Citizen Lawmakers

Citizen Lawmakers

Copyright Date: 1989
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Citizen Lawmakers
    Book Description:

    "[B]oth an engrossing history and a guide showing how citizens can make their own laws directly, at the ballot box, when elected officials are unresponsive." --Ralph Nader After decades of disuse, a startling upsurge in the use of the Initiative and Referendum--law-making by citizen petition and popular vote--occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. In Citizen Lawmakers, David Schmidt tells the stories of the individual activists, such as Howard Jarvis and Ed Koupal, and the political groups that made this happen. While other studies have analyzed the statistics of the ballot initiative revolution, this book provides the personal, political, and historical contexts vital to understanding the causes and the tremendous impact of the trend toward ballot-box lawmaking over the last two decades. Schmidt demonstrates how "ordinary individuals, even in this age of monstrous bureaucracies and larger-than-life celebrities, can, and do, change this nation's laws to make government more accountable." Although still neglected in contemporary political science texts, the initiative process has become the most dynamic, innovative arena of American politics. Between 1968 and 1982, the number of voter-initiated propositions on state ballots increased from 10 to 60, with issues moving from purely local to national movements, such as the Tax Revolt (heralded by California's Proposition 13 in 1978), "Motor Voter" initiatives started in Arizona and Colorado, Bottle Bills and non-smoking ordinances, and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze votes of 1982. As the editor of a nationwide newsletter on the subject and a participant in some of the initiative and referendum campaigns he describes, David Schmidt brings to the writing a wealth of first-hand detail. After tracing the historical origins of the Initiative and Referendum, the book focuses on case studies of the most widespread ballot issues and the most prominent initiative campaign promoters in the 1970s and 1980s. Discussing recent efforts to put national initiative lawmaking rights into the federal Constitution, Schmidt makes a case for the ballot initiative process as an essential complement and corrective to the American system of lawmaking by elected representatives. Citizen Lawmakers is also a handbook for activists. From his experiences in many states, Schmidt provides advice on gathering signatures, complying with state regulations, gaining media coverage, combating opponents' tactics, and raising money. This book concludes with appendixes that give a state-by-state capsule history of initiative use and voting results for each of the fifty states and include the results of the votes on propositions from the November 1988 election. "As one of the nation's leading authorities on the referendum and initiative processes, David Schmidt has prepared a thoughtful, positive overview of one of the most significant electoral phenomena of our time." --Edmund G. Brown, Jr., former Governor of California "The definitive work on citizens and ballot initiatives.... This study offers citizen activists a manual on how to run a citizen campaign during the ballot initiative revolution and presents, in the appendixes, a comprehensive data on initiative voting in each of the states. The contribution to citizen activism and participatory democracy is the most significant characteristic of Schmidt's volume. The book is well written, well researched, and important. Strongly recommended for citizens interested in being counted once again in the American political system." --Choice "An important work that addresses a wide audience.... Unlike much of the work written on the subject, this book provides the reader with both the historical perspective and empirical data.... This work should be read by those interested in the political process." --Perspectives on Political Science "The book may convince some readers that ordinary people make better policy than politicians do." --California Lawyer "Important reading for those who aspire to influence public policy.... [Schmidt] is at his absolute best and the book is at its most invaluable when it focuses on how to effectively us I&R." --Chicago Enterprise

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0511-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 History
    (pp. 3-24)

    The word “initiative” today means many things to many people. In state and local American politics for the past century, it has had a specific meaning: a new law or resolution proposed and placed on the ballot by citizen petition, and enacted directly by popular vote. Through an Initiative, the peopleinitiatelegislation; through its less frequently used complement, the Referendum, votersrefera newly enacted law, by petition, from the legislature to the ballot for final approval.

    Both Initiative and Referendum ballot propositions, as well as other propositions placed on ballots by legislatures, are included in the more general...

  5. 2 Arguments For and Against
    (pp. 25-40)

    In the 23 states and countless local jurisdictions where citizens already enjoy the right of Initiative, lawmaking by popular vote is as sacrosanct as any other voting right. But in the other 27 states, the debate over whether to add Initiative to existing statewide voting rights has at times risen to a furious pitch as each side attempts to attach the “special interest” label to the other. Although this occurs in any political debate, it is absurd when applied to the Initiative process, a reform that allows the public itself to decide what constitutes the public interest.

    The Initiative process...

