October 11, 2011, marks the 100th anniversary of the election in which Californians wrote into their constitution provisions for direct democracy. This was when the California constitution was amended to allow for initiatives,referendum, and recall.
The initiative is a process that enables citizens to bypass their state legislature by placing proposed statutes and, in some states, constitutional amendments on the ballot. Referendum is a general term which refers to a measure that appears on the ballot. Recall is a procedure that allows citizens to remove and replace a public official before the end of a term of office.
The promise of direct democracy was that it gave the people a way to fight powerful special interests by allowing voters to write and veto legislation through the initiative and referendum and to remove elected officials through the power of recall.
In the last 35 years, beginning with Proposition 13, dozens of initiatives have profoundly changed the state's budgeting process, its criminal justice system, its educational system, and the autonomy of local governments. Initiatives have generated a substantial business sector, supporting signature gatherers, political consultants, and media. A tool intended to empower the "people" is frequently used by interest groups and businesses to further their own interests.
The October 5 panel of experts and practitioners evaluated California's 100-year-old experiment and to offer ideas for its future. Join the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles and sign up for the League's e-newsletter to be kept abreast of future events.
The League's sponsorship of this event is made possible by a generous gift from Martin Kellner in honor of his late wife Dorothy. A former president of the Beverly Hills League and the League of Women Voters of California, Dorothy Kellner was an active Los Angeles civic leader. Additional funding for the event is coming from the California Supreme Court Historical Society and from Zocalo Public Square.