DIRECT DEMOCRACY OR
It is the latest fashion, and all sorts of people crave it. Direct democracy— initiative, referendum, and recall— is the hot new vogue in Americas electoral system. Adopted at the state and local levels, these mechanisms allow the public to directly make policy or abruptly end an elected official's term. The initiative is a procedure by which citizen petitions can place proposals for changes in state law or state constitutions directly on the ballot for a public vote. Twenty-four states allow citizens to propose legal or constitutional changes for voter approval in this way. A statutory referendum allows citizens to vote on laws considered by the state legislature. Two sorts of statutory referendum processes are used among the twenty-six states that employ them. One variant, the legislative referral permits the legislature to put a potential law to a popular vote. If the voters approve, it becomes law. A second type, the popular referendum, enables citizens— if they gather enough signatures on a petition—to force a public vote on a recently enacted law (Ellis 2002, 3-4). A constitutional referendum, employed in every state but Alabama, requires a public vote 011 proposed amendments to the state's constitution. A recall law, adopted in twenty states and many municipalities, allows citizens by petition to require a recall election on whether an elected official should complete her/his term of office. Though other democratic nations at times employ national referenda, none use direct democracy on a scale approaching that of some American states, such as California and Oregon. Table 4.1 summarizes the characteristics of initiative, referendum, and recall.
The initiative process now receives the heaviest usage in its history and is extremely popular with the public. In 1996, the ninety-three initiatives