Wednesday, November 14

National Ballot Initiative News

Greetings, democracy fans. There's no recent news on national ballot initiative progress, but last week's state initiatives show that initiatives are where most reforms start, how initiatives need to be improved, and the need for national initiatives. To convince your friends who doubt that initiatives are the way to go, the proof is in the pudding:

1. Initiatives are winding down the 75-year war on marijuana users. While Congress put an end to alcohol prohibition after 13 years of profits to the mafia and deaths by rotgut, it is now too beholden to the alcohol, prescription drug and other interests threatened by marijuana and hemp to act. Colorado's legalization Amendment 64 passed 54.9% to 45.1% as did Washington's Initiative 502 with a 55.3% to 44.7% vote. Medical marijuana also passed in Massachusetts with a stunning 63% to 37%, but Arkansas' medical marijuana and Oregon's legalization both failed. 

The Federal government will still prosecute marijuana users when they want, a demonstration of the need for national ballot initiatives like Senator Mike Gravel's project:

2. Here in Colorado, the City of Longmont banned oil and gas "fracking" in town by 60% to 40%, in spite of the oil and gas companies outspending proponents by more than ten to one, becoming the first citizens to vote on this:  Longmont is now facing off against the governor (a former petroleum geologist) the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, and the fossil corps, who have filed suit. The people who organized this initiative are so juiced, they're talking about a similar Colorado initiative, and are enthused over the prospect of national ones.

3. For the first time, same-sex marriage was legalized in states across the country using ballot initiatives rather than legislation. Maine, Maryland, and Washington all voted to allow same-sex couples the right to marry in their states. Minnesota also became the first state to have voters reject a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  This was all predicted by the prescient Nate Silver last year at

Having your personal life discussed in the media is no fun for gays, but this is how prejudice gets dispelled. I was raised in the '50s and '60s and never learned about gay people back then. My vague distaste for gays vanished in 1992 when Colorado was debating Amendment 1, which banned gay rights laws (and was overturned by all the courts including the Supreme Court.) During the debate I recalled hitch-hiking through San Francisco in 1970 at age 18 and getting rides from gay men who had their hands all over me. Once I realized where the distaste came from, and that most gays, like most straights, arent' like that, I gained many gay friends including my current Congressman Jared Polis, who happens to favor national ballot initiatives:

4. Californians, after enduring over $1 million a day of ads from major food companies, narrowly defeated Proposition 37, which would have mandated the labeling of GMO foods. The pro-GMO forces outspent the labeling advocates 5 to 1, defeating what polls show is nationwide an overwhelmingly popular idea.
This shows that voters need the kind of objective information that legislators get from public hearings, expert testimony and deliberation. This is just what Oregon's Citizen Initiative Review has provided for three election cycles:  Gravel's proposal also incorporates this, as Deliberative Committees. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 18 state legislatures have tried and failed to label GMO foods:

San Juan County, Washington DID pass Initiative Measure No. 2012-4, making it illegal to "propagate, cultivate, raise or grow plants, animals and other organisms which have been genetically modified."

5. Two states and over 120 cities (including mine, Boulder) passed initiatives or referenda to call on Congress to over-ride the Supreme Court's notorious Citizens United decision:

To further convince people, you can show them the record of the last 20 years of initiatives in Colorado:   and some national initiative history:

You can see the World-Wide Direct Democracy Newsletter at:

The 4th Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy just concluded in Montivideo, Uruguay:

 I always say: "You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can buy most of Congress (and the legislatures) most of the time."

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


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