What’s the Deal With Direct Democracy?

Since California first adopted the ballot initiative process in 1911, California voters have been asked to decide on issues such as the legality of prize fighting (1914), capital punishment (1972), nuclear weapons (1982), and the definition of marriage (2000). Given the dizzying complexity of ballot initiatives and the powerful sway of well-funded PR campaigns, how have California voters been able to fully understand and accept responsibility for making these critical decisions?

In all, Californians have approved 132 ballot measures, with some eliciting more interest from voters than others. All however have the potential of profound and long-lasting consequences for this state, particularly when we consider examples like the tax reform of Prop 13 (1978) or the immigration focus of Prop 187 (1994).

Rather than try to explain or debate the 12 new propositions on in this November’s general election ballot, join us for a conversation that delves into the history of California’s voter initiatives and explores how we got to where we are today.

Panelists:

  • Rachael Myrow, Senior Editor, KQED (moderator)
  • Jason Cohn, Director, THE FIRST ANGRY MAN
  • Joe Mathews, California & Innovation editor for Zócalo Public Square, Co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It
  • Dr. Raphael J. Sonenshein, Executive Director, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at CSU Los Angeles

This program was funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


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