American West Briefing Tour: California presents rich history, controversial present, and unkown future in direct democracy

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September 21, 2011

American West.jpg

By Al Ortiz

Ballopedia Travel Journal

SAN FRANCISCO, California: There's no turning back now. The tour has officially begun with last night's dinner welcoming participants to San Francisco and an elaborate rundown of what to expect in the coming week.

Also included was a highlight of California's history of direct democracy, which started with a ballot including 23 legislatively-referred constitutional amendments on October 10, 1911. Among those three amendments, according to Joe Mathews, journalist and fellow at New America Foundation, were ballot questions to implement the initiative, referendum and recall processes.

Participants of 2011 Tour

On another interesting note, a ballot question relating to women's suffrage was also found on that particular ballot.

Fast forward to the present, the tour now begins at a time where California is facing uncertainty surrounding its direct democracy processes. Democrats in the California Legislature this year have been attempting to install limitations for ballot initiatives, arguing that the state's initiative process has both been tarnished by special interests and has further elevated the state's financial troubles.

Multiple bills have been proposed to make the initiative process in California more difficult, including a measure that would give the state lawmakers the right to amend or repeal initiatives that are approved by voters, but only after four years have passed. Arguments from state Republicans include accusations that Democrats are only attempting to keep in place laws that favor their political agendas.[1]

Events scheduled for today and tomorrow's participants will touch on the subject of the efforts to restrict the initiative and referendum process, among other fascinating aspects of direct democracy. A debate is scheduled for tonight as well, which will also delve into the future of the initiative process in the state. Stay tuned!

  • Current City: San Francisco

What else to look for today

  • St. Francis Yacht Club - Workshop on modern technology and the initiative and referendum process.
  • Fort Mason Center - Opening of a new exhibition on Direct Democracy in Switzerland and the American West.
  • Fort Mason Center - Debate organized by Zocalo Public Square and New America Foundation, "How Can We Put the People Back In the Initiative Process?"

Learn more about the tour and its participants here.

Follow the tour!

See also