Initiatives and referendums, two words that extremely excite or worry people, but why? Initiatives have the power to place any measure, put forth by any citizen, on a ballot to be voted on by their fellow citizens. This worries some because of the extreme power uninformed individuals can have on the government of the United States. Weaknesses and strengths of initiatives (referendums occur less because they have to be put forth by legislation, then voted on by the people), are explored in this paper, and after reviewing both, help answer the question: do initiatives and referendums garner enough support so in time they will be used at the federal level?
[...] In a study done by Wolfinger and Greenstein in 1986, they showed that initiative can do more than exclude minorities from effective participation; it can be dangerous to their rights.” They give the examples of initiatives in California which made English the official language and the issue of quarantining AIDS victims.” Advanced writing on the ballot of the initiative isn't the only example of the plight minority face via the initiative. its very design, the process ensures that concerns held by a minority—any minority—will be subjected to the will of the majority.” Initiatives were thought to be a check of legislation, but there is nothing to check the initiatives except the courts, but at that point, the bill is already passed. [...]
[...] The most straight-forward and simple strengths of the initiative and referendum process are the outcomes they produce and the fact none of the 26 states that have made initiative a part of their government has ever been repealed. Monumental changes in our entire governmental system including women's suffrage, restricting child labor laws, and tax cuts have been the products of initiatives. While there are many flaws in the system of initiative and referendum which people sometimes claim that instead of progressing a more democratic society, initiative and referendum empower the wealthy, public opinion polls have showed that citizens are in favor of the process. [...]
[...] San Francisco voters were polled prior to Proposition 215, and voters had approved an advisory initiative on medical marijuana with a majority of almost as had those in Santa Cruz.” Contributors to the opposition of Proposition 215 included Citizens for a Drug-Free California, California Narcotics Officers Association and Attorney General Dan Lungren and Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates, who named themselves cochairmen of the movement against Proposition 215. Gates and Lungren's main concern that Proposition 215 supporters only wanted to legalize medicinal marijuana in order to later get recreational marijuana legal. [...]
[...] As of spring 2000, “voters in Arizona Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Maine, and District of Columbia have passed similar measures to authorize qualified patients to use marijuana.” Upon reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the initiative process and becoming well versed in the area of Proposition 215, I feel that initiatives could some day be implemented at the federal level, but not before many reforms are put in place. The main weakness of initiatives is the actual voting and ballot process. [...]
[...] The issue worrying most about the initiative is the relationship between money and whether it gets on the ballot or not. Narrow-material interest campaigns are defined by Ernst as campaign had a clear and direct material interest at stake in an initiative's outcome characterized as narrow-material campaign.” Narrow- material campaigns are generally proposed by corporations who want to get a bill passed via the initiative that will benefit them. This shows that money can play a major role in the fate of the initiative. [...]
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