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Develop DD I&R

By examining errors of other DD I&R systems, we can make a better system. A BIG thank you to these country's for their lessons!


(please scroll down if links do not work)

Problems with Quorums and other I&R difficulties.

Poly Critters rule I&R out


I&R DD Troubles in:




Canada BC


Proven over a hundred years of DD:

Swiss I&R Methods

Swiss Democracy

Swiss Constitution relating to I&R.


Quorum’s are necessary, or thousands of unsupported topics would clog the system. I ask you to consider the following, than see if the following statement is a starting place. A reasonable quorum is needed so valid petitions, I&R can be considered. Petitions should be gathered without requiring costly ”Officials” required to do it. There should be no cost to the process. However their may be cost for “advertisement”.

Voting could be accomplished in a regular election, not a separate funded election, to reduce cost.


As you will see in the following examples, if the quorum is to high or the methods to expensive, they fail. Or, the elite who can afford expensive media and advertisement have their way.


The last is Switzerland’s methods, condensed here. I believe their proven way is a good place to start. 


As Switzerland notes:  If the stakes to bring a question to the ballot box are too high or the collection of signatures is not free and the citizens are obliged to sign petitions in state offices only, then direct democracy becomes a burden and not a pleasure for the citizens.


Poly Critters rule I&R out


This clearly shows the need for specific  wording and division of powers relating to DD. Unless a Constitution clearly  shows the validity and the indestructibility of DD it will be killed by the politicians.

A jewel in the crown of American self-government
By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Staff, 6/7/2001

IN THE TWO-year political cycle that culminated on Election Day 2000, some
350 initiative petitions were submitted to election officials in the 24
states that permit laws to be passed at the ballot box. Of those 350, only
76 made it onto the ballot. And of those 76, only 36 were adopted. Of all
the initiatives proposed for the 2000 election, in other words, 90 percent
ended in failure.

In the same 24 states, meanwhile, more than 10,000 laws were enacted by
state legislators. Totals for the 2000 cycle aren't yet available, but
according to the Council of State Governments, lawmakers in the 24
direct-democracy states passed 11,000 laws in the 1998 cycle, and a whopping
17,000 in the two years before that.

It's hard to imagine that anyone could look at those numbers - 36 laws
created by ballot initiative versus 10,000 or more created by state
legislatures - and conclude that initiatives are out of control. But there
are such people. Especially in the state legislatures.

Initiatives are the last resort of desperate citizens, a way to check the
power of remote or arrogant lawmakers. When politicians refuse to heed the
public, when special interests block reform, when the governor is
disdainful, when the courts offer no relief, voters in 24 states still have
some leverage: They can bypass the Legislature and change the statute-book

As the numbers make clear, this doesn't happen very often, but even a little
citizen lawmaking seems to drive politicians crazy. It offends them that
ordinary voters have the chutzpah to demand a say, once in a while, on an
issue of public policy.

To stem this plague of democratic decision-making, they have taken to
sabotaging it with onerous rules: They hike the number of signatures needed
to qualify a measure for the ballot. They ban payments to signature
collectors. They require petition circulators to be registered voters. They
only permit initiatives that deal with a ''single subject'' - a term then
construed to invalidate even narrowly drawn ballot questions. They demand
that signatures be gathered from far-flung corners of the state - a high
barrier in huge but sparsely populated Western states.

If they are completely without shame - if they are, say, the Massachusetts
General Court - they openly flout the law. In 1992, 75,000 Bay State
citizens signed a petition to put a term-limits amendment on the ballot.
Under the state constitution, the Legislature was required - not allowed,
required - to take a vote; if 25 percent of the members backed the measure,
it would have moved to the ballot. But the Legislature, manipulated by
then-Senate President William Bulger, refused to vote, and the amendment

It is bad enough that lawmakers go to such lengths to undermine the
initiative process. Even worse is when they do so to defend the

The Oklahoma Legislature, to take the most egregious current example, has
just approved an amendment doubling the number of signatures required for
any ballot measure involving animals. The reason for this double standard?
To block an initiative outlawing the grotesque blood sport of cockfighting.
Incredibly, it is still legal in Oklahoma to attach razors to the legs of
roosters and then goad them into slashing each other while spectators bet on
which one will bleed to death first. Even more incredibly, Oklahoma's
elected representatives are willing to erode Oklahoma's democratic system to
protect this barbaric entertainment.

Travesties like these make it easy to understand the disesteem in which the
average voter holds the average state legislator. ''Most Americans believe
their elected officials look out first for themselves, then for their
contributors, and put serving the public well down on their list of
priorities,'' writes David Broder. ''To tell American voters today that a
politician is better motivated, more civic minded, and a better custodian of
the commonweal than the voters themselves might be an insult to their

Nicely balancing the voters' low opinion of legislators is their high
opinion of the initiative process. In a new Rasmussen poll, 68 percent of
respondents nationwide support the right of citizens to bring proposed laws
to the ballot; only 13 percent oppose it. By a similarly lopsided 65-20,
they say a law adopted by the voters is more likely to be in the public
interest than a bill passed by the legislature. And they are under no
illusion about the reason legislators keep finding new way to regulate
ballot questions: It is to preserve their power (67 percent), not to protect
the public (16 percent).

Citizen initiatives are good for democracy and a jewel of self-government.
More often than not, they bear out Holmes's dictum that the best test of
truth is the power of an idea to get itself accepted in the competition of
the market. A ballot measure that wins the electorate's approval is likely
to have been broadly publicized, vigorously debated, carefully analyzed, and
widely discussed. If only the same could be said about all our laws.

Link to column:

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is

This story ran on page A18 of the Boston Globe on 6/7/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.




 25% of local voters signatures are the quorum only to apply for a permission (!) at the local            Peoples council. An unrealistic 50% of local voters can start a referendum without permission. 

And then comes another hurdle a turnout validity quorum of  50%. <usually less than 45% vote>

NO initiatives have begun since the legislature passed this in 1996. Note, the Legislature has the power in Bulgaria.


