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Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Problem with Ballot Measures

This November, reports the Initiative and Referendum Institute, voters in 37 states will decide on 174 propositions, including:
  • 44 initiatives
  • 12 referendums,
  • 115 legislative measures,
  • and 3 votes on constitutional conventions.
The states with most propositions are : Alabama 11, Florida 11, California 10, Arizona 9, Louisiana 9, Oregon 9. 

At KNBC, Joe Mathews notes that several California ballot measures are getting little attention from the press or public.
So what to do? Voters might be wise to go with the strategy of simply voting no on things they don't know much about it. But what would be even better would be to take such measures off this ballot -- and delay them to another time.
This sort of thing can be done in some other states and countries with the ballot initiative process. But not in California. Once an initiative is on a ballot, it's on the ballot -- and it can't be moved. The result is that voters will be voting blindly on these measures.
But there's another solution to this: limiting the number of measures that can be on any one ballot.
One way to do that would be to separate ballot measure elections from candidate elections, as is done in Switzerland, which was the original inspiration for California's initiative process. The Swiss hold quarterly elections on initiatives and referenda. Those elections are set up to make sure there's only one or two initiatives on the time, so each measure gets scrutiny, deliberation, and debate.
California should adopt the Swiss election calendar, and vote up to four times a year on measures. Each initiative deserves some time in the sun before we vote on it.