  6. 3 The Story of Ed Koupal and People’s Lobby
    (pp. 41-62)

    Edwin A. Koupal was an unlikely candidate for militant activism. Born in Oregon in 1927, he moved to Sacramento, California, as a young adult, married Joyce Nash, and settled into a conventional life.¹ By the early 1960s Ed and Joyce Koupal had three school-age children, and Ed had become a successful Ford dealer.² His lack of interest in politics was such that he had never registered to vote.³

    Koupal’s political conversion began shortly after the family moved to a big new house with a swimming pool in a suburban subdivision east of Sacramento. A member of the district’s sewer board...

  7. 4 Energy Crises
    (pp. 63-104)

    In the 1960s most established environmental organizations favored nuclear power, believing the nuclear and electric utility industries’ claims that it would provide a cheap, virtually nonpolluting, inexhaustible source of electrical energy. One of the first environmentalists to question this conventional wisdom was David Pesonen, a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area who began a one-man campaign against the construction of a nuclear power plant in the late 1950s. PG&E, California’s largest energy utility, planned to locate the plant at Bodega Bay, an untouched rural site on the coast about 50 miles north of San Francisco. In 1962 PG&E abandoned...

  8. 5 Two Case Studies
    (pp. 105-124)

    The careers of activists as far apart as Berkeley, California, and Oak Park, Illinois, illustrate the scope and power ofthe ballot Initiative. Consider the cases of Martin Schiffenbauer, a California tenant activist, and the Quinn brothers, Illinois campaigners for political reform.

    Berkeley, California, was racked in the 1960s by a series of protest demonstrations originating on the University of California campus. The series started with the Free Speech Movement in 1964, continued with anti–Vietnam War protests in the next several years, and culminated in the violent “People’s Park” riots of 1969. In the 1970s the campus quieted down, but...

  9. 6 Tax Revolt: Conservatives Take the Initiative
    (pp. 125-146)

    The news of Ed Koupal’s death on 29 March 1976 must have been the occasion for secret rejoicing in the California state capitol. Never again would this disrespectful crank harass the professional politicians with his annoyingly effective brand of direct democracy. Few realized that a right-wing reincarnation of Ed Koupal was already organizing a statewide Initiative petition drive. The similarities between Ed Koupal and this rising star, Howard Jarvis, were striking. Jarvis was an unknown in California politics whose obscenity-ridden condemnation of politicians would help make him a folk hero. His began his political career in his later years and,...

  10. 7 Ballots Against Bombs
    (pp. 147-170)

    The idea of preventing war by popular vote on a ballot Initiative seemed a novel tactic to the activists of the 1980s Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, but the Progressive leaders of seven decades earlier came up with it first. In 1915, when it began to look as though the United States would become involved in World War I, William Jennings Bryan, Robert M. La Follette, Jane Addams, and other prominent reformers called for a national war referendum. Addams called it “our best hope” for peace.¹

    Senator La Follette introduced a bill to allow a national advisory Initiative (that is, it...

  11. 8 National Initiative
    (pp. 171-182)

    Voters in Switzerland and Italy made international news in the 1970s and 1980s by using their national Initiative procedures to decide national policy. Australia’s Democratic Party and West Germany’s Green Party campaigned to get national Initiative voting rights in their countries as well. The following summary of national Initiative activity around the world indicates the unprecedented extent of agitation for—and use of—direct democracy in recent years.

    The Swiss have exercised the right to amend their federal constitution by national Initiative since 1891, and the right of national Referendum (to approve or reject laws passed by the national parliament)...

  12. 9 Campaign Manual
    (pp. 183-210)

    Unfortunately, there is no national law or provision in the U.S. Constitution that says that every state or local government must have the Initiative process. Many states and localities still lack this essential mechanism of self-government. There are two principal ways to get it.

    One is for astate constitutional conventionor local charter revision commission to pass an Initiative amendment. In most cases, however, the only way to make the necessary change is for the electedlegislatureorcity councilto pass an Initiative amendment to the state constitution or city charter. The way to get them to do...

  13. Appendix I Initiative and Referendum Election Results, 1987–1988
    (pp. 211-216)
  14. Appendix II Development of the Initiative
    (pp. 217-286)
  15. Appendix III Statewide Initiatives Passed by Voters, 1970–1986
    (pp. 287-294)
  16. Appendix IV Petitioning: A State-by-State Guide to Rights and Requirements
    (pp. 295-312)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 313-336)
  18. Index
    (pp. 337-345)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 346-346)