The Public Square
Californians’ initiative, referendum and recall process is as hot a topic for debate as ever. That’s apt, for this year marks the process’s 100th anniversary.
On October 10, 1911, Californians went to the polls to enact these democratic checks on government after Governor Hiram Johnson persuaded legislators to put them on the ballot. On October 10, 2011, I’ll be in Sacramento at an event sponsored by Citizens in Charge Foundation to celebrate the centennial.
And a few days ago, I served on a panel of interesting people in front of a great audience of Californians at a Zócalo Public Square event in San Francisco, entitled, “How Do We Put the People Back in the Initiative Process?”
My answer: Make it easier, instead of harder, to put issues on the ballot. Presently, California requires 800,000 voters to sign petitions to put an amendment on the ballot and 400,000 voters for a statutory measure; sponsors have only five months to get all those signatures.
Why not give citizens a year to collect signatures? Why not lower the requirement?
Unless “reform” of the initiative is really code for not putting the people back in the process, of course. Some folks don’t think voters are up to the task of democratic decision-making — at least, whenever voters don’t decide their way.
Let’s agree that the people aren’t perfect. I still prefer citizen control over government to the alternative of rule by politicians and self-appointed elites.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.