[EM] Multiple-option initiatives

Wynott at aol.com Wynott at aol.com
Sat Mar 9 18:31:48 PST 1996

In a message dated 96-03-08 18:47:59 EST, Steve writes:

>>Steve E. asked:
>>>Do you think there'd be serious opposition to multiproposal (via
>>>Condorcet ballot) Initiative reform?
>K.D. replied:
>> among the "powers-that-be", absolutely yes.
>>In otherwords, do not underestimate the willingness of fat cats and other
>>anti-democrats to do whatever it takes to hold onto their power.
>Granted.  But what arguments against it would they use?  Would 
>inclusion of this clause in an initiative about other reforms (such 
>as single winner) risk sinking the initiative?

My general theory on initiatives, having worked on at least 20 of them now,
is that the more things that are included, the more likely a voter will find
something that he/she doesn't like . . . and therefore encourages them to
indulge their natural tendency to vote "no" (as we all know, American voters
are more easily led to oppose something than to support something).  If a
provision doesn't give folks a good reason to vote for an initiative, it's
usually a hindrance . . . if for no other reason than it gives opponents the
ability to say the initiative is obviously bad because it's so long.

That said, I also helped write the Anti-Corruption Initiative here in CA,
which has 65 sections -- including a lot of provisions that will likely never
be discussed in public debate but which will have some significant impact on
elections if passed (e.g. requirements that the top funders of independent
expenditure committees and initiative campaign committees be prominently
disclosed in any ads they produce, a ban on raising funds for a candidate
after the election is over and a requirement that any unspent funds be
returned to their contributors).  So, I'm not automatically saying that it's
bad to have a long initiative full of different items (as long as they're
related), just that it's a risk.

I suspect the main arguments that will be used against the multiple-option
initiative are 
(1) it will make an already-crowded ballot too crowded (the usual elitist
argument), and that will result in bad laws

(2) the bigger ballot and the bigger voter pamphlet will cost more taxpayer
dollars, taking away from schools and police [I would guess that the official
fiscal analysis of such a proposal is that it will cost several million
dollars . . . and the potential expenditure of lesser amounts have been
highlighted with devastating effect to deep-six otherwise popular electoral
reform proposals; indeed, I think one of the reasons that Common Cause-CA is
scared about the possibility of CALPIRG's Anti-Corruption Initiative doing
better than their CPR Initiative is because the official fiscal analysis of
our initiative shows a net savings for state government (because of repeal of
the tax deduction for lobbyists), while theirs shows an increase of several
million dollars;

(3) "it goes too far" -- just rhetoric, of course, but we won't able to point
to other places where it's being done; at least not anyplace that most
Californians have heard of!

(4) Unless we go for a constitutional amendment (in CA, that means collecting
1,000,000 signatures instead of 700,000 for a statute), it will also likely
get attacked as unconstitutional -- not necessarily because it is, but
because some legal nitwit can probably draft a brief claiming it is.

On the other hand, I think there are a sizeable number of elites who have
learned to accept the initiative process as a necessary evil and who might
welcome the multiple-option provision as a way of avoiding the worst-case
situations stemming from "extremist" initiatives which people support because
there's no other way of expressing their emotions about particular issues.

-- K.D. Weinert

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