DD Bulgaria

This is an example of what must be considered in design of DD. If the “powers” are given the power to change DD, there will be no DD. Bruce


From D-Europe list.

Dear Vladimir, You didn't participate on the workshop in Potsdam, that's why I am sending you my presentation there for Bulgaria. I think it would be interesting for you to see, what is really happening in Bulgaria. Best wishes, Todor  

Thank you Todor, Bruce

Direct democracy and Bulgaria

 DD seems to be a “banned fruit” in post-communist Bulgaria.


The political establishment definitely dislikes it. Not only NO NEW ELEMENTS of DD were introduced after 1989 but even some of THOSE existing previously were ‘purged’ out from constitution and legislation /i.e. election of judges and the right to initiate a public discussion/.


The new constitution was designed very tough to change – only by a special Great Peoples Assembly and never (!) by referendum. It envisaged no rights of legislative or referenda initiative for the citizens. But still, it stated a principle that the people exercise the power also directly and… “through the bodies established in this constitution.”


The law regulating referenda /The Act of Inquiring the People/ confirmed our deprivation of major DD right and further limited the competence of referenda. So referenda can’t be held about:

- constitution changes or amendments (!)

- issues reserved for the Great Parliament /new Constitution; changes in territory, form and structure of the state.

- state budget and taxes (!) and

- judiciary matters


The citizens can only start a LOCAL /municipal/ referendum but it’s a really humiliating ‘hurdles procedure”.  25% of local voters’ signatures are the ‘quorum’ only to apply for a permission (!) at the local Peoples council. And only  50% of local voters can start a referendum “without permission”.  And then comes another ‘hurdle’ – a turnout validity quorum of  50%. This quorum is undemocratic because it distorts /misuses/ the will of the unconcerned voters, whose abstaining is turned into ‘against’ voting though in fact they may have nothing against the attempt of a concerned minority to solve its problem vis a vis state power.

And (Nota bene!) - both ruling “red” majority and “democratic” opposition in 1996 approved this wonderful “democratic” law with unanimous consent.

Judges and the jury in court are ‘elected’ by bodies formed by the judges themselves…

We call all this the cynism of Bulgarian public law.


The citizens in Bg are not bothered by questions about DD in routine polling of political attitudes. The media /controlled by the establishment/ are closed for discussions on DD issues. Publications about DD are very scarce in the press.


It’s not that people don’t like DD.   A sporadic inquiry two years ago surfaced a 70%  approval of the statement that: “most important government decisions should also be confirmed by a referendum”. 64% of the deputies disapproved. (Vitosha Research, Accountable government, 1999, Sofia).  In 1997 a petition signed by 6000 citizens was entered in the Parliament also manifesting the will for DD rights (legislative initiative, referenda, recall, access to information, access to public media ect. ).

But it’s not the people that decide about the rules of the game in Bg, it’s somebody else. And those that decide don’t like DD. “Why?“ is the next question.

We can simply answer: Because they can’t manipulate it.

We should always remember that there are two kinds of DD – one serving  dictators, oligarchies and narrow interest groups against the people and another – serving the people. Of course the first is not democracy but… it is direct ;-) It has seducing ‘charm’ and great legitimising, consolidating and responsibility shifting capacities. And that’s why the fans of genuine DD /empowering and serving the people/ should ‘watch it’, that’s why we discuss here vices of DD - because when misused or used improperly it’s counter-productive, it’s vicious.

Well, in order to misuse DD certain conditions are needed and if they are not present it is not used at all by potential mis-users. So in 1991 there were conversations in Bulgaria about accepting the new constitution by a referendum. But… the hidden flaws in the draft were voiced and opposed by a group of deputies and the majority of the voters seemed to share the same mood… Consequently the idea of legitimising an unpopular constitution by a popular vote was given up.


So DD is missing in Bg because those who want it are not in power and those who are in power don’t want it.


But let’s continue with the ‘useful questions’.


People want DD but is it possible?  Is it necessary? What is the problem DD would solve and that cannot be solved in other way?


Well, the problem is power misbalance.


In the East we have always had that problem – of over-concentrated power out of civic control, of society dominated by the state. It was one of the tasks of post-communist transitions to transfer power from the narrow circle of party clans and bureaucracy to society.  Was that task accomplished? Not in my country. With disastrous consequences…


In the mean time, while most of the post-communist societies were desperately struggling for their ‘first democracy’, a misbalance of similar kind emerged in the West – a reconcentration of public power together with its shift from national to transnational level. With certain alarming consequences.


In both cases we observe the simple truth that unanchored in society, power destroys it.


So citizens from East and West are facing today a similar and common problem – transferring greater share of national and transnational /public/ power to themselves. This means more democracy at both levels and this new democratic agenda is to a great extent specified in the demand for direct democracy. Why?

Because representative democracy (RD) is not working, it’s not ‘representing’ those it pretends to, it did not stop the re-concentration of power in the West and did not transfer power to society in the East…, because we are fed up with all these parties and representatives smiling to us and serving somebody else, and because the only way to improve RD is by adding DD (RD is not democracy without DD).

AND, last but not the least, because DD is already possible.


So direct democracy is the right answer to old and newly emerging power misbalances in East and West. It’s not a luxury, not a new fashionable trend but it is essential for the well being (may be - survival) of contemporary democracy.


Hence if when it’s missing that’s a problem, a bottleneck, a deficit, explaining failures of emerging and disfunctionalities in old democracies.


And that’s why, when discussing new experiences of DD in some of the Central and East European (CEE) countries it’s quite reasonable to examine also its absence in other of them.

New trends of DD are a kind of fledglings in current political development. Somewhere DD is already working and giving fruits, somewhere it’s something to be – just an idea, a dream or vision, may be program or movement.

Somewhere it’s distorted, incomplete, may be ill-designed or even deliberately imitated against democracy, somewhere it’s true, it’s genuine, designed adequately and working for democracy – transferring real power to society.

The specific obstacles, the minimum prerequisites, the adequate measure and design all these may be different in different countries. We have to consider it. And we must put all the ‘useful questions’. Because theoretical discussion about an emerging phenomenon - emerging through deliberate and often controversial action, is part of that action.



