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cans. In these instances, the people should have the right to make their voices heard in a legitimate, constructive manner. The voter initiative would provide the means to exercise that right.
The voter initiative provides a concrete means for citizen participation. It would make the legislative branch more accountable to the voters and it would allow for open educational debates on important issues. Perhaps most importantly, it would lessen the sense of alienation from Government to which millions of Americans now profess and would perfectly complement our representative form of government by enabling the average citizen to more effectively and directly communicate with the Federal Government.
Today, people in 23 States including some of our largest-California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio-and hundreds of cities and counties across this country, vote regularly on an assortment of issues ranging from State constitutional amendments to statewide voter initiatives; to questions referred by their legislative bodies; to local bond issues and tax levies. The right to vote on issues is a fixture of American life-a right that has been responsibly exercised countless times in the past several decades.
The voter initiative amendment and the growing national movement it has inspired is founded on the belief in the wisdom of the American people. This conviction is the cornerstone of our Constitution, as well as our entire legislative and judicial system.
Because the foundation of the voter initiative process is our trust in the American people, politicians who wish to oppose the initiative process place themselves in an especially difficult position. Opponents of the initiative process appear to be saying that they don't trust the people or that the people are not educated enough to vote on issues. What the critics ironically forget is that these very same "untrustworthy and uneducated" people can be trusted and are educated enough to elect politicians to office.
While the arguments used in opposition to the voter initiative process deserve careful analysis and consideration, it is clear from the history of the initiative process, that the opposition arguments have been soundly refuted time and time again. The arguments that have been raised since the introduction of this amendment last July are the same arguments that were used in the early 1900's when State after State adopted the voter initiative and are the same arguments that have been advanced in every city, county, and State where the issue has been debated since my home State of South Dakota first adopted the process in 1898.
In one way or another the debate about the voter initiative always. comes down to whether politicians trust the American people sufficiently to allow the citizens the right to vote directly on issues. In my mind, it is clear that the people have proven themselves worthy of this direct democratic process.
One of our Republic's strengths often cited by constitutional scholars is that the States can be laboratories for testing new ideas. In this case, the States, after an experiment of seven decades, have proven beyond a doubt that the voter initiative is a sound, basic, democratic process. The use of the initiative in the States has only increased the trust that we place in the American people. In voting
on initiative issues, the people repeatedly have shown restraint and good judgment, and I can say that despite the fact that I personally may not have always agreed with the outcome of a particular issue. This voter initiative amendment is not advanced as a panacea for the problems of our society and I do not want to give you the impression that it is. The process does have its limitations. However, I think it is important to consider the voter initiative process vis a vis the Congress of the United States. The initiative is probably no better, no worse than the Congress. It is simply another, more democratic means of making law, a check and balance to be used when normal procedures break down.
I introduced this constitutional amendment, not because I seek to advance one particular issue or a set of "liberal" issues but because I think the American people deserve this basic democratic right. This right will help restore the people's shattered faith in their ability to effect the course of their Government under which they live. In addition, the initiative process is a great educational tool which will result in open, significant debates on issues which otherwise might have been inadequately addressed. It is an important extension of voting rights, as were 6 of the last 10 constitutional amendments and is part of the evolutionary trend toward increased citizen participation in the affairs of our Government.
Since I am not seeking reelection, I do not expect to see the lengthy ratification process completed before I retire, but I expect that very soon after I leave elected politics, the Senate and the House of Representatives will send this constitutional amendment to the States. for their ratification.
I look forward to these hearings today and tomorrow because we will hear from people of all political persuasions who have had experience with the voter initiative process and who believe that the Congress should adopt this important constitutional proposal.
[Senate Joint Resolution 67, introduced by Senator Abourezk, was marked "Exhibit No. 4" and is as follows:]
95TH CONGRESS 1ST SESSION
[EXHIBIT No. 4]
S. J. RES. 67
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
JULY 11 (legislative day, MAY 18), 1977
Mr. ABOUREZK (for himself and Mr. HATFIELD) introduced the following joint resolution; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States with respect to the proposal and the enactment of laws by popular vote of the people of the United States.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives 2 of the United States of America in Congress assembled 3 (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the 4 following article is proposed as an amendment to the Con5 stitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all 6 intents and purposes as part of the Constitution if ratified 7 by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States:
"SECTION 1. The people of the United States shall have
10 the power to propose and enact laws in accordance with this
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