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ifferent initiative devices. It is clear however, that the two most significant nitiatives are the constitutional amendment initiative and the direct statute initiative. The indirect device of resubmitting measures to the legislature tends to be exceedingly cumbersome and is not used very frequently, and the advisory initiative has no "teeth" in it and hence is also of limited significance. In Table 1, the states providing for the first two types of initiative constitutional and statutory are listed.
It is readily apparent from glancing at Table 1 that initiative states are largely a western political phenomenon. Indeed, only five states (19 percent) out of the twenty-six east of the Mississippi River provide for either the constitutional or the statutory initiative, while fifteen (62 percent) out of the twenty-four states west of the Mississippi River allow for this option. Again, as noted previously, the initiative was one of a series of innovative reforms of the Progressive Movement. Though the strength of the Progressive Movement varied from state to state, it seems to have had its most significant impact in the more westerly portions of the country. Curiously, the state most often identified as the cradle of Progressivism, Wisconsin, allows for neither the initiative nor the referendum.
While many western states provide for the initiative constitutionally, in practice in only a few western states do voters use this option very extensively. In Table 2, states having the constitutional amendment and/or statute initiative are ranked in terms of the total number of these measures qualifying for a particular state's ballot between the years 1962–72. It should be kept in mind that constitutional amendments and statutes are grouped together in this table in order to show the degree to which the petition process is used.
It can be noted from Table 2 that one-third of the states having the initiative option (that is, the seven in the high-use column) accounted for more than 80 percent of all initiatives qualifying and more than 80 percent of all of adoptions of the 1962-72 period. One other feature of Table 2 should also be noted; that is, when we consider initiative adoptions, the difference between some of the states in the first tier and some in the second become minimal. However, as a general statement there is obviously a strong relationship (G = .882) between qualifying and adoption.
REASONS FOR Initiative Use Variation
Just why there is such a variation among the states in initiative qualification is not immediately apparent. One feature, though, does seem clear: the seven states where initiatives were used extensively are all western states. Of
*While indirect initiatives are excluded from this study because they are seldom used and because they require legislative approval after receiving voter approval, it is true the line between direct and indirect initiatives is oftentimes hazy. Frequently, in initiative states politicians such as the governor, a statewide officeholder, or legislator will lead and direct an initiative drive.
SOURCE: The author could find no easily accessible overall tabulation of initiatives. Hence, letters were sent to the various initiative state's secretaries of state requesting information on the number of initiatives qualifying, the number of voters participating, the number adopted and the subject matter of the initiative. In every case, there was complete cooperation from the various states. The author is most grateful.
•States are ranked in order of the number of initiatives qualifying during the 1962-72 period. In cases of qualifying ties, the number adopted was used to further refine the ranking of the states.
Florida adopted the petition constitutional amendment procedure in 1968, and thus it had only a four-year time span, 1968-72."
these seven, three line the far western edge of the continental United States, the Pacific Ocean states of Washington, Oregon, and California; a fourth, Arizona, lies contiguous to California, and the remaining three, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Colorado, are Western Plains-Rocky Mountain States. It may well be that the initiative was able to catch on in at least some western states because the political institutions and channels for doing things were not as firmly rooted in tradition as they were in the eastern, southern and midwestern states. After all, the Progressive Movement swept the western states only a few decades after most had attained statehood.'
Of course, it might be assumed that part of the variation in initiative use could be also linked to the stringency of a particular state's qualifying provisions. Hence, in Table 3 the various requirements necessary to qualify statutory initiatives are listed. It does seem apparent that while there are qualification differences among the initiative states overall, the functional similarities are far more striking than the differences.
•See, Harmon Zeigler and Michael A. Baer, Lobbying: Interaction and Influence in American State Legislatures (Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1969), pp. 36-37, for a similar view concerning why interest group activity tends to be so pronounced in Western states.
PROCEDURES FOR Qualifying Statutory InitiATIVES
10% of those voting in the last general election and resident in at least 1⁄2 of election districts
10% of qualified electors
8% of those voting in the last general election for governor
8% of votes cast in the last general election for governor
8% of votes cast in the last general election of secretary of state
7% of votes cast in the last general election for governor
8% of total vote for state office receiving largest number of votes in the last general election
8% of votes cast in the last election for Supreme Court Justice
5% of votes cast in the last general election for governor
10% of electors (direct); 5% from majority of counties (indirect) 8% of votes cast in the last general election for governor
SOURCE: The Book of the States 1966-67 (Council of State Governments, 1966), p. 13.
• Requirements for initiative constitutional amendments are more stringent with a higher number of signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot than for statutory initiatives.
In further pursuing the question of whether the difficulties of qualifying procedures relate to the number of initiatives qualifying, the eight states having both the statutory and constitutional initiative are compared.
