Initiatives, Referenda and Recall

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Initiatives, Referenda and Recall

The Green Party supports initiative, referendum and recall as essential direct democracy tools; 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 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 ballot measure campaigns.

The initiative process was originally intended as a way for citizen voters to access the government structure, but it has too often 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. Then there is the private, for-profit and politically-oriented role 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 referendum; and at the same time to increase financial disclosure for ballot measures. Greens also seek ways to ensure that better drafted measures ultimately make it to the ballot.

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

On a more global level, there is a fundamental difference between constitutional amendments and statutory initiatives, but under current law,

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

Since then, the constitution has been individually amended and revised more than 500 times, the result being a cacophony of ideas that may have made sense at the time they were approved, but now often clash with each other to produce an almost ungovernable state.

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.

Then there is the question of approval thresholds. Greens believe that what is contained in the state constitution should be more enduring than regular laws by statue, and therefore should have super majority support. Therefore going forward, we 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.

Even though the Green Party supports retaining and strengthening the single subjct rule, there is a role for comprehensvie through a constitutionva conventeion. If it has legal guarantee,

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 initiative or referendum proposal using volunteers, by extending the number of days to qualify for the ballot for signature-gathering efforts that both utilize large percentages of volunteers and stay within voluntary spending limits (where mandatory limits are not possible by law), and/or weigh more highly the signatures obtained utilizing volunteers

- Where is is possible to truly safeguard security, identity and privacy allow signature gathering Internet and/or other electronic technology for initiative and referendum; and in such cases there may be a higher signature threshold used for electronic signatures.


- 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 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 informational television and radio information about the initiative and referendum proposals on the ballot, and broadcast any public hearings the Legislature holds/has held on the initiative proposals.

- Impose contribution and expenditure limits by individuals and groups in initiative and referendum campaigns - mandatory limits where possible by law, and voluntary when not.

- 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 - but only for campaigns accepting and operating within spending limits.


- Require that disclosure requirements that apply to mailings and advertisements in support or opposition to an initiative or referendum also apply to the ballot pamphlet and voter information guide in its written and electronic forms

- Require that the top three 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 top three 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.