Direct Democracy USA

Direct democracy, in which decisions are made directly by the people rather than by the federal government, is undertaken in many US states. Some states allow for voters to petition legislatures to directly remove elected officials, under recall election procedures, and also to veto a state bill, under procedures for calling a referendum. However, by far the most common and effective method is the use of proposition-, or initiatives, as seen by the widespread ballot measures voted on in the 2012 election. These included the issue of same-sex marriage, which resulted in it being effectively legalised in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Propositions 2016

A proposition, more commonly in the USA referred to as an initiative, is a process that enables citizens to bypass their state legislature by placing proposed laws and, in some states, constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Examples of propositions, 2016

Marijuana legalisation:

Minimum wage increase:

Approved: California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada

■ Defeated: Arizona

Approved: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Washington

Gun laws — background checks for gun purchases:

Approved: California, Nevada, Washington

■ Defeated: Maine

There are two types of proposition:

■ Direct. In the direct process, proposals that qualify go directly on the ballot.

■ Indirect. In the indirect process, they are submitted to the state legislature, which must decide what further action should follow. Rules regarding this indirect process vary from state to state.

In some states, the proposition question goes on the ballot even if the state legislature rejects it, submits a different proposal or takes no action at all. But in other states, the legislature can submit a competing proposal on the ballot along with the original proposal. Although the process differs between states in general it follows the following steps:

■ The proposition is filed with a designated state official

■ reviewed for conformance with state legal requirements. ie cost must be realistic.

■ The proposition is given a formal title and brief summary for inclusion on the ballot paper

■ It is now circulated to gain the required number of signatures from registered voters. In Alaska, 10% of the total votes cast in the last general election is required. In California it is just 5%

■ submitted to state officials for verification of signatures to check for possible cheating.

A referendum is similar to the UK and is used in all 50 states, by which voters can effectively veto a bill passed by the state legislature. Referendums are in many ways similar to propositionsie a question- but the major difference is that rather than originating from citizens taking the initiative, referendums come from the state legislators. In some states, the state legislature is required to refer certain measures to the voters for their approval in a referendum. For instance, a number of states require that changes to the state constitution must be approved in a state-wide referendum. In other states, changes in state tax must be approved in this way. In 2012, there were 115 referendums put on the ballot by state legislatures.

But 24 states people have an option to use referendum to repeal laws or veto them called a popular referendum. If the state legislature passes a law that voters do not approve of, they may gather signatures to demand a referendum on the law. Generally, there is a 90-day period after the law is passed during which the petitioning must take place. Once enough signatures have been gathered and verified, the new law appears on the ballot for a popular vote. While the referendum is pending, the law does not take effect. If voters approve the law in the referendum, it takes effect as scheduled.

Recall elections

Recall 2021 Gavin Newsom

A recall election is another form of direct democracy - procedure which enables voters in a state to remove an elected official from office before their term has expired. Recall elections can be seen as a direct form of impeachment. But impeachment is a legal process whereas a recall election is a popular process whereby ordinary voters can remove a politician from office.

Nineteen states currently permit the recall of elected officials by this process.

In 2003, the Democrat governor of California, Gray Davis, was defeated in a recall election by the Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, who then went on to serve as governor of the state until January 2011. Republican governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker in June 2012, in which Governor Walker beat his Democrat opponent, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, by 53% to 46. This recall election was triggered by opposition to Governor Walker’s implementation of changes to state employee pension schemes and the limiting of the collective bargaining rights of trade unions within the state.

Critics see the recall election as undermining elections by allowing voters to change their minds after short-term dissatisfaction. Many believe that, unless the elected official is shown to be a criminal, voters should have to live with the consequences of their choices.

A more significant problem is the impact of big money and powerful media who might try to rewrite the results of election which they did not like.

direct democracy UK

In the UK

The Recall of MPs Act 2015 is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that makes provision for constituents to be able to recall their Member of Parliament (MP) and call a by-election. It received royal assent on 26 March 2015 after being introduced on 11 September 2014.

Unlike recall procedures in some other countries, the act does not allow constituents to initiate proceedings. Instead, proceedings are initiated only if an MP is found guilty of a wrongdoing that fulfils certain criteria. This petition is successful if at least one in ten voters in the constituency sign. Successful petitions force the recalled MP to vacate the seat, resulting in a by-election.

To date, three petitions have been made under the act; two of these received sufficient signatures to trigger a by-election.

California is one of 20 states that have provisions to remove a sitting governor in a recall, 19 through elections. The state law establishing the rules goes back to 1911 and was intended to place more power directly in the hands of voters by allowing them to recall elected officials and repeal or pass laws by placing them on the ballot. Recall attempts are common in the state, but they rarely get on the ballot and even fewer succeed. However, in 2003, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and replaced with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Proposition 8

A California ballot proposition and a state constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008 California state elections. The proposition was created by opponents of same-sex marriage in advance of the California Supreme Court's May 2008 appeal ruling, In re Marriage Cases, which followed the short-lived 2004 same-sex weddings controversy and found the previous ban on same-sex marriage (Proposition 22, 2000) unconstitutional. Proposition 8 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional by a federal court (on different grounds) in 2010, although the court decision did not go into effect until June 26, 2013, following the conclusion of proponents' appeals.

Advantages of propositions

· Controversial subjects which state legislatures are reluctant to tackle can be voted

on, as with the California legalisation of marijuana in 2016-.Proposition 64 2016 California Proposition 62 sought to ban the death penalty. This was defeated but Proposition 66 to speed up the death penalty was passed.

· They increase participation and turnout, as seen with the propositions placed on the ballot in many swing states in 2004 to try and increase the Republican vote, such as the Ohio proposition to ban same-sex marriages.

· Propositions increase accountability of politicians, who are forced to be responsive to voter demands, such as Florida's 2008 ban on gay marriage.

n They engage the electorate, who become better informed and are encouraged to join pressure groups in response. In 2010, all six Colorado propositions were defeated by the electorate, including attempts to severely restrict abortion.

Disadvantages of propositions

n They can be inflexible and undermine the principles of a representative democracy by tying the hands of state legislatures. In this way, California Proposition 13, which prevented property tax from being raised, has limited politicians' ability to tackle the spiralling budget deficit.

· They can be manipulated by wealthy groups, as seen by the hiring of public relations firm Schubert Flint to run the successful Proposition 8YesON8 campaign, which initially banned same-sex marriages in California. (Anti proposition8 Ad) The 2012 Recall election on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker- Walker was backed by the libertarian conservative billionaires the Koch brothers and their Super PAC Americans for Prosperity.

· A tyranny of the majority is created by disadvantaging minority groups, for example, the effect of California Proposition 209 on African Americans. 209 banned all forms of racial discrimination- this was controversial because it had the effect of ending Affirmative Action in California.Discussion of 209