Initiatives, Referenda and Recall

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Initiatives, Referenda and Recall

The Green Party supports initiative, referendum and recall as positive tools of direct democracy; and seeks to retain and enhance these important institutions.

The strength of the initiative process is that it gives citizens the ability to by-pass the legislature and act directly as legislators themselves. Through the initiative process citizens can propose statutes and amendments to the California Constitution -- an important capability and option when elected officials are non-responsive to their constituents. The weakness of the initiative process is the degree to which all phases can be determined by big money, from qualifying for the ballot, to waging statewide election campaigns.

Originally intended as a way for citizen voters to access the government structure, the initiative process has become a large-scale commercial and fundraising enterprise -- it can cost millions of dollars and require a great deal of organization just to gather the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot; and signatures must to be gathered over a relatively short time period, making the task difficult and costly. Then there is the private role that for-profit signature-gathering companies play in determining the cost and access of our democracy.

In response, Greens support making it easier for volunteer-based efforts to qualify initiatives and referenda; and at the same time to increase financial disclosure for ballot measures by identifying their major contributors. Greens also seek ways to ensure that better drafted measures ultimately make it to the ballot.

During the election campaigns, Greens support ensuring television and radio time for informational programming and pro/con debates for each measure. Greens also support contribution and spending limits on the pro/con campaigns.

Its also important however to look back. There is more in the CA constitution than hsould be. Whether.

Realize that a legislature with proportioanl representation may be more resopnsivel then the current winner-take-all.

The difference between the two is that by law, what comes through the legislature or the initiative process is limited to addressing a single subject, whereas a constitutional convention can recommend symbiotic changes in an integrated, comprehensive manner.

Greens believe that what is contained in the constitution should have super majority support and support that going forward for new amendments. At the same time But there is also

Many things that don't belong in the constitution are there. The US Constitution

If make it super majority going forward, makes task more difficult. Perhaps a

The California Constitution gives the legislature the ability by a 2/3 vote to place before the voters whether there should be a Constitutional Convention. If passed, "the Legislature shall provide for the convention,” after which the Convention would meet and the changes it recommends be placed again before the voters as a single measure.

Eight times the length of the U.S. Constitution, The California Constitution is the third longest in the world.

The Green Party proposes:

Signature Gathering

- Make it easier to qualify an initial proposal using volunteers, by extending the number of days to qualify for the ballot from 180 days to a full year, and/or weigh more highly the signatures obtained using volunteers, and/or give sponsors more time if they are using volunteers to gather signatures.

- Lower the number of signatures required to qualify a referendum for the ballot from five percent to three percent of the votes cast for the governor in the last election, and/or increase the number of days to qualify for the ballot from 90 to 120.

- If appropriate security, identity and privacy safeguards are in place, allow Internet and/or other electronic technology for initiative and referendum signature gathering.

- Establish a system of public registration and training for signature gatherers.


- Initiative proposals should be written in language that is precise, clear, and understandable and meets standards of readability.

- Establish a mandatory pre-circulation review where initiative sponsors are required to submit draft proposals to an impartial and nonpartisan, official authority, such as the Legislative Analyst’s Office (for statewide measures), for a pre-circulation review of clarity/language, constitutionality/legality, and single subject. The opinion resulting from this pre-circulation review should be made public.

- Initiative proposals should be limited to a single subject. The definition of “single subject” should ensure clear interpretation and strict enforcement.

- Initiatives with provisions that would require funding should specify the sources or method(s) of providing the funding.

- Initiatives (statutory) should include a provision providing for an automatic review/re-vote or expiration of the measure, as appropriate.

Title and Summary

- The title and summary should be written by an impartial and non-partisan official authority, such as the Legislative Analyst's Office (for statewide measures).

- Ballot pamphlet analyses of initiative and referendum measures should be written for the reading level of the average citizen.

- The ballot label and ballot pamphlet should clearly indicate the effect of a yes vote and a no vote.

Voting and Approval Thresholds

- An initiative statute, or a legislative statute appearing on the ballot as a referendum, should be approved by a simple majority of those voting on the measure.

- The approval threshold to approve an initiative constitutional amendment should be higher than a simple majority vote

- An initiative statute or constitutional amendment that imposes a new requirement for passage of future initiatives should meet the same requirement.

- An initiative statute or constitutional amendment that requires a super-majority vote for passage of future related issues should be required to receive the same super-majority vote approval for its passage.

- An initiative should not be allowed to provide for different outcomes depending upon the percentage of votes cast in its favor.

- Voting on constitutional amendments should only occur at general elections.


- Provide free time for television and radio information programs for initiative and referendum proposals.

- Conduct a series of televised debates featuring the yes and no sides of initiative and referendum proposals, just as there are pro/con arguments in the voter information guide.

- Conduct public hearings of the Legislature on initiative and referendum proposals.

- Impose contribution and expenditure limits by individuals and groups in initiative and referendum campaigns.


- Require that sponsors of an initiative or referendum and organizations that form a committee to support or oppose a measure be listed by name in the ballot pamphlet, in mailings, and in advertisements.

- Require that principal contributors to an initiative or referendum campaign be listed by name in the ballot pamphlet, in mailings, and in advertisements.

- Require that initiative and referendum committees use names that reflect their true economic or special interest.


9. Post-Election

   a.  Under limited circumstances, the legislature, without approval by the voters, should be allowed to amend a statute adopted by initiative.      Circumstances could include that the amendments are consistent with the original intent of the initiative or are made after a waiting period.

   b.  Approval by the voters should be required to amend constitutional amendments adopted by initiative 

c. If two or more initiatives with conflicting provisions pass at the same election, the initiative receiving the greatest number of votes should be enacted.

   d.  Initiative proposals that do not win voter approval should be allowed to appear on subsequent ballots without restriction, if they again meet qualification requirements.

  This proposal would make for better drafted measures.

5. Qualification

    a.  Requirements should be retained for:
        1) direct initiative statute--valid signatures numbering 5 percent of the total vote for all candidates for governor in the gubernatorial election, 150 days to collect signatures;
        2) direct initiatie constitutional amendment--valid signatures numbering 8 percent of the total vote for all candidates for governor in the gubernatorial election, 150 days to collect signatures;
   b.  The filing fee should reflect costs of processing initiative and referendum proposals.
   c.  No requirement for geographic distribution should be imposed.
   d.  Solicitation of signatures and campaign funds in the same mailing should be allowed.