The questions


Q: In Western democracies most political scientists and journalists who speak up about the matter tend to emphasise the virtues of direct democracy. How is it in your country?

A: No public debate about DD. The political establishment definitely dislikes it. In a poll two years ago 69,5%  of the population agreed that: “most important government decisions should also be approved by a referendum”… While 63,8% of the deputies in parliament disagreed.

And although the notion of political manipulation and different scenarios and frame-ups is quite common, it is not associated with DD - which was never mis/used – but mainly with party politics, elections, and media. 


Q: … misuses

A: No mistrust towards DD is generated by previous experiences and mis-uses – such are almost missing in Bg.


Q: Studies about the composition of activists supporting DD…

A: No such studies. Once a faction of 39 deputies objecting constitution draft demanded a referendum.

Civic Participation Society tried to initiate a public debate on DD rights in 1997 by entering a petition of 6000 people in parliament. Major media treated it as non-existent – they were closed for debate on the issue. But if you cannot enter DD in public debate you will never have it!

Direct democracy and political civil rights in general are informal taboos in Bg. “You have democracy already – what more do you want?”, they say. The myth of accomplished democracy is working restrictively – alleging that democracy is institutionally accomplished and reasons for misfortunes lie elsewhere, not in institutional deficiencies.


Q: Driving forces – establishment … not groups from below.

A: In the only case of referendum in 1946 the political establishment was the driving force.


Q: Signatures for initiatives and referendums launched political persons or groups in office…

A: The political elite has never launched a popular legislative initiative. There are grass root members and "political novices" active in politics but they never reach the public agenda.


Q: Elite instrumentalising initiatives…

A: The political elite doesn’t  use popular initiatives in its power game.


Q: Lack or paradox of civil society.

A: No, our lack does not resemble the Western paradox. In the East it is a LACK, a weakness and absence of civil society and in the West it is a ‘paradox’, a specific manifestation of civil society - more often in ad-hoc and single-issues structures… - it’s not a lack. (It is there ready to strike.) While in the East it’s missing… and it’s generally weaker than in the West. It’s not ready /capable/ even to respond ad-hoc to challenges from above. Of course you also have the problem of efficiency of civic response to challenges from above. We both want to contain, to anchor in society the public power being too much out of civic control. But while in the West it is perhaps getting out of democratic control, in the East it has never been under such control and our problem is reaching a democratic balance of power for the first time.

Weakness of civil society in EE has different reasons. Here people also tend to ‘cheaper’ ad-hoc mobilisation. It’s just the more reasonable and efficient way; it’s not a lack of civil society, not self-exclusion. But the problem is that people cannot organise even so - ad-hoc in small face-to-face groups. In Bg strongly prevails the individualistic escapist resistance to illegitimate power. But it is nurtured and reproduced by the consistent economic, political, legal, cultural, educational deprivation, disempowerment of the citizenry by state policies - by the state still dominating society. It’s a real vicious circle. The citizens can’t disempower the state because the state disempowers them.


The small ‘detail’ in post-communist transitions is that no strong citizenry, no bourgeoisie could emerge under the old communist regime and even worse – with the start of the transitions the potential middle-strata was additionally expropriated by the red barons via state policies – administered inflation, suspended rule of law, pyramidal banking… So civil society was so weak that it couldn’t even emerge by itself. Economic disempowerment was crucial. And this unprecedented economic weakness of the citizenry has to be compensated in other forms - by more political rights, by DD. But since the people in post-communist societies are too weak to fight alone for DD against the overwhelming powers opposing them /both national and trans-national/, DD should be fought for internationally by the whole democratic world for each particular country. More democracy - and that translates as more DD - should become an international issue. Jimmy Carter began in a similar way some time ago – with human rights.;-) Let’s not stop halfway. In a globalising world only an international civil society can oppose the concentrating transnational power operating both nationally and internationally. And especially small nations need international help.

Otherwise we shall have to enjoy only “the other kind” of DD – the imitations.


Q: Why are referenda triggered – to serve elites or to serve people? To consolidate inner elite cohesion?

A: Referenda triggering is totally monopolized by the political elite. It was used only once not to consolidate the elite but to legitimise lastingly the abolition of monarchy. Since then triggering of rfda is totally monopolised in order not to trigger them.


Q: Swiss experience…

A: Yes, the Swiss experience can be generalized and is possibly applicable to the quite different context of our country.

And it’s true that the possibility of (and threat with) a referendum would induce the political establishment to stop a winner-takes-all power game and tend to include possible opponents into a broadly acceptable package deal accommodating many conflicting interests.

Yes, this rule would strongly apply, if such as in Switzerland a very low threshold of the minimum number of signatures required for a direct democratic move, i. e. the "quorum", that can trigger a referendum.


Q: Möckli’s correlation  … more DD – higher quorum (as a minimum number of signatures)

A: In Bg the ‘correlation’ as we see is minimum DD - highest quorum.

The problem of the quorum has not been discussed either. Public debate is closed on democracy issues, that being justified by the myth of accomplished democratic transition. But actually the reason for missing discussion is closed media, The elite controls the media and closes them for discussion on DD issues.


California Quorum

This is a year 2000 model, it has some historical information at the bottom.

New information is here:

Initiative Guide

The Secretary of State has prepared this brief summary of the statewide initiative process as required by Elections Code section 9015 to provide an under-standing of the procedures and requirements for preparing and qualifying initiatives. This publication is for general information only and does not have the force and effect of law, regulation, or rule. In case of conflict, the law, regulation, or rule will apply. Interested persons should obtain the most up-to-date information available because of possible changes in law or procedure since the publication of this summary.

Please note: This guide is intended for statewide initiatives only. For information regarding the qualification of local initiatives, please contact your local elections official.


In a special election held on October 10, 1911, California became the 10th state to adopt the initiative process. That year, Governor Hiram Johnson began his term by promising to give citizens a tool they could use to adopt laws and constitutional amendments without the support of the Governor or the Legislature. The new Leg-islature put a package of constitutional amendments on the ballot that placed more control of California politics directly into the hands of the people. This package included the ability to recall elected officials, the right to repeal laws by referendum, and the ability to enact state laws by initiative.

