Background

Since 1911, California has allowed citizens to create statutory and constitutional law via initiatives, referenda, and recall elections. This cherished exercise in direct democracy was established as a way for citizens to work around legislatures that were heavily corrupted by wealthy special interests. But after 100 years, the initiative process needed improving.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California Statewide Survey 2013:

  • 83% of voters agree that initiative wording is too complicated and confusing
  • 84% of voters favor increasing public disclosure of funding sources for signature gathering and initiative campaigns
  • 77% of voters support a review and revision process to avoid legal issues and drafting errors
  • 75% of likely voters support giving initiative sponsors more time to gather signatures if they are using volunteers rather than paid workers.
  • Initiative reform has strong support among Democrats, Republicans and Independents

That’s why we helped draft the Ballot Initiative Transparency Act – to give voters more accessible information about who is behind each initiative, ensure Voter Guides are easily understood, and allow for legal flaws to be corrected in an initiative before it appears on the ballot. The Ballot Initiative Transparency Act (SB 1253) was introduced by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). SB 1253 had a broad coalition of supporters including: California Common Cause, AARP, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), California Church IMPACT, California Forward, California NAACP, the League of Women Voters of California and Think Long Committee for California. In 2014, the bill passed both the State Senate and Assembly with bi-partisan support, and was ultimately signed into law by Governor Brown.

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