Initiatives, Referenda and Recall

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Initiatives, Referenda and Recall

The Green Party supports initiative, referendum and recall as essential tools of direct democracy; and the Green Party 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. Through the initiative process, citizens can propose statutes and amendments to the California Constitution -- a critical option, especially when elected officials are deemed un-responsive by their constituents.

The weakness of the initiative process is the degree to which its components can be determined by big money -- from qualifying for the ballot, to waging statewide election campaigns. Too often 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. Then there is the private, for-profit role that signature-gathering companies play in determining the cost of access to our democracy.

In response, Greens support making it easier for volunteer-based efforts to qualify initiatives, referendum and recall, and propose different ways this could occur. 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. At the same time, Greens support increasing financial disclosure for all ballot measures.

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 utilize large percentages of volunteers and stay within spending limits, and/or weigh more highly the signatures obtained utilizing volunteers

- Where is is possible to truly safeguard security, identity and privacy, allow signature gathering for initiative and referendum via the Internet and/or other electronic technology.

Drafting, 'Title and Summary

- 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.

- 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).

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.

- 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.

- The approval threshold to approve an initiative constitutional amendment should be higher than a simple majority vote, but only after a cleaning up of the state constitution to separate what belongs in a constitution and what is an initiative statute


- 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 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, similar to the pro/con arguments in the voter information guide - but only for campaigns accepting and operating within voluntary spending limits.


- Require that disclosure requirements that already apply to mailings and advertisements in support or opposition to an initiative or referendum, also apply to disclosure in the ballot pamphlet and voter information guide for those ballot measures

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

- Where an initiative or referendum campaign has substantially qualified for the ballot through signature-gathering by volunteers, include this with other disclosure information.

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