[commentary] ©2000 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, POB 622, Cambridge, MA 02140, USA 617-623-8080 - HOMEPAGE
Oregon's Leadership in Voter Initiatives
The cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy. Al Smith
An update on the state of direct democracy in Oregon and the USA in general appeared in -
A ballot full of voter initiatives becomes an issue itself in Oregon
by Sam Howe Verhovek, 10/25/2000 New York Times, front page.
...Some 102 years after South Dakota became the first state to allow citizens to vote directly on their laws, Oregon is sticking to its tradition of using the process more than any other state. Not since North Dakota did so in 1932 has a state put so many citizen-sponsored initiatives..\..26 ballot measures...before its people in a single election, says the Initiative and Referendum Institute, a group based in Washington that tracks such statistics..\..
It may be democracy in its purest form, as proponents of Oregon's initiative process like to say, or democracy run amok, as critics contend. But no one disputes that voters here face a staggering number of policy decisions, or that the official voters' guide hardly helps cut through the fog for voters who mark their ballots at home in a state where almost all votes are mailed in..\..
Volume I of the Oregon voters' guide [has] 376 pages...encompassing 607 arguments for or against [the 26 ballot measures. For example -]
"It's like a full-time job trying to figure all these out," said Ms. Knowles, who already has a full-time job as a cashier in a nearby casino. "It's totally confusing. Sometimes I'm not even sure if a yes vote really means yes or no...."
- Make federal income taxes fully deductible on Oregon returns?
- Limit total state spending to 15% of taxpayers' personal income?
- Prohibit public school instruction "encouraging, promoting or sanctioning" homosexual or bisexual behaviors?
- Ban the use of all "body-gripping animal traps"?
[Oregon is still at a primitive stage of direct democracy. The next steps are -
- unfreeze the definition of "full-time job" so it can start reducing to whatever lower levels it should be at for our current rising levels of work-saving technology, and give us all more time for good citizenship
- realize that not every voter has to respond to every question - if and when that voter's interest gets burned, he or she will be sure to respond the next time a referendum question comes up on that issue
- get moving on continuizing the process, e.g., move from once a year to once a month, move from paper-based to Web-based, from mail-in to email-or-phone in
- get going on developing the decision trees to clarify the hot issues so they're not scattered all over the continuum from high levels of generality to high levels of specificity - with all the attendant confusion]
For more details, our laypersons' handbook Timesizing, Not Downsizing is available from *Amazon.com. Questions, comments, feedback? Phone 617-623-8080 (Boston) or email us.
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