Imágenes de páginas

Studies in other states show that there is a lower voting participation on propositions where voting machines are used than where paper ballots are employed. Many Washington counties use an admixture of machines, punch cards, paper ballots and mail ballot precincts-so only a few jurisdictions are available for testing. Averaging the turnout on five propositions in five counties using voting machines in over 90 percent of their precincts, it appears four had a greater falloff than the statewide averages; the other county was very slightly below the state average. In the seven counties where more than 90 percent of the precincts use punch card voting, only one was below the state average. These limited data suggest that the type of ballot is a variable of some importance to participation in voting decisions. As more counties change to punch card forms, it seems likely that more voters will render decisions on propositions. Meanwhile election officials in areas using voting machines might explore means of more prominently featuring propositions.


Opponents of the initiative have charged that the device is used mainly by affluent, highly organized groups capable of collecting signatures and waging campaigns. It is true that there have been expensive contests between business and labor, for example, over 'right-to-work' and railway labor proposals. However, only 16 percent of the initiatives appearing on the ballot since 1914 were sponsored by identifiable business or labor groups. More impressive is the astonishing assortment of associations, leagues, and committees which have been successful in placing measures on the ballot-often with a comparatively small budget. Among these have been consumers, public employees, pensioners, sportsmen, the League of Women Voters, chiropractors, temperance and liquor interests. Reapportionment measures and the recent Initiative 276 (open government) were passed by the voters with very small funds expended by proponents.

In several respects the resort to initiative at given points in time reflects the lack of satisfactory legislative response to demands for change. Prior to 1940, labor and agriculture felt the Washington legislature was dominated by business and professional interests and placed 27 measures before the electorate; they have submitted only six measures since then. Conversely, business groups have chosen the ballot route twice as much since 1940. Bar and medical groups seem so well represented in most state legislatures that they rarely need to use the initiative.

In Washington the initiative has been used to bring about important governmental changes: some 13 percent of all initiatives and petition referenda in Washington have related to governmental change. The blanket primary is the result of initiative, as are two reapportionments, the civil service system for state employees, the repeal of the poll tax, and authorization for permanent registration. Numerous other measures related to the method of election and terms of officeholders and legislative pay raises have been filed and a number have appeared on the ballot. Recently filed initiatives sought to reduce the size of the legislature but failed to obtain the requisite signatures.

In 1972, the Coalition for Open Government attracted nationwide attention when its campaign resulted in carrying Initiative 276 by a 72 percent favorable rate. In the same election, open government supporters carried the 'sunshine' initiative in Colorado. These successes inspired Common Cause to use the initiative route in California and carried a somewhat comparable measure by a 70 percent vote in June, 1974. Forces seeking more stringent campaign finance and lobbying laws are considering the initiative in several other states. Numerous legislatures have already acted in this area-some to head off ballot propositions. Many in the electorate have been dissatisfied with what they considered the legislature's strictness in liquor control. The ballot was used to make available liquor by the drink and to repeal blue laws. Recently an effort was made to return the liquor business to private enterprise and the proposition brought a 45 percent favorable response.

It was thanks to an initiative also that housewives are able to purchase colored oleomargarine. The initiative was employed to establish certain fishing regulations, provide a bonus to World War II veterans, increase and protect recreation facilities, allow joint tenancies in property, and to adopt an implied consent intoxication law. Several other policies which the legislature failed to enact were adopted by the ballot route.

Of course, a great many initiatives were not approved by the voters. But the very fact that initiatives appeared resulted in political education and extensive discussion. Some of the state's liveliest battles have taken place over propositions and direct legislation is an important part of the political lifestyle of Washington.


Have a majority of Washington voters acted rationally and rendered the right verdicts on propositions? What is a rational vote? Is it one cast in the overall public interest or a self-interested end? Obviously, this is a value judgment which legislators, interest group leaders and the informed voters might answer differently on a given measure.

If initiatives and referenda since World War II are lumped together, a high rate of approval is found for bond issues and measures to improve the state's capacity to manage and utilize its monies. Only about half of the issues providing for 'people,' including pay raises for public officials, were adopted.

In every election, the majority of those choosing to vote on propositions appear to exercise much discrimination. One can find cases where the electorate voted against the long range interests of the masses-but so has the legislature.