The initiative is the power of the people of California to propose statutes and amendments to the California Constitution (Cal. Const., art. II, § 8(a)). Generally, any matter that is a proper subject of legislation can become an initiative measure; however, no initiative measure addressing more than one subject area may be submitted to the voters or have any effect (Cal. Const., art. II, §§ 8(d) and 12). An initiative measure is placed on the ballot after its proponents successfully satisfy their requirements described in this handbook.

The Secretary of State has prepared this brief summary of the statewide initiative process, as required by Elections Code section 9015, to provide an understanding of the requirements for preparing and qualifying initiatives. This publication is for general information only and does not have the force and effect of law, regulation, or rule. In case of conflict, the law, regulation, or rule will apply. Interested persons should obtain the most up-to-date information available because of possible changes in law or procedure since the publication of this summary.

For historical information regarding initiative measures, please refer to The History of the California Initiative Process, which is produced by the Secretary of State.

For current information about initiative measures that are in circulation or have qualified for the ballot, please refer to our website at: or contact the Elections Division at (916) 657-2166.

[Please note: This handbook is intended for statewide initiative measures only. For information regarding the qualification of local initiative measures, please contact your local elections official. All code sections in this booklet refer to the Elections Code unless otherwise specified.]

The Initiative Process

Step One - Writing the Text of the Law

The first step in the process of qualifying an initiative measure is to write the text of the proposed law. The initiative measure’s pro-ponent(s) may obtain assistance from the Legislative Counsel in drafting the language of the initiative measure. Proponent(s) must present the idea for the law to the Legislative Counsel, and 25 or more electors must sign the request for a draft of the proposed law. If it is determined that there is a reasonable probability the initiative measure will eventually be submitted to the voters, the Legislative Counsel will draft the proposed law (Government Code § 10243). Proponent(s) may also seek the assistance of their own private counsel to help draft the text of the proposed law, or they may choose to write the text themselves.

For more information contact:
Office of the Legislative Counsel
State Capitol, Room 3021
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 4453-3057 /

Step Two - Request for Title and Summary

Once the text of the initiative measure has been written, the proponent(s) must submit a draft of the proposed initiative measure to the Attorney General with a written request that a title and summary of the chief purpose and points of the proposed initiative measure be prepared (§ 9002). At the time of submitting the draft to the Attorney General, the proponent(s) must pay a fee of $200. The $200 is placed in a trust fund in the Office of the State Treasurer and is refunded if the initiative measure qualifies for the ballot within two years after the summary has been issued to the proponent(s). If the initiative measure fails to qualify within that period, the money is put into the General Fund of the state. (§ 9004)



Initiative Statute: Petitions proposing initiative statutes must be signed by registered voters. The number of signatures must be equal to at least 5% of the total votes cast for Governor at the last gubernatorial election. (Cal. Const., art. II, § 8(b); § 9035) The total number of signatures required for initiative statutes, which qualify for circulation before the November 2002 gubernatorial election, is 419,260.

Initiative Constitutional Amendment: Petitions proposing initiative constitutional amendments must be signed by registered voters. The number of signatures must be equal to at least 8% of the total votes cast for Governor at the last gubernatorial election. (Cal. Const., art. II, § 8(b); § 9035) The total number of signatures required for such petitions, which qualify for circulation before the November 2002 gubernatorial election, is 670,816.



Pursuant to article II, section 9, of the California Constitution, a referendum is the power of the electors to approve or reject any statute enacted by the Legislature. A referendum cannot be used on urgency statutes, statutes calling elections, or statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for current expenses of the state.

Referenda on the ballot are fairly rare in comparison to initiative measures, although three referenda qualified for the March 2000 primary election ballot. Two out of the three were successful. Prior to that, the last four referenda placed before the voters appeared on the June 1982 primary election ballot. All four were defeated. Since 1912, there have been approximately 50 attempts to qualify referenda for the ballot. Of the 50 attempts, 39 qualified for the ballot, 25 of which were approved by voters.
If you are contemplating being a proponent of a referendum, it is important to contact the Secretary of State. (See Appendix B). The circulation calendar, verification, timing, and form of the petition have different requirements than initiatives. For example, the California Constitution requires that the process must be completed within ninety days of the enactment of the bill that is being referred. The signature requirements are the same for a referendum as an initiative statute.



12 04 01

What do Idaho and Alabama have in common?

Actually nothing - but I wanted to get your attention because this is an
important email update.  A Federal Judge in Idaho ruled in the Institute's
favor striking down county distribution requirements for initiative
petitions.  This is a tremendous victory for supporters of the initiative
process. It is uncertain if the state will appeal the decision, but if they
do, the Institute will continue the fight.  I have attached an Associated
Press article and a "Idaho Statesman" editorial about the decision as well
as a link to the decision (and all the relevant proceedings).

Hats off to our attorney Paul Grant!!

All the best

individual; DON MORGAN, an individual; and RONALD D. RANKIN, an individual,
and INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM INSTITUTE, a not-for-profit Corporation, v.
Cenarussa, D.C. Case No. 00-0668-S-BLW.

Federal judge overturns ballot initiative statute Judge: Law puts rural
voters at unfair advantage
By Chuck Oxley
Associated Press

BOISE -- A federal judge struck down as unconstitutional an Idaho law that
restricts the gathering of signatures for ballot initiatives. U.S. District
Judge Lynn Winmill issued a 17-page decision Friday and granted a motion for
summary judgment brought by the Idaho Coalition United for Bears and other
political groups.

Initiatives qualify for the ballot through petitions signed by registered
voters. An Idaho law passed in 1997 requires anyone trying to qualify an
initiative for the ballot to gather the signatures of 6 percent of the
registered votes in each of 22 counties. That was the key fault, according
to Winmill´s finding.

