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Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Entry Fee for Direct Democracy

In our chapter on campaigns and elections, we discuss direct democracy. Although ballot initiatives aim to empower ordinary citizens, such campaigns often require the help of major donors, especially in large states such as California. The Orange County Register reports:

The recent spate of abandoned citizen initiatives underlines a simple fact: If you want to put a measure on the ballot, you're going to have to raise a million bucks to hire signature gathers.

Think you have enough popular support to get 700,000 valid signatures just using volunteers? Say you've got the anti-illegal immigration folks behind you. Or the Tea Party folks. Or the gay community.Forget it. All three factions have thrown up their hands and walked away from drives to get initiatives on the November ballot.

"Nobody ever gets that many signatures with volunteers," said John Matsusaka, president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at USC. He's studied initiatives since 1991. "I can't recall an initiative ever getting on the ballot in California with volunteers."