The problem of whether the voter accurately perceives issues deserves extensive study. Suffice it here to make a few observations. In the reapportionment measures on the 1930, 1956, and 1962 ballots, the majority of voters seemed to know whether their representation would be favorably or unfavorably affected. All three times, the areas standing to gain representation supported the measure; areas where representation would be diminished voted against it. At the same time, there seemed to be some confusion in 1972 on a city-county consolidation amendment and a public transportation bond referendum. These measures failed to win approval in several counties which appeared to stand to gain. Overall, then, the vote on these questions was partly rational and partly irrational.

Since 1966, a group of University of Washington students have conducted sample surveys in King County to obtain voter reaction to ballot propositions. Two findings are of special interest. First, not surprisingly, voter perception showed striking discrepancy between issues. In 1972, for example, only 35 percent of the respondents had a reasonably good perception of the shoreline management initiative, while 82 percent understood the private liquor initiative. Ninety percent likewise had a quite clear perception of the equal rights amendment.

Secondly, we have found that the official voters pamphlet is mentioned by the most persons as their first choice source of information on ballot propositions, followed by newspapers, family, friends, and television, then various other sources. What is more important perhaps is that the voters mentioning the pamphlet as their first choice for information exhibited significantly better knowledge of the issues (see TABLE 3). Before a conclusion can be reached on the linkage between information source and understanding of issues, it is necessary to have a statewide sample which is evenly distributed and not concentrated wtihin one socioeconomic class or geographic area. No such data are available in Washington, nor have they been found for other states. But it seems obvious that a clear, high quality official voters pamphlet is essential if wise policy outcomes are to be derived from the use of direct legislation and from judgments on the increasing number of legislatively referred statutes and constitutional amendments. The cost of the voters pamphlet, including postage-20 cents per household in 1970 and 32 cents in 1972-seems a worthwhile expenditure.


[blocks in formation]


In 1911, Congressman John E. Baker stated on the floor of Congress that "the initiative, referendum, and recall are closely connected parts of the same political theory. The people elect representatives; if these representatives don't carry out the will of the people, then the people initiate legislation. If their representatives transgress the will of the people, then the people, through the referendum, repeal the laws which their representatives have made. . . ." (Congressional Record, May 22, 1911, p. 67 of Appendix). Thus, the initiative and referendum were to be alternatives to legislative unresponsiveness and to give the citizen a means to protest specific grievances. Direct legislative mechanisms were to be, and have been, used by certain groups who appeared to be left out of the policies, programs, and benefits distributed by the legislature.

The much greater use of the initiative than of the referendum suggests that voters have used the popular devices to accomplish what the legislature did not do, rather than to veto what it did do. In the main, the fears of opponents that the initiative would be used by special interest groups to bankrupt the state or to enact programs harmful to the majority of citizens have not been borne out in Washington. The signature requirements have been strict enough most of the time to keep frivolous and highly narrow, if not selfish, measures from getting on the ballot.

In retrospect, initiative use has averaged only a little more than one per year. The traditional long ballot has not been due to initiatives but to the huge number of statutes and constitutional amendments placed before voters by the legislature: the legislature has been forced to submit the many measures in an effort to update the constitution and to obtain authorization for bonded indebtedness to meet programs demanded by the citizens. The legislature itself has placed a whopping 50 laws and amendments before the voters since 1966 ! In the absence of a new constitution, there is prospect of a continuing heavy burden of ballot propositions. Washington voters will be asked to continue to exercise sophisticated judgment on initiatives, referenda, and amendments. The schools, the media, interest group leaders, and the legislature must exert a sustained effort to inform the electorate on the purposes and anticipated effects of such propositions.

NOTE. The views expressed in Washington Public Policy Notes are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the University of Washington or the Institute of Governmental Research.

Senator HATCH. Our last group will be a panel. We have Mr. Edward Dent from Washington, D.C.; Ken Thomson, director of Citizens for Participation in Political Action, Boston, Mass.; Joyce Koupal, People's Lobby, Los Angeles, Calif.; Peter G. Fish, associate professor of political science, Duke University, Durham, N.C.

We're happy to welcome all of you to our subcommittee today and we will look forward to having your particular viewpoints and making them part of the record.

May I just have you introduce yourselves so we will know who you are and we'll go from there.

Mr. FISH. I'm Peter Fish from Duke University where I am associate professor of political science.

Mr. DENT. I am Chip Dent, resident of Washington, D.C., and I have been involved with Initiative America since its inception.

Mr. THOMSON. I'm Ken Thomson from Citizens for Participation in Political Action in Massachusetts.

Ms. KOUPAL. I'm Joyce Koupal. I'm the director of the People's Lobby in Los Angeles.