"Because over 60 percent of Idaho´s population resides in just 9 of the
state´s 44 counties, it easy to envision a situation where three-fourths of
Idaho´s voters sign a petition but fail to get it on the ballot because they
could not collect 6 percent of the vote in rural counties," Winmill wrote.
"This scheme effectively gives rural voters preferential treatment..."
Deputy Attorney General Kirsten Wallace had argued for the state that the
multi-county distribution law encourages the statewide discussion of an
issue, since a portion of each county must sign petitions.  Before 1997,
signatures could be gathered anywhere in the state, allowing initiative
groups to collect thousands at big events such as fairs in Idaho´s
most-populated counties.  Since the law passed, no initiatives have
qualified for the Idaho ballot, though several groups began unsuccessful
signature drives.  Three individuals and two organizations brought the
lawsuit against the state: term limits advocate Don Morgan; Kootenai County
Commissioner Ron Rankin; the Idaho Coalition for Bears and its leader, Lynn
Fritchman; and the Initiative and Referendum Institute.  Voters in 1996
defeated the coalition´s initiative to ban hunters from bear-baiting.

Winmill also found unconstitutional a related section of law that makes it a
crime for anyone to "willfully or knowingly" lie to obtain signatures on a
petition. Winmill said the provision was vague and could allow a prosecutor
to charge a circulator for "willfully circulating a petition containing a
false statement, even though the circulator did know about the false

Idaho Statesman

Our View: Winmill makes right call in spiking initiative law

Idaho legislators have a knack for wasting time with ill-advised laws,
knowing full well they will be struck down by the courts.

Such was the case with a 1997 law, in which the Legislature basically and
unilaterally shut down the citizens´ initiative process. U.S. District Judge
Lynn Winmill, not surprisingly, ruled the  law unconstitutional.

The judge made the correct call Friday in spiking a horrible law.  The law
required citizens to gather the signatures of 6 percent of the registered
voters in half of Idaho´s counties. Confused yet? The stated purpose was to
require initiative sponsors to fan out and get signatures statewide, rather
than cherry-pick signatures from a few urban counties.

An unlikely alliance -- people who have pushed Idaho initiatives on bear
hunting, term limits and property taxes -- criticized the law. And Winmill
saw through the law´s basic unfairness.

Three quarters of Idaho voters could sign a petition, he noted, but could
fail to get it on the ballot because organizers failed to collect signatures
from 6 percent of the electorate in rural counties.

With this law, the Legislature effectively smothered citizens´ efforts to
place issues on the ballot. No initiatives have qualified for the ballot
since then, although several groups have tried.

Ballot initiatives -- which often crop up in big numbers in California,
Washington and other states -- might seem annoying. But some dramatic tax
initiatives have come from those two states over the years, and some have
become law.

A ballot initiative is one way citizens can have a say in pushing laws that
legislators are reluctant to take on.

That option should be made available, not rendered impossible.

It's a shame common sense and compassion for citizens have to come from the
courts, and not the Idaho Legislature.

Initiative & Referendum Institute
1825 I Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20006
202.429.5539 (office) 202.986.3001 (fax)
visit our websites at and


Canada BC

When DD is not DD


Please consider the following and the value if we would try to sort out the "limits" in legislation of what is needed to have a workable DD. BC has DD for NINE YEARS and it is unworkable!!!!


Unless this is done, many countries could struggle to get DD and have nothing. Remember the government goof-balls are pro at give-ing something and in the end we get nothing. We must beware this does not happen in our quest for democracy.

Cia, Bruce


November 24, 2001
for Immediate Release
BC Marijuana Party

Dana Larsen, leader of the BC Marijuana Party today called on premier Gordon
Campbell to hold off on any referendums regarding land claims treaties until
the issue of referenda and ballot initiatives have been dealt with in and of

Mr. Larsen notes that Premier Campbell has made numerous references in the
past to improving the lackluster NDP created ballot initiative process. This
ballot initiative process, part of the "BC Recall and Initiative Act", was
created by the NDP as a response to a vote in 1991  when the out - going
Social Credit government let voters  decide whether they wanted the ability
to recall politicians and initiate citizen referenda by gathering enough
signatures to bring an issue directly to the voters to decide.

BC voters gave the nod to both ballot initiatives and recall and the NDP was
forced to grudgingly create the BC "Recall and Initiative ACT. The
Initiative part of the act has never been used as the NDP deliberately made
it unusable.

Some of the highlights regarding its inability to deliver what voters wanted
are as follows as exemplified in comparison to the Oregon ballot initiative
system; In Oregon , you have 2 years to gather signatures from 6% of the
voters state-wide ( at large) to qualify an initiative for the next state
election. In B.C. , you have only 75 days to gather signatures from 10
percent of registered voters (from the last election) and you must hit this
10% plateau within each and every one of B.C.'s 79 electoral districts . If
you fail in even one of 79 electoral districts the initiative measure cannot
make it to the ballot box. Also in BC the votes must be held separately from
elections at a great cost instead of attached to municipal or BC elections
which would reduce the cost to almost nothing.



In a letter ( March 22, 2000) Mr.
Campbell said " we argued that the law was far too restrictive and
would make publicly-initiated referendums virtually impossible....We believe
all citizens should have a workable means of initiating referendums on
issues of broad public concern and we will amend the legislation to make it
easier for British Columbians to initiate and have a direct vote on these
>What ever happened to a democratic process for deciding what kind of
>pro-rep we wanted to have?  Perhaps deciding on the type of pro-rep is
>the first step, not this proposal by Ms Carr.

I do not disagree with you

But there is a strong argument that there has to be a firm proposal so that it is clear what people are signing a petition for.

There is no fear that this proposal will become law without due consideration of the alternatives. I personally would favour a wide discussion of alternatives, and at the moment, the Green proposal is close to what I favour.

Even if all the hurdles are cleared, and the petition, and even the referendum succeeds, the government is under NO obligation to make ANY changes. Indeed I would say that, at this time, the most likely outcome by far is that the government will find a way to take no action, or to take some insufficient action, despite the fact that this is one of their election promises.

