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observe the Boskoff-Ziegler hypothesis as applied to state-level analysis in Washington. General turnout in the election was only 57.78 percent of the registered voters, compared to a long-term average of 66.4 percent in midterm and 80.9 percent in presidential year elections. In 1973 the voters who did trek to the polls were in a negative mood for change. Out of seven direct legislation measures submitted, the electorate supported only the authorization of personal license plates, a measure which lacked a vast amount of controversy. The legislature had voted a large salary increase for elected officials and, as has previously been noted, disgruntled voters formed an anomic interest group which resorted to the initiative process to roll back the increases. The vote was over 80 percent in favor of limiting the raises. Negative judgments were also given in such areas as lowering the drinking age, financing urban development, a state graduated net income tax, and revising the formula for validating boud issues. Some support would be found for the Boskoff-Ziegler hypothesis then, if 1973 proves to have an extremely high turnout rate in comparison with future oddyear elections. One election is clearly insufficient for any definitive conclusions. Even though it is extremely difficult to control for the effect of concurrent elections in the period from 1914 to 1972, some insight into the effect of status differential upon issues can be obtained by focusing upon the degree of turnout for them. Table 4 has divided voter participation on issue measures into three categories: an extremely high level of participation (90 percent of those going to the polls casting a vote on the measure) and a middle and a low category. While the highest level of participation does record a preponderance of negative reactions, and is therefore in accordance with the BoskoffZiegler hypothesis, the same results are found in the lowest level of participation as well. Furthermore, if one utilizes the row categories of positive and negative voting outcomes, and then checks the proportion of high, middle, and low participation in each, the patterns closely parallel one another. Of the negative outcomes, 25 percent displayed high levels of participation compared with a corresponding 18.2 percent for positive outcomes; similarly the percentages for the lowest range of participation were 37.5 and 36.3 respectively. Individually it is easy to find propositions where a high turnout might be assumed to be the most important single reason for their defeat such as lowering the voting age, requiring refundable beverage containers, and right-to-work laws. From the opposite viewpoint, high turnouts contributed heavily to liberalizing abortion laws and repealing blue laws. Because these instances seem to offset each other, long-term analysis shows virtually no association between degree of participation on the issues and the direction of the vote.

Concentrating upon the second hypothesis, which concerns the effect of concurrent elections on the issues, it should first be noted that the number of people going to the polls generally averages more than 15 percent higher in presidential years than in midterm years. Lumping all types of ballot measures together (initiatives, referenda, and amendments) the outcomes in Washington indicate more favorable responses in presidential years. Since 1932 most of the ballot measures were carried in eight presidential elections and defeated



ELECTION RESULTS and the DEOREE OF TURNOUT FOR Initiatives 1914-1972

Medium Turnout
(80 - 89.9%)

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High Turnout

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NOTE: The statewide average turnout for all the measures from 1914 - 1972 is 83.3 percent. For initiatives that have not been included, see note to Table 1.

in three. Only in three midterm elections were the verdicts favorable on a majority of the propositions."

Looking at initiatives alone since they first appeared in 1914, 19 passed and 16 failed of enactment in presidential elections; in midterm elections 13 carried and 19 lost.

Since timing for petition referenda is governed by legislative action there is no popular option over when to request referral. It is of interest, but perhaps without significance, that sponsors of referenda have been more dissatisfied with the legislative output before midterm than before presidential years, so that 18 of the 28 such referenda propositions have appeared on off-year ballots.

In sum, the odds for change appear better in presidential years. Comparable to voters elsewhere, Washington voters show a generally clear-cut favorable or unfavorable mood to changes in public policy and procedures in a given election. In other words, there has been a tendency to adopt or reject a sizable majority of the propositions on a given ballot. In 1970 they approved only 23 percent of the propositions, 20 of 24 in 1972, and two out of seven in 1973. Although voters seem more friendly to measures in presidential years, proponents of ballot measures can never be certain that timing as between types of elections assures hoped for passage or defeat. Voters show much independence in picking and choosing in both presidential and off years.

