Propositions and Direct Democracy in the USA

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  • Propositions and Direct Democracy in the USA
    • Referenda in state and local elections
      • Direct democracy is when people make the decision fo things which affect them
      • Elections for the President and Congress are examples of Representative Government where voters choose politicians to make important political decisions
      • This happens at a state and local but never national level
      • Individual states place a proposition on the ballot paper during other elections
    • How it works
      • It is in 24 out of 50 states' constitution
      • Send proposition to state official who will check and see if it is legal and constitutional
      • Give a proper title for it to go on the ballot paper
      • Needs enough signatures from people in the state for it to go on the ballot paper and they are checked to make sure they are authentic signatures
        • In California you need a number of signatures equivalent to 5% of the votes cast in the last election for State Governor
      • It varies from state to state but when it is a direct proposition it goes straight to the ballot paper and an indirect proposition going to state legislature or parliament and they decide if it goes on or not
      • If it gets 50% plus one votes it becomes law
      • All 50 states have a referendum possibility
        • If the state governement makes a change to their consitution a state wide referendum is used for people to give approval or not
          • There were 115 of these in 2012
        • In 24 states there can be a referendum on a law passed which the voters don't like and if they vote against it it ceases to be the law
    • How successful are propositions?
      • Death penalty
        • California proposition 34 would have ended the death penalty but they voted to keep with nearly 53%
      • Abortion
        • Florida Amendment 6 would have prevented state funding for legal abortions they rejected this by 51%
        • Montana propsition which forces doctors to inform parents of an under 16 asking for an abortion was passed by 70%
      • Assisted suicide
        • Massachusetts proposition would have legalised assisted suicide for terminally ill patients was rejection
      • Legalisation of marijuana
        • Washington and Colorado approved propositions for legalising marijuana for recreational use
        • Massachusetts approved it for medical use
      • Gay marriage
        • Washington, Maryland and Maine voted to approve gay marriage
      • In 2012 there were 42 propositions USA wide - 17 successful, 25 failed
    • Arguments for Propositions
      • The mere appearance of them on ballot paper in advance of election can stimulate political activity
      • They increase responsibility of elected politicians because they have to act on what the people say
        • Washington legalising marijuana make the elected officials responsible for carrying it out
      • State wide referendums allow people an effective veto on what the state government can do to change the way the state is governed
      • Many issues that appear are sensitive social and moral issues and most state governors are unwilling to deal with sensitive issues because they don't want to offend voters
        • Legalisation of marijuana would not have been done by state legislature in fear of backlash so it is better to let the people decide
      • Often increase voter turnout as they are often highly controversial and draw people out in order to cast their vote
      • Simply more democratic, introduce an element of direct democracy
        • California voting to keep the death penalty in 2012 was controversial but what the people wanted
    • Arguments against Propositions
      • If a proposition is passed state legislature can't do much to change it even if it is flawed
      • Do people know best? People often vote on self interest and don't look at issues as closely as a politician would and can lead to bad decisions
      • Proposition votes are vulnerable to pressure and manipulation from special interests who can use their money and power to get something on the ballot paper in the first place and then campaign
      • Use of state wide referebdyns can prevent a state government from actually governing and getting things done

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