I have for 5 years now urged that a COMBINATION of Pro-Rep, DD, and Parliamentary Reform is necessary to cover most of the MAJOR flaws in our governance system. While I have learned a lot in these 5 years, and I am more aware of the subtleties of these complex reforms, I remain convinced that anything less than all three reforms will be sadly sub-optimal

>I think Adriane is grandstanding here.

Each person must make their own judgment on this.

Even if she is "grandstanding, this is a different issue from the merits of Pro-Rep, DD, and Parliamentary Reform. And she would not be the first politician to grandstand.

Only the Greens, BC Conservatives, and the Marijuana Party have been consistently in favour of Pro-Rep and DD (parliamentary reform is little-discussed). As a founding Director of ECCOBC (Electoral Change Coalition of BC), I became aware that the Liberals were lukewarm in their support of Pro-Rep until just before the last election, and they did not make it a MAJOR plank in their platform, nor are they now rushing to implement their promise.

The NDP government had 9 years to implement Pro-Rep and  were dead set against it until they lost the election.
Now they have come out in favour.

So I believe that the Greens are at least as pure as ANY of the BC political parties in this whole issue of Governance Reform





Germany  Shows problems and strategy for organizations to set up DD I&R

·         National Level: We have no I&R on national level (we had from 1919-1932), but the coalition of social democrats and green party promised in 1998 to change the constitution for introducing the popular initiative.

·         Regional Level: All the 16 Bundesländer have the popular initiative. Most improved this instruments after 1989. But the I&R instruments are quite impractical. Until today, in only 4 of the 16 Bundesländer popular initiatives qualified for the ballot. In the average, every Bundesland votes once in 45 years on an initiative. Reforms are necessary.

·         Local Level: Except Berlin, all the Bundesländer have the popular initiative on the local level. But its the same problem as on regional level - the instrument does not work. The only exceptions are Bavaria and Hamburg, where Mehr Demokratie introduced the initiative-rights. We have about 200-300 votes every year in the municipalities.



In B.C. , you have only 75 days to gather signatures from 10
percent of registered voters (from the last election) and you must hit this
10% plateau within each and every one of B.C.'s 79 electoral districts . If
you fail in even one of 79 electoral districts the initiative measure cannot
make it to the ballot box.


In Oregon , you have 2 years to gather signatures from 6% of the
voters state-wide ( at large) to qualify an initiative for the next state


Idaho won when Federal Judge ruled quorum unfair.



(Total Population 7,200,000)

Popular Initiative

Citizens may seek a decision on an amendment they want to make to the Constitution. For such an initiative to be organized, the signatures of 100,000 voters <100,000 signatures - approximately 2 per cent of the electorate > must be collected within 18 months.


Federal laws, generally binding decisions of the Confederation and State treaties concluded for an indefinite duration are subject to an optional referendum: in this case, a popular ballot is held if 50,000 citizens

< 50,000 signatures - approximately 1 per cent of the electorate > so request. The signatures must be collected within 100 days of publication of a decree.


All persons capable of forming a judgement i.e. not just the electors! are entitled to address requests, suggestions and complaints to the authorities.

These are required to take due note of such petitions; an answer to them is not compulsory. However, in practice every petition is considered and does receive an answer. The petition may relate to any activity of the State.


There are I&R processes in all of the 16 Laender of the Federal Republic.

Common is a three-step-model, but the design of the direct democratic instruments used is very different. By step one (Volksinitiative) one or two percent of the electorate can qualify a law-proposal for step two (Volksbegehren), where 4 to 20 per cent of the citizens have to sign the initiative during a short period. After this second qualification the new law can be accepted by the people in a referendum (Volksentscheid). Even here there are a variety of quorums for participation and/or acceptance.


Gabriele Wladyka -  Aktion EU-Austritt
In Swizerland there are several referendums every year initiated by the population.
Normally about 30-40% vote and the decision has to be accepted by the parliament.
More than 30% voters is definatly representative. It is a lot more democratic than any decision of the EU-governement, where only 20 commissioners and a few ministers decide.

From Iri Europe


Swiss democracy

I&R DEBATE - Process of direct democratic fine-tuning in Switzerland

Switzerland's advanced system of I&R has come under pressure from opposite political forces. The initiative of the far right to shorten the time of debate between the deposition of an initiative and the actual referendum on it received less than 30% of the votes in a ballot decision on March 12.

The so called "acceleration initiative" wanted to shorten this period of time from the present 39 months (51 months in case of a counter-proposal) to one year. Such a decision would have weakened the quality of debates and communication between citizens, parliament and government ahead of a ballot decision.

After the defeat of the "fast-food-democrats" (Neue Zurcher Zeitung), another initiative, which wants to reduce the time-span even more, to only six months, will probably be redrawn. In a very different direction aims the initiative for a "Constructive Referendum" initiated by a center-left coalition. With this new instrument citizens' groups would have the right to put counter-proposals to laws on the ballot. Until now, the Swiss citizens can, on the national level, only veto a parliamentarian law by a yes-no-referendum. Such a referendum needs 50,000 signatures - approximately 1 per cent of the electorate - in three months. A nationwide initiative needs 100,000 signatures in 18 months. The National Council -the bigger chamber of the Swiss Parliament - recommended the citizens to say NO to the proposed "Constructive Referendum".

More than one hundred years after the introduction of a nationwide I&R system, with almost 450 referendums, Switzerland debates now seriously the further potentials and limitations of it. One important challenge is the European integration process. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union or the European Economic Area. The "constructive referendum" is already established in some cantons (member states of the Swiss federation).

With this device the I&R process should be strengthened ahead of EU membership, proponents argue. The political right, however, wants to develop the I&R-process into an instrument for blocking reforms, especially the opening towards international organizations (EU, UN).

There are I&R processes in all of the 16 Laender of the Federal Republic.

Common is a three-step-model, but the design of the direct democratic instruments used is very different. By step one (Volksinitiative) one or two percent of the electorate can qualify a law-proposal for step two (Volksbegehren), where 4 to 20 per cent of the citizens have to sign the initiative during a short period. After this second qualification the new law can be accepted by the people in a referendum (Volksentscheid). Even here there are a variety of quorums for participation and/or acceptance.

