Evaluate how democratic, in practice, initiatives and referendums are in making public policy decisions in the USA. (30 marks)

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  • initiatives & referendums in making public policy decisions
    • agree
      • initiatives are 'bottom-up' direct democratic devices
        • initiated by the voters themselves
        • not 'top-down' decisions made by elected reps. then put to voters for a decision
      • highly democratic devices showing 'popular sovereignty'
      • directly involve voters in decisions on specific issues and encourage greater participation and involvement
      • remove some of the disadvs. of representative democracy
        • e.g. blanket votes at elections or avoidance of politically controversial issues by those seeking office
      • referendums mean state legislatures cannot act without the permission of voters on some issues
    • disagree
      • low turnout undermining legitimacy of the vote
      • wording of the questions
      • methods used to collect the signatures
      • unequal funding of the two sides
      • dominance of special interests in the campaigns
      • promote short-term gain against long-term interest
      • propositions have discriminated against minorities
      • state SCs can overturn the initiative decisions as unconstitutional
      • few are successful
      • DEFENCE of politicians
        • accountable, elected reps.
        • making decisions to benefit everyone in the long-term
    • Prop 13 in 1978, Big Green in 1992
    • gay marriage, affirmative, action, abortion & stem cell research initiatives in 2004
    • propositions 13 & 8 in Cali. 2008
    • proposition 19 on cannabis in Cali. 2010


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