Proposition 36 (Drug Treatment) passed on November 7, 2000 by a two to one margin, which is a landslide vote. This initiative, which started as a petition by ordinary citizens, will become law in the State of California on January 1, 2001.




The initiative process is an example of  democracy by petition, which is a form of democracy in which  registered voters get together to make policy decisions. Democracy by petition is one of three forms of direct democracy that supplements representative democracy, the form of democracy in which people eligible to participate elect lawmakers to make policy decisions. California is one of 21 states that use democracy by petition to make laws.  Any citizen is permitted to write laws or even state constitutional amendments and, if supported by the petition of enough other citizens (about 5%, in California 265, 000 valid signatures are needed), the initiative will appear on the ballot in the next general election. If the initiative receives a simple majority, 50 percent plus one,  of the popular vote, it becomes law. Initiatives are for local and state levels only, not the federal or national level of government.



A1.     The initiative is an example of which type of democracy?

A2.     What is the purpose of the initiative process?

A3.     What is the difference between direct and representational democracy?

A4.     Do all states use the initiative process?

A5.     Can a federal law be made through an initiative?

A6.     What level(s) of government can the voter effect by using the initiative process?

A7.     How does an initiative get on the ballot?

A8.     What is a simple majority?

A9.     Does an initiative need the governors signature to become law?

A10.     Essay question: Can the Supreme court overturn an initiative? If so, why do we not see initiatives challenged by either the State of Federal Supreme courts?



Another form of democracy by petition is the referendum; this is similar to the initiative process, but there is one major difference. Where initiatives create new legislation, the referendum is a petition by registered voters, (the people, not elected official), to have legislative action put on the next ballot for a vote by the people. California is one of only 15 states that use the referendum procedure. In this way, ordinary citizens can prevent new legislation from becoming law, or enforcement of existing laws. The referendum is for local and state levels of government only, not the federal or national level of government.



B1.     What is the fundamental difference between the initiative and referendum?

B2.     What levels of government use the referendum process?

B3.     How many states are able to have the voters block legislation directly?

B4.     If a referendum is successful in passing, can the existing law still be enforced?

B5.     When do voters cast their ballots on either initiatives of referendums?

B6.     How does a referendum get on the ballot?

B7.     Does a referendum create new legislation?

B8.     Essay question: Does the court system have the power to overturn a referendum?     



The third form of democracy by petition is the recall procedure. The people can petition to have an elected official removed from office. If enough voters sign the recall petition, a special election is called, then the voters decide by simple majority, whether or not the official targeted in the recall election will remain in office. In a recall election, a yes vote is a vote for removal of the targeted official, and a no vote is for the targeted official to remain in office. Like the initiative and the referendum, any state or local official, including judges that are subject to the elective process, can be subject to recall. California is also one of only 15 states that use the recall procedure. The initiative, referendum, and recall measures are on the ballot after the candidates, and are labeled individually. In this way, the voter knows exactly what his or her vote is for, and why. These three forms of democracy by petition are for local and state levels only, not the federal or national level of government.




C1.     How many forms of democracy by petition do we currently have?

C2.     At which levels of government is the recall procedure used today?

C3.     Which lawmakers are subject to the recall procedure?

C4.     Can any judge be recalled?

C5.     When are voters able to vote on recall measures?

C6.     Do all states use the recall process?

C7.     What type of election is held for the possible recall of an elected official?

C8      Does an elected official have to be convicted of a crime to be recalled?

C9     Can a recalled official be reinstated to office by the Supreme Court? (hint: Marbury v. Madison 1803 ). 

C10    What does a yes vote mean in a recall election?