny of the majority.

Arizona made English the state's official language in proposition 203 in 2006. Persecuted Spanish minorities


How can referendums give decisions legitimacy?

Because voters have made their opinions clear on issues, referendums mean that political leaders can make decisions in the knowledge that they have public support.

E.g. when states started passing equal marriage using direct democracy, there was an obvious level of support for the change. This led to Obergefell v Hodges 2015


Give an example of how direct democracy allow the public to make decisions the politicians avoid.

sometimes politicians do not want to take a stance on controversial issues as it may damage their election prospects.

e.g. In 2016 4 states had successful referendums to increase the minimum wage, politicians had been reluctant to do this because of the costs to business


Give an example of the negative that results of referendums are hard to change.

Because decisions made by direct democracy have a clear mandate they are difficult to amend

in 1994 California voted to imprison criminals for life following a third offence, regardless of how serious the crimes were. By 2010 California prisons were at 200% capacity and 'three strikes' offenders were costing the state an estimated $200m per year.

In 2012 proposition 36 limited the three strikes to 'serious or violent' offenders

If the measure had been passed by the legislature, this change would have been much quicker.


What happened to State Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin in 2012?

He survived a recall election and returned with a stronger mandate


How many times has recall been successfully used?



How could you argue recall elections undermine the mandate of elected politicians?

Grey Davis had been elected Governor of California with 3.5 million votes, it took only 800,000 to recall him in 2003

recalls could be described as tyranny of the best organised majority.