Reasons for the more favorable mood of the electorate in quadrennial elections are not easy to document. It may be speculated that, as is generally known, the constituency in presidential years with its host of minor party candidates is larger and brings out some voters who do not regularly go to the polls in off years. In Washington, statewide partisan offices are also on the ballot in presidential years which adds to competition and increases the electorate's interest. John E. Mueller says, .. it could be argued that citizens who vote only in presidential elections are disproportionately people who tend rather passively to acquiesce on the legislative ballot proposals-although this

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"Robert Warren and James J. Best found that between 1948 and 1968, 55.1 percent of those measures submitted in off years passed, while 83 percent of those in presidential years were adopted. "The 1968 Election in Washington," Western Political Quarterly, 22 (September 1969), 545.

conflicts with the notion of the proponents of alienation that high turnout would be associated by referendum defeat." "


A review of direct legislation theory and of statewide voting results on initiatives and referenda over two generations leads to several conclusions. The theory of the initiative first states that it would give a large segment of the voters an opportunity to enact important policies when a legislature refuses to respond. This portion of the theory has passed the test reasonably well. Time and time again the sponsors have been ahead of the legislature. The initiative has been used to liberalize liquor laws, adopt daylight saving time, expand welfare benefits, authorize joint tenancies in property, protect game, advance and protect recreational opportunities, bring about reapportionment, and to institute a number of government reforms including the state civil service, open meetings, and regulation of lobbying and campaign practices." The success at the polls of these measures and many others, often by large margins, can be interpreted to mean that the legislature was unresponsive to a widespread desire for these certain types of political changes.

The second justification given for the direct legislation process is that it would lead to more egalitarian policy-making with less interest group manipulation than would occur in the legislature. Certainly the great variety of interests that have availed themselves of the opportunity to initiate ballot measures is indicative of a large degree of pluralism. Furthermore a rough balance can be seen among proposals in such policy areas as governmental operations and reform, network maintenance services, morals issues, and business and labor concerns. However, in assessing policy outcomes the evidence concerning more equalitarian policy making and reduced special interest influence is less clear-cut. An analysis over the sixty-year period employing the areal-segmental public policy typology suggests that a majority of the proposals would affect only a few groups, rather than the entire population of the state. Conversely, using only those measures which passed, and combining both statutes and amendments during the period 1948 to 1968, Best and Warren found a high rate of approval for bond issues and measures to improve the state's capacity to manage and utilize its monies." But only half of the issues providing money for "people" were adopted, including pay raises for public officials and increasing welfare benefits. Least successful have been measures which would increase taxes or strengthen the power of taxing authorities. The great majority of proposals to improve government passed. They conclude

"Ballot Patterns and Historical Trends in California," American Political Science Review, 63 (December 1969), 1199. Mueller uses both state aggregate election data and 1600 ballots voted in Los Angeles County, most from the 1964 election. This article considers some of the items covered in our analysis of Washington.

See Hugh A. Bone, "Open Government by Initiative: Notes on Washington's Experience," Policy Studies Journal, 2 (Summer 1974), 257-61.

"Warren and Best, op. cit., p. 544.

that "in general the voter has refused to pass measures which appear to favor limited economic interests."

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The expressed fear of opponents of the initiative — that it would be used to enact statutes detrimental to propertied interests or would commit the state to expensive programs and thereby raise taxes — has been borne out on very few occasions. Frequently the electorate has turned down spending programs referred by the legislature. In 1948 an initiative rather substantially liberalized assistance laws but two years later the voters overwhelmingly defeated an initiative designed to raise minimum grants for certain categories of assistance. Meanwhile the legislature submitted a constitutional amendment permitting the legislature by two-thirds vote to "amend" an initiative. The amendment carried at the 1952 election thus enabling the legislature to put the brakes on a spendthrift program. To date the legislature has used this power only once, to revise a reapportionment initiative.

