The Public Takes Charge
It had to happen sooner or later. From the nomination of Zoe Baird to health-care reform, citizens were making their views known loudly and clearly to their legislators. Time after time, they have been telling their representatives how to vote. Why not simply dispense with the middleman and let the public vote directly on legislation? That is exactly what happened as citizens rediscovered the "ballot initiative" and transformed it into what some have called a "fourth branch of government."
Initiatives (where citizens obtain signatures to qualify measures for the general election ballot) and referenda (where legislatures "refer" matters to the electorate for decision) 1 are the logical outcomes of increased public and interest-group participation in public policymaking. They follow directly on issue advocates' efforts to convince the public, through advertising and issue marketing, to contact its legislators to support or oppose policy actions.
In this chapter we discuss the origins, operation, uses, and abuses of initiatives; in the final chapter we explore what the explosion in the number of "direct democracy" initiatives means for issue advocacy, public policymaking, and our representative democracy.
A disenchanted public is fed up with state legislatures in the grip of powerful, moneyed interests. Legislators are widely perceived as cor-