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guard against the rise of tyrants. The wording of the proposed amendment also limits what types of legislation voters can propose: No initiative may violate current Constitutional law, nor tamper with the powers of Congress under clauses 11 and 15 of Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution.

As long as appropriate safeguards are included, democracy can be the most creative and interesting form of government. It encourages participation rather than alienation; revolution is controlled by evolution. I wholeheartedly support J.S. Res. 67 and hope that the Senate Judiciary Subcommitte will rule favorably on its acceptance.

I also would strongly encourage limitations on spending to solicit signatures on petitions. I feel that large financial interests will be able to "buy" laws through the initiative process as they now "Buy" votes through lobbying and large campaign contributions. I happen to now be circulating an initiative petition in Missouri that proposes a change in Missouri law to replace the 2/3rds voter approval for honds with a simple majority approval. I am being paid $5.00 for each 25 signatures. I need the money, so I work hard for this issue, even though I only half-heartedly believe in it. By forbidding financial renumeration for petition carriers you can insure that laws initiated by voters by petition will be laws they truly desire, rather than laws they support only for temporary financial gain.

Sincerely yours,




[From the Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 28, June 1975]


Charles M. Price

California State University, Chico

T THE beginning of the twentieth century the United States was swept by the Progressive Reform Movement. As historian Leland Baldwin describes it, "No city or state was without its would-be reformers— sometimes practical idealists, sometimes disgruntled politicians or business elements seeking to overthrow the old regime, sometimes aspiring young men ready to seize any entree to power and pelf.” 1 And, unlike the earlier Populist Movement which had been largely western, southern, and rural in orientation, the Progressive Reform Movement was more national in scope and to a varying extent middle-class in mentality. However, clearly, the Progressive Movement had its greatest influence and longest lasting impact far from the population centers of the East in the agrarian, formerly Populist sections of the interior, southern and particularly, western portions of the United States. In these areas Progressives worked hard for and achieved a host of political and social reforms.

The Progressives were preoccupied with one central political problem: the rampant corruption of the political system. Major targets of the Progressives tended to be the politicians, political parties, interest groups and political institutions of the country. To secure their political goals the Progressives advocated a wide range of political reforms including the direct primary, Australian (secret) ballot, presidential preference primary, prohibition against political parties' making endorsements in primaries, cross-filing (candidates of one party allowed to run in the other's primary-"vote for the man, not the party”), nonpartisan local and state elections, women's suffrage, civil service ex

NOTE: The author would like to thank Bob Ross, a colleague in the Department of Political Science, for his invaluable assistance and help with the statistical portions of this paper. 'Leland D. Baldwin, The Stream of American History (New York: American Book Co., 1952), p. 381.

Most standard American history books and political science texts refer to the middle-class mood of the Progressive movement. See, for example, Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform (New York: Knopf, 1955), or George E. Mowrey, The California Progressives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951), or George S. Blair, American Legislatures: Structures and Process (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 392. However, this view has been challenged in several recent studies. Michael P. Rogin and John T. Shover contend that the Progressive movement in California was middle class only through 1910. From 1911 on, middle-class voters deserted the Progressive banner, while working-class voters and new immigrants joined the movement. See Michael P. Rogin and John T. Shover, Political Change in California: Critical Elections and Social Movements 1890-1966 (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 35-61. Also, Roger E. Wyman, "Middle Class Voters and Progressive Reform: The Conflict of Class and Culture," American Political Science Review, 68 (June 1974), 488-504, argues that in Wisconsin Progressive support tended to come from the poor, rural portions of the state and that nationwide the Progressive movement support was constantly shifting into new voting coalitions.

tension, popular election of senators, short ballot, corrupt practices acts, publicity for campaign expenses, the recall, referendum and the initiative. The basic strategy of the Progressives was to check and control established political institutions by placing ultimate power in the hands of the people."

In his description of these latter two reform devices, the initiative and referendum, political scientist George S. Blair states:

Simply defined, the initiative is a device whereby a prescribed number or percent of the qualified voters, through the use of a petition, may have an amendment or legislative proposal placed on the ballot for adoption or rejection by the electorate of the state or local community. The referendum, on the other hand, is a means by which decisions of legislative bodies do not become public policies until the electorate votes its concurrence with the policies and accepts them by the required affirmative vote. Thus, the initiative may be described as a device to correct legislative sins of omission and the referendum as a means for correcting the sins of commission.

By using the petition process voters could qualify initiatives and referenda for the ballot, thus effectively short-circuiting or bypassing the traditional political channels of legislature and governor's veto (and from the Progressive perspective, the sometimes unscrupulous politicans occupying those positions).