Mr. DIAMOND. I'm Roger Diamond and I'm an attorney for People's Lobby. I'm also an instructor in constitutional law in Los Angeles.

Senator HATCH. We're happy to have all of you with us. You may proceed.


Mr. FISH. I think our gathering here today attests to the fact that we have an historic tension in the American political system between liberal constitutional doctrines on the one hand and democratic doctrines on the other hand.

It is also symptomatic I think of the fact that where as the progressives of the 'teens and 1920's were concerned with advancing initiative, referendum, and recall in the several States, we are now discussing it with respect to the national Government. I think this change of focus indicates concern with an aggregation of power in the national Government here in Washington, and also indicates that the people may be seeking some way to deal with it.

I think one problem with the national legislative initiative is that it conflicts with the historic constitutional system resting on foundations articulated by James Madison, particularly in the Federalist Papers. He emphasized the interior structure of government in Federalist No. 51 and the exterior structure of government in Federalist No. 10 where he discussed the nature of representation. It is not simply that Madison spoke to the subject or that the Constitution reflects many of his conceptions that we need to take cognizance of his thoughts. Rather we need to heed his writings because of his goal. Madison was seeking the development of a stable government, and how best to achieve such a stable government in the new Nation.

So, he proposed both interior and exterior structural elements which would create a balanced and stable government. Federalism reinforces that structure.

Now, as I see it, the initiative would be a conflict stimulator. We would have-and in many States such has been the case-intense, well-financed, and well-organized groups of either the right or the left.

Their intensity would likely result in emotional campaigns. The issues themselves would have to be quite clear-cut in order to be communicated to the electorate in an effective manner. There could be very little compromise in terms of the language of the initiative involved. Once on the ballot, the language would be fixed. No further compromises by legislative brokers would be possible regardless of external conditions in society.

I note that Mr. Nader was a little upset that the legislature in California acted in the compromising "broker" tradition prior to the passage of an initiative, and, as he said, their action took the steam out of the initiative. But the question, I think, that we should ask is whether or not compromises per se are bad. Perhaps they are good. Perhaps they result in an orderly and institutionalized working out of conflicts in American society.

As for federalism, I think the national initiative would clearly bypass the States, and would create a new national constituency

different even from that which elects the President. The people of Switzerland, for example, voted on a legislative initiative in 1961. The Swiss have a constitutional initiative, and they have a legislative referral referendum system. But on the national legislative initiative they voted four to one in 1961 against adopting a national legislative initiative. They did so primarily because they felt it would reduce the functions of the cantons in Switzerland and foster encroachment by the national Swiss Government on the cantons. As I see it, American citizens may be alienated, and they may be alienated from the political system. To my mind, this is due not to the fact that the quantity of their vote is inadequate, but that its quality has been eroded. In fact, government has moved away geographically and functionally. It has aggregated in the national government and in its various bureaucracies such as HEW. The question is whether the remedy for this problem is more democracy in the context of a mass national electorate. Perhaps it is time for a devolution of power from the national government back to the neighborhoods, to the local communities, and to the States. A restoration of power to those forums over which people feel they really can have a visible effect with their vote may be the remedy needed.

Briefly looking at Senate Joint Resolution 67 there are two clauses of the Constitution to which the people cannot speak via the national initiative: the power to declare war, the power to engage in self defense. All other provisions are apparently open to initiative legislation. Therefore the people could set an arms limitation on the American Government via the initiative. They could put a nuclear submarine limitation on the national Government. They could state that 1 year after the adoption of the amendment that the Defense Department or HEW's budget must be cut 25 percent. They could do something like that.

In the area of civil rights, I imagine that in North Carolina a repeal of title VII, the employment discrimination provisions, might be very popular. Repeal of the Public Accommodations Act of 1964 could be quite popular.

Senator HATCH. May I interrupt?

That was popular-and I believe it may be in some of the Stateswouldn't they be forbidden from having this initiative on the basis of the fact that those sections are already considered constitutional and repeal might be unconstitutional?

Mr. FISH. The legislation could be considered constitutional. I'm not sure. That would mean

Senator HATCH. What you're saying is that although the legislation has been defined by the courts as constitutional the States can repeal them with regard to applicability with the State.

Mr. FISH. A national legislative initiative could repeal them. I don't understand that the States could.

Senator HATCH. I'm saying that the States through a national initiative could repeal title VII for example of the Civil Rights Act which means that we would no longer have a title VII and we would still have the laws as determined by the courts but no title VII to rely on.

« AnteriorContinuar »