Obviously, there appears to be little relationship between the number of initiatives qualifying and the stringency of a state's qualifying procedures. Indeed, if anything, the results seem to go the other direction, i.e., the tougher
a state's qualifying procedures, the more initiatives that tend to get qualified. However, there was such similarity between the various states' qualifying procedures that there could be some dispute with the rankings. It was necessary, for example, arbitrarily to rank Oregon's qualifying procedure pegged at 8 percent of the vote for Supreme Court justice as being less stringent than California's or Arkansas' pegged at 8 percent of the vote for governor because of the drop-off in votes for Supreme Court justices in contrast to the vote for governor. In any case, there seems little evidence to support the view that qualifying procedures relate very directly to the number of initiatives gaining a place on the ballot.
Beyond this, it does seem as if in some western states the initiative tradition has become deep-set. Thus, in the seven states ranked in the first tier of Table 2, initiatives have qualified for the ballot regularly ever since the state's adoption of the device.10 In these states the initiative has become a permanent institution and a regular feature of these states' political processes. Indeed, in California public relations firms specializing in qualifying initiatives for the ballot have emerged, and doubtlessly have considerably augmented the total number of initiatives placed on the ballot. In the other thirteen states providing for this option, initiatives have, at least over the past decade or two, become something out of the ordinary. Interestingly, in some of the states in this latter category, initiatives were once used extensively, but for various reasons have fallen into disuse. For example, the decline in initiative usage can be seen dramatically in Missouri, Ohio, and Montana. Table 5 lists the number of initiatives qualifying and receiving voter approval during the decades after adoption of the initiative.
"Of course, it could be argued that "high-use" was merely an artifact of one central feature: with the single exception of Washington, the other six "high-use" states all had provisions for both the constitutional and statutory initiative thus doubling the potential for states" initiatives. While this may be a factor contributing to the differences between the "high-use" states and the other initiative states, it does not appear to be particularly critical. Washington has no constitutional initiative provision yet it is a high-use state. On the other hand, Missouri, Nebraska and Arkansas allow for both procedures yet there is very little initiative activity currently in these states.
In considering Table 5, there does not appear to be any clear relationship between voter rejection of initiatives and their decline in use. From 1919-29, Montana voters approved 11 out of 16 initiatives, and yet since 1929 there has been a sharp decline in the number of initiatives qualifying. In Missouri after 14 straight rejections between 1910 and 1919, Missouri voters in the 1920-29 period qualified 26 different initiatives for their ballot. Ohio voters approved 3 out of 8 initiatives in 1930–39 and approved the only 2 initiatives to qualify between 1940-49, but still initiative use has declined. Hence, there is no readily apparent pattern linking rejection of initiatives with decline in use.
In some of the other low-ranking states, such as Nevada, Utah or Nebraska, the initiative has been used only sparingly by interest groups and citizens ever since its inception. In these states there has been no sharp decline in use over the last several decades; rather, the initiative has never really become part of the customary political processes. Clearly, if the initiative is not used to some extent in the early years immediately after its adoption, it is likely to atrophy. Yet, it also seems clear that extensive use in the first years soon after initiative adoption does not guarantee there will be continued use. In the high-use states after much early use the initiative seems to have become deeply engrained in the political culture of the state almost like another step in the legislative process. Groups and interests become accustomed to going the initiative route when the legislature-governor channel is blocked, and individuals and interest groups within the state have become adept in the intricacies of massive signature-gathering campaigns."
Finally, it should be noted that initiatives do not seem to be qualifying for the ballot even in many of the high-use states as frequently as they once did. In commenting on the declining use of the initiative in Colorado, Professors Curtis Martin and Rudolph Gomez state:
There are several arguments, some of them of questionable validity, presented in explanation of the decline in the use of the initiative: (1) the major reforms that the people wanted during the early years of the 20th century have now been attained; (2) the general assembly is today more receptive to the demands of the groups seeking changes; (3) problems are so complex that the voters are hesitant about attempting to solve them; (4) the number of signatures needed on a petition to get a measure on the ballot is prohibitive.1
Or, as Howard D. Hamilton with tongue in cheek comments:
A casual explanation for the demise of direct democracy without the courtesy of an obituary might run something like this. In contrast to the
"Using the Elazar Political Culture Model, most states having the initiative fall along his moralistic-Moralistic/Individualist continuum (10 out of the 17 states listed in this category are initiative states). By collapsing Elazar's data into an M/MI IM (ie., moralistic dominant, strong individualist strain, strong moralist strain) vs. I, IT, T/TM (traditionlist strain) there is a Q = .63 associating those in the first category with initiative states. See Daniel J. Elazar, American Federalism: A View From the States (New York: Crowell, 1966), pp. 110-11.
"Curtis Martin and Rudolph Gomez, Colorado Government and Politics (2nd ed.; Boulder, Colorado: Pruett Press, 1964), p. 199.