Although less used than the initiative, the referendum has been an important instrument of popular control. The electorate has defeated some referred measures especially governmental and technical questions which seemed in the overall interest. But numerous private bills dubbed by many legislators as "bad legislation" were also turned down by the voters. During the last three decades the legislature has seemed more reluctant to pass bills which might invite the mobilization of a referendum effort.

A longitudinal review has been employed to show the importance of the time dimension in the use of direct legislation. There is an evident longterm increase in the practice of legislative referral of statutes. At the same time there has been much less use of the petition referendum by the electorate since 1950. In general this indicates diminishing dissatisfaction with what the legislature actually did, with resort to the initiative process to compensate for what the legislature did not do. If we view direct legislation and the submission of amendments as reflective of dissatisfaction it is obvious that the protest and participatory democracy emphasis did not begin in the sixties.

On the subject of voter turnout it is evident that expectations about the saliency of issues held by early proponents of direct legislation have not been totally fulfilled. Issues have not demonstrated universal appeal for the electorate in comparison with the state's top elective offices of governor and lieutenant governor; however, direct and indirect initiatives are often competitive with the remaining state elective offices. Moreover the percentage of those registering choices on all types of issues has grown steadily since the 1930s.

Definite relationships do exist between turnout and both the vehicle of choice by the people (initiative, referendum, or constitutional amendment) and the policy area the issue represents. The lesser amount of falloff for initiatives is found to stem not so much from their ballot position as from the greater saliency of issues proposed by the voting public. As to the areas of public policy represented, falloff has been the greatest among such topics as govern

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mental structure and reform as well as taxation and revenue. The fact that these subjects afford the greatest complexity and require the most subtle distinctions between the arguments to be made, does little to assist the already beleaguered concept of the thoughtful and informed citizen. Yet even this situation is in a state of transformation, with greatly increased participation in recent years on matters of taxation and government reform.

No strong association has been found on the state level in Washington between degree of turnout and positive or negative electoral results for issues. Instead, the degree of participation stemming from the concurrent candidate election is one important factor, with the most likely chance for the passage of issues occurring in presidential years.

In sum, while those instances which are not wholly congruent with the stated premises of the theory of initiative and referendum have been pointed out, the direct legislation process does continue to be a vital part of the state's political system and culture. Some of the state's most exciting political battles are centered around propositions. The system has initiated or sanctioned far more changes than is popularly realized. The process, moreover, has helped to educate the citizenry on many public problems. Political education has been enhanced although its extent has not and probably cannot be measured. Initiative and referendum provide additional channels for political expression, linking the citizen to state government, and mandating some policy outcomes.


Several fruitful areas for comparative research on linkages between the state propositions and the party system are apparent. On the national level there is evidence of an increase in issue consciousness and changes in voters' perceptions of issues and the major parties." Scattered research also shows that partisan identification has some impact for voting on some issues." In regard to ballot propositions the party influence may have the capacity to cut into and across other forces such as socioeconomic status and interest group affiliation and activity. Comparative studies could use the vote for governor to gauge the consistency of the electorate in its choice among candidates and ballot issues.

If such a relationship in past voting behavior could be established the data would be valuable in planning future campaign strategy for ballot issues. Washington governors more often than not take no positions on measures; Governor Daniel J. Evans has been more inclined to do so and recently suffered a defeat of only 31 percent positive vote for a tax package for which he campaigned throughout the state. Governor Evans' support of an amendment reducing the voting age was also rebuffed at the polls. California and

See, for example, Gerald M. Pomper, "From Confusion to Clarity: Issues and American Voters, 1956-1968," American Political Science Review, 65 (June 1972), 415-28 and rejoinders following his article.

See especially Norman C. Thomas, "The Electorate and State Constitutional Revision: An Analysis of Four Referenda," Midwest Journal of Political Science, 12 (February 1968), 115-29. See also Wolfinger and Greenstein, op. cit., pp. 762-64; Mueller, op. cit., pp. 1206-7; and Hamilton, op. cit., pp. 132-37.

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