There is a clear relationship between constitutional quorums and the number of popular initiatives being qualified for a ballot. The most active I&R state is Bayern in the Southwest, the least active is Thüring in the former GDR.

The German experiences with I&R on the communal and regional level show with great clearness the need of fair proceedings when I&R should really encourage the citizens to take part in the public decision making process.

If the stakes to bring a question to the ballot box are too high or the collection of signatures is not free and the citizens are obliged to sign petitions in state offices only, then direct democracy becomes a burden and not a pleasure for the citizens. Therefore all radical democrats in Germany hope that the proposals the government is now preparing for implementing I&R on the federal level do respect the recent experiences on the regional and communal level and are more orientated on the Swiss and U.S. examples.


For the second time in 12 months a decision by the Italian voters had to be declared invalid. In spring 1999 only 49% and last month only 34% of the Italian electorate participated in referendums on the reform of the electoral system - which had been initiated by citizens. The reason of these invalidations, the Italian referendum law requires the participation of 50% of the electorate in order that a referendum may be declared valid ("Quorum").

These quorum requirements wherever they exist (in most of Europe and in Germany on the local and regional levels) are real killers of any effective direct democracy.


Commentary - Comment on the forthcoming referendums in France and Austria: by Andreas Gross, Director of the Atelier for Direct Democracy in St. Ursanne (Switzerland) and member of the Swiss House of Representatives (the views expressed in this commentary represent those of the author and are not to be construed as representing the views of IRI Europe.)

The whole world will speak about the referendums in France and Austria, but only a few will see that these referendums are called by the wrong name and are, in fact, only plebiscites. One thing is already clear: Both votes should not be taken as examples of direct democracy.

Direct democracy is the expression of the political sovereignty of the people. Political power must be shared with the people. The people delegate its power to the parliament by way of elections but has the right to recall this delegation at any time for any issue. This means that a minority of the people have the right to ask for a vote of the whole people on any constitutional change or a law passed by the legislatures.

A plebiscite turns this basic direct democratic right of the people into a privilege of the power holders, the president, the government or the parliamentary majority. Both the French and the Austrian constitution give these rights to the president and the parliamentary majority. This makes these plebiscites legal but in democratic terms ambiguous. The ambiguity lies in the concentration of power in the executive branches of government – whereas the main purpose of direct democracy is to give the people more power than only the power to elect representatives.

Constructive Referendum

For more than hundred years, the Swiss have experienced an initiative system of fine-tuned checks-and-balances between citizens, parliament and government. September 24th was Swiss referendum day, with hundreds of issues at the ballot on the federal, regional and local level. At this election, the Swiss had the opportunity to practice a new instrument – the so-called double yes-option - and even to decide on a new instrument, the constructive referendum. The double yes makes it possible to vote yes for both an initiative proposal and a counter-proposal by government. In addition, the voter has to give his preference for one of the two proposals in case both of them are approved. Center-left parties launched the initiative on a constructive referendum in 1995; it would have given the voters the option to approve or turn down parts of a proposal.

Opponents of the proposal argued that such a reform would weaken the parliament and the political parties and complicate the referendum system. Two cantons, Bern and Nidwalden, have already introduced a constructive referendum for cantonal votes and their evaluation of it is overall positive. However, the counter-arguments, which were very similar to general skeptical views on I&R, won more voters. Obviously, the mistrust of other citizens was bigger than the belief in their ability to fine-tune direct democracy.

Swiss Constitution


Article 89bis [Federal Assembly Decrees]
(1) Generally binding federal decrees whose entry into force ought not to be delayed may be put into effect immediately by a majority of all members of each of the two Councils; the period of validity is to be limited. 
(2) If 50,000 Swiss citizens entitled to vote or eight Cantons request a popular vote, the decrees put immediately into effect shall lose their validity one year after their adoption by the Federal Assembly if they have not been approved by the people during that period; in that case, they may not be renewed. 
(3) Decrees put immediately into effect which have no constitutional basis must be approved by the people and the Cantons within one year after their adoption by the Federal Assembly; failing this, they shall lose their validity after the lapse or this year and may not be renewed. 

Article 90 [Federal Assembly Legislation Formalities]
Federal legislation shall lay down the necessary rules concerning the formalities and time-limits for popular votes. 

Article 93 [Federal Assembly Initiative]
(1) Each of the two Councils and each of their members have the right of initiative. 
(2) The Cantons may exercise the same right by correspondence


Chapter III Revision of the Federal Constitution

Article 118 [Constitutional Revision]
At any time, the Federal Constitution may be revised wholly or in part. 

Article 119 [Constitutional Total Revision]
The total revision shall be carried out in accordance with the forms laid down for federal legislation. 

Article 120 [Constitutional Total Revision Procedures]
(1) If one section of the Federal Assembly decides on a total revision of the Federal Constitution and the other does not consent or if 100,000 Swiss citizens entitled to vote demand the total revision of the Federal Constitution, the question whether such a revision should take place or not must be submitted in both cases to the vote of the Swiss people
(2) If in either of these cases the majority of the Swiss citizens casting a vote give an affirmative answer, both Councils shall be elected anew in order to undertake the revision. 

Article 121 [Constitutional Partial Revision Procedures]
(1) Partial revision may be carried out either by means of a popular initiative or in accordance with the forms laid down or federal legislation. 
(2) The popular initiative consists of a request, presented by a hundred thousand Swiss citizens entitled to vote, aiming at the introduction, setting aside or modification of specified articles of the Federal Constitution. 
(3) If by means of a popular initiative several different provisions are to be modified or introduced into the Federal Constitution, each one must be the subject of a separate initiative request. 
(4) An initiative request may consist of a general proposal or take the form of a complete draft. 
(5) If such a request consists of a general proposal and if it meets with the approval of the Federal Chambers, the latter shall prepare a partial revision along the lines of the proposal and submit their draft to the people and the Cantons for adoption or rejection. If the Federal Chambers do not approve of the request, the question of partial revision shall be submitted to the decision of the people; if the majority of the Swiss citizens casting a vote decide in the affirmative, the Federal Assembly shall undertake the revision in conformity with the decision of the people. 
(6) If the request is in the form of a complete draft and if it meets with the approval of the Federal Assembly, the draft shall be submitted to the people and the Cantons for adoption or rejection. If the Federal Assembly disagrees, it may prepare its own draft or recommend the rejection of the proposed draft and submit its own draft or recommendation of rejection together with the draft proposed by the initiative to the decision of the people and the Cantons. 

