The Operation of the Initiative, Referendum and Recall in Oregon

By James D. Barnett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
THE VOTE IN DIRECT LEGISLATION

1
The Interest in Elections

"THAT voting in an election is a patriotic duty that no man should neglect has long been urged upon the electorate. But there is even stronger reason why the people should vote on direct legislation. Election to office is a contest between two or more candidates. The voter who stays away from the polls divides his vote equally among the several candidates. Oregon state and county elections have developed largely into a popularity test between personalities. The office will be filled and the business of the government carried on in spite of widespread dereliction in the exercise of the franchise. An initiative measure or one subjected to the referendum, on the other hand, is an issue in itself. We either adopt it or reject it. We either accept its virtues or its evils or we deprive ourselves wholly of them. Failure of many to vote leaves the control of government affairs, in sometimes unsuspected instances, to a compact group or class that is actually in the minority. Indifference of the majority, or its failure to discern the significance of a proposed law, may wreak disaster upon the majority or give the minority special advantages or privileges to which it is not entitled.'1

But that the voters are not as much interested in the enactment of direct legislation as they are in the choice of officers clearly appears from the fact that when officers and measures

____________________
1
Oregonian, Sept. 10, 1912, p.8, col. 1.

-101-

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