While political scientists during the first decades after the adoption of these devices conducted research on the initiative and referendum and how they were functioning, gradually, over the years, interest has waned within the academic community. Overall, what has been written lately has been generally negative, i.c., initiatives have become the tool of the special interests and voters are easily misled by the moneyed side in these contests. With the exception of a very few recent articles, political scientists, for the most part, have paid scant attention over the last ten years to the subject of direct legislation. As Howard D. Hamilton notes:

Any middle-aged member of the political science guild in a retrospective mood might ponder a question: "Whatever happened to direct demoeracy?" In our halcyon student days the textbooks discussed the direct democracy trinity-initiative, referendum, and recall-described their mechanics and variations, explained their origins in the Progressive Era, told us that the United States, Australia, and Switzerland were leading practitioners of direct democracy, cited a few eccentric referenda, gave the standard pro and con arguments, and essayed some judgments of the relative merits of direct and representative democracy. Latter day

'One_can_trace_to_the contemporary setting many of the early themes emphasized by the Progressives. For example, recent public opinion polls suggest (particularly in the post-Watergate atmosphere) that the public is increasingly rejecting the two established political parties, that they are becoming convinced of the immorality and crookedness of many public officials, and that they favor new reforms in the political system. A number of new public interest lobbies such as John Gardner's, Common Cause, Ralph Nader's, Citizen Taskforce, and in California, The People's Lobby, have emerged over the last several years; and clearly, the style and philosophy of these organizations coincides with the earlier aims of the Progressives decades ago-limiting and controlling the power of politicians and special interests by giving the public a final check. 'Blair, op. cit., p. 306.

collegians may pass through the portals innocent of the existence of the institutions of direct government. Half of the American government texts never mention the subject; the others allocate a paragraph or page for a casual mention or barebones explanation of the mechanics."

Yet, as Hamilton notes, initiative measures are not trivial or routine but are often of critical importance.


This study focuses on the currently, at least academically speaking, unfashionable topic of direct democracy, and in particular, on the initiative. The major purpose of this paper is to assess how this unique experiment in direct democracy has been working recently (over the last ten years, 1962-72). In exploring this topic several questions will be considered: What states allow for the initiative option? How extensively is it employed? Why in particular states? What factors relate to initiative use? And lastly, what are the consequences of initiative use? Before proceeding with our discussion of the initiative, however, a few comments about its alter ego, the referendum, are in order.

The petition or protest referendum is, in effect, the reverse side of the initiative; that is, voters using the petition process can subject legislative acts to a popular vote. If approved by the voters, the referendum can nullify legislative acts. Most states providing for the initiative also provide for the petition referendum. However, the pattern in states having the referendum seems clear-cut; it has fallen into disuse. For example, in California, no referendum has qualified for the ballot since 1942! The last significant attempt to qualify a referendum for the California ballot occurred in 1966 when the California Real Estate Association attempted to rescind the Rumford Fair Housing Bill. After failing to qualify their referendum in the specified time period, the C.R.E.A. began an initiative effort which eventually did qualify for the ballot.'

Two major factors seem to work against referendum use: (1) the problem of obtaining the specified number of signatures in the abbreviated time period allotted before the act in question goes into effect (initiatives are not under quite as tight time constraints), and (2) legislators usually avoid passing any bill on which a substantial portion of the state's population is in vehement opposition. Because the referendum is used so rarely in the various states providing for this technique, the initiative shall be the main focus of this article.

'Howard D. Hamilton, "Direct Legislation: Some Implications of Open Housing Referenda,” American Political Science Review, 64 (March 1970), 124-37.

'Indeed, the word "disuse" may be a misnomer in describing the situation in many states. For example, New Mexico, a state providing for a referendum but no initiative, has never had a referendum qualify for the ballot!

'See Raymond E. Wolfinger and Fred J. Greenstein, "The Repeal of Fair Housing in California: An Analysis of Referendum Voting," American Political Science Review, 62 (September 1968), 753-69, for a very discerning study of the voting patterns on this proposition.


At the outset, it should be noted that there are several different types of initiatives. A state may have (1) a constitutional initiative, which allows citizens to alter or amend a state's basic document; (2) a direct initiative which lets citizens enact or amend statutes; (3) an indirect initiative, which stipulates that the initiative must be resubmitted, after approval of the voters, to the legislature for final approval; and (4) an advisory initiative, which is a sort of non-binding sentiment of public opinion supposedly helping to guide a legislature's decision-making. Moreover, many states have combinations of these

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SOURCE: The Book of the States 1972-73 (Council of State Governments 1970), p. 23, for the Constitutional Initiative material and The Book of the States 1966-67 (Council of State Governments, 1966), p. 33 for the statutory initiative provisions.

Obviously, some states could be grouped in several different regional units.

Illinois is listed by the Book of the States as having a constitutional amendment initiative, but Illinois citizens may petition to amend only the Legislative Article of the State Constitution-Article IV. Thus, Illinois is not included in this table.

• Although Ohio is listed by the Book of the States as having a sort of combined direct and indirect initiative, its procedures seem primarily indirect. As Ted W. Brown, Secretary of State, notes: "The Constitution of Ohio provides that interested citizens, may, by petition, submit a proposed law to the General Assembly. A petition for that purpose must be signed by qualified electors of the state equal in number to 3% of the total vote for governor at the last preceding election. Such a petition is filed with the Secretary of State, and if he finds it sufficient, be submits the proposed law to the General Assembly. If after four months the General Assembly has not passed the proposed law, a supplementary petition bearing the signatures of another 3% may be filed, and in that case the proposed law will be submitted to the people at the next general election. If at that election a majority of the people vote for the proposal, it becomes a law without being enacted by the General Assembly." See Ted W. Brown, "Vote Participation in Constitutional Amendment and Legislation, 1912 through 1972," a report from Ohio Secretary of State's office.

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