Article 121bis [Constitutional Alternative Revision Procedures]
(1) If the Federal Assembly draws up a counter-draft, three questions shall be submitted to the voters on the same ballot paper. Every voter can state unreservedly 

1) whether he prefers the popular initiative to the law in force; 
2) whether he prefers the counter-draft to the law in force; 

3) which of the two texts should enter into force if the people and the Cantons prefer both texts to the law in force. 

(2) The absolute majority shall be determined for each question separately. Unanswered questions shall not count. 
(3) If both the popular initiative and the counter-draft are 
accepted, the result of the third question shall decide the issue. The text which obtains more of the people's and Cantons' votes on this question shall come into force. If, on the other hand, one text obtains more of the people's votes and the other more of the Cantons' votes, then neither of the texts shall come into force. 

Article 122 [Popular Initiative Procedures]
A federal law shall determine the procedure to be followed in the case of popular initiative requests and votes on the revision of the Federal Constitution. 

Article 123 [Constitutional Revision Approval]
(1) The revised Federal Constitution or the revised part of it, as the case may be, shall enter into force if it has been approved by the majority of the Swiss citizens casting a vote and the majority of the Cantons. 
(2) In order to determine the majority of the Cantons, the vote or each Half-Canton is counted as half a vote. 
(3) The result of the popular vote in each canton is considered to be the vote of that Canton. 

Chapter 2 Initiative and Referendum

Article 138 Popular Initiative for Total Revision of the Federal Constitution

(1) 100 000 citizens entitled to vote may propose a total revision of the Federal Constitution.
(2) This proposal has to be submitted to the people by referendum.

Article 139 Popular Initiative for Partial Revision of the Federal Constitution

(1) 100 000 citizens entitled to vote may propose a partial revision of the Federal Constitution.
(2) The popular initiative for a partial revision of the Federal Constitution may be in the form of a general suggestion or a formulated draft.
(3) If an initiative does not respect the principle of unity of form, the principle of unity of subject matter, or mandatory rules of international law, the Federal Parliament shall declare the initiative invalid, in whole or in part.
(4) If the Federal Parliament approves an initiative in the form of a general suggestion, it shall prepare a partial revision in the sense of the initiative, and submit it to the vote of the people and the Cantons. If it rejects the initiative, it shall submit it to the vote of the People; the People shall decide whether the initiative should be followed. If the People approves the initiative, the Federal Parliament shall formulate a corresponding draft.
(5) An initiative in the form of a formulated draft shall be submitted to the vote of the People and the Cantons. The
Federal Parliament shall recommend its approval or its rejection. If it recommends its rejection, it may submit its own counter-draft.
(6) The People and the Cantons shall vote simultaneously on the initiative and the counter-draft. The voters may approve both drafts. They may indicate which draft they prefer, should both be approved; should one of the drafts obtain the majority of the People's votes and the other the majority of the votes of the Cantons, neither of them shall come into force.

Article 140 Mandatory Referendum

(1) The following shall be submitted to the vote of the People and the Cantons:
a. Revisions of the Federal Constitution;
b. The entry into organizations for collective security or into supranational communities;
c. Federal Statutes declared urgent which have no constitutional basis and whose validity exceeds one year; such Federal Statutes must be submitted to the vote within one year after their adoption by the Federal Parliament.
(2) The following shall be submitted to the vote of the People:
a. Popular initiatives for total revision of the Federal Constitution;
b. Popular initiatives for partial revision of the Federal Constitution in the form of a general suggestion which were rejected by the Federal Parliament;
c. The question whether a total revision of the Constitution should be carried out if both Chambers disagree.

Article 141 Optional Referendum

(1) The following are submitted to the vote of the People at the request of 50'000 citizens entitled to vote, or of eight Cantons:
a. Federal Statutes;
b. Federal Statutes declared urgent with a validity exceeding one year;
c. Federal decrees to the extent the Constitution or the statute foresee this;
d. International treaties which:
1. are of unlimited duration and may not be terminated;
2. provide for the entry into an international organization;
3. involve a multilateral unification of law.
(2) The Federal Parliament may submit further international treaties to optional referendum.

Article 142 Required Majorities

(1) Proposals submitted to the vote of the People shall be accepted if the majority of those voting approves them.
(2) Proposals submitted to the vote of the People and the Cantons shall be accepted if the majority of those voting and the majority of the Cantons approve them.
(3) The result of a popular vote in a Canton determines the vote of that Canton.
(4) The Cantons of Obwald, Nidwald, Basle-City, Basle-Land, Appenzell Outer Rhodes and Appenzell Inner Rhodes have each one half of a cantonal vote.

Title 5 Federal Authorities

Chapter 1 General Provisions

Article 143 Eligibility
Every Swiss citizen entitled to vote is eligible for membership in the House of Representatives, the Federal Government, and the Federal Supreme Court.

Article 144 Incompatibilities

(1) Members of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, of the Federal Government, and Judges of the Federal Supreme Court may not at the same time be members of another of these bodies.
(2) The members of the Federal Government and the full-time judges of the Federal Supreme Court may not carry out another function of the Confederation or a Canton, nor may they exercise another gainful activity.
(3) The statute may provide for other incompatibilities.

Article 145 Term of Office
The members of the House of Representatives, the Federal Government, and the Chancellor of the Confederation shall be elected for four years. The judges of the Federal Supreme Court shall be elected for six years.

Article 146 Answerability of the State
The Confederation shall be answerable for damage caused illegally by its organs in the exercise of their official activities.

Article 147 Hearings and Consultations
The Cantons, the political parties, and the interested circles shall be heard in the course of the preparation of important legislation and other projects of substantial impact, and on important international treaties.

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