Ballot Initiatives, A History Continued

July 5, 2009

Historically, the initiative process sought to remove the barriers that were prohibiting citizens from participating in government. In part, these barriers were inextricably bound to corruption. Those in political power wanted to preserve their positions; therefore, they did everything within their means to insulate themselves from others. Progressive reformers, thus, targeted “politicians, parties, interest groups, and political institutions” in an attempt to restore the public’s confidence in government as well as remove barriers to political participation (Schacter, 1995, 113). The overarching aim of the initiative process is to strengthen democracy, especially in the form of confidence and participation. Many legal scholars frame the importance of the initiative process in this manner: “The mechanism gives popular mass movements the ability to develop legislative vehicles and secure a date for verdict from fellow citizens. In a manner unmatched in any nation…the initiative is an expression of confidence in ourselves, a reaffirmation of the confidence of the Framers: that free men and women can govern themselves” (Schacter, 1995, 112). The reformists were seeking a way to remove the undue influence of political elites and special interests so that American democracy would once again belong to the people.
Reinserting the decision-making power of the citizenry in a new way became the remedy: “turning legislative decisions over to the people seemed one clear way to do this” (Mattson, 1999, 22). The intended effect was that “[b]ecause the initiative process allowed citizens to register their opinions by direct votes, it promised to be a valuable alternative to representative government, which had become tainted by the influences of privileged interests and partisan politics” (Du Vivier, 2007, 1046). Ultimately, the initiative process was deemed the proper vehicle to restore representative democracy because it left the fate of democracy in the hands of its citizens. Overall, the Progressive era was
[a] major period of systemic reform of local, state, and federal government institutions, culminating in the creation of a national administrative state. Progressive reforms served to create hierarchical bureaucratic organizations to prevent political corruption and restore public trust in government. By changing political institutions, Progressive reforms reshaped American democracy both substantively and procedurally and were critical in adapting government institutions for a new industrial economy. (Tolbert, 2003, 470)
The Progressive reforms swept across multiple levels of society and government. The reforms sought to minimize, if not remove, the high levels of public distrust, frustration with the political process, and, in many ways, outright alienation created by political bargains. Overall, these reforms reoriented the political power structure so that citizens again were the focus of the government and, simultaneously, fostered a newfound trust in government itself.

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4 Responses to “Ballot Initiatives, A History Continued”

  1. Katie Graves said

    Your blog is really impressive. The amount of information you post each time is really incredible. This may seem like an off-topic question, but as you’ve documented many different eras of reform, do you have a favorite? Is there any era that you view as being the most ideal? Are any of the major changes that the U.S. has gone through something we should again be adopting?

    Good luck completing your project and I’m looking forward to your presentation!

  2. evsociety09 said

    All of you information on this subject is great and I think that your work is really moving along. I know that the ballot process is still very corrupt and was wondering where your work is going to take you. Are you going to lobby for reform or show that something needs to still be done? I hope your work will have in impact on the way things are done and I’m sure that you will be able to change something for the better.

  3. B. F. Pons said

    Every one of your posts seems to be very interesting and educational, as well as a bit over my head. I know we talked a little about this after our last meeting, but have you come to any definite decision on how you are going to make your poster?

    Good Luck

  4. akzalud said

    Hey Karl! Good work! Your blog is impressive and way over my head. I can’t think of any questions for you. I hope that your last two weeks in the program go well!

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