Californians value the ballot initiative and want it to remain as a check on a political system they mistrust, but voters support major reforms in the process, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.
The poll found that voters support several changes, including giving the Legislature an opportunity to respond to proposed initiatives and reach agreement with their sponsors, beefing up financial disclosure requirements for those engaged in ballot measure campaigns, increasing the role of volunteers in collecting initiative petition signatures, and placing time limits on ballot measures so that they can be revisited.
"These reforms are likely to have an impact beyond the initiative process," Mark Baldassare, PPIC's president, said in a statement as he released the report. "They hold considerable promise for increasing citizen engagement, encouraging voter participation, and building trust in state government."
The number of ballot measures has exploded in the past three decades, ever since Proposition 13 placed tight limits on property taxes and raised barriers to other tax increases. In the last decade alone, 68 measures have appeared on the statewide ballot, the PPIC report noted, but fewer than a third of them were approved even as proponents and opponents spent $1.8 billion on campaigns.
The Legislature's majority Democrats have pushed bills to change the initiative process, including one this year that would limit the role of paid signature-gatherers. Gov. Jerry Brown is now deciding whether to sign or veto it.
PHOTO: A man signs a ballot measure petition in Sacramento on Jan. 9, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/ Anne Chadwick Williams.