This fall, voters around the nation face a wide selection of citizen initiatives. Of particular note is "Amendment 3" in Florida. This is a counter-initiative that would make it more difficult to amend the Florida Constitution. That may be a good thing.
While direct democracy has its upsides, it often produces unintended and expensive consequences. That's been the story in Florida, anyway. Over the past few years, Floridians have amended their constitution to include all sorts of programs like high speed rail, universal preschool, and protection for pregnant pigs. Of course, that just ignores the fact that constitutions are meant to protect people, not pigs.
In states where initiatives are relatively easy to pass, the constitutional rule of law may suffer. Low voter turnout means that a minority of the population can make sweeping changes to the fundamental law of the land. And each measure comes with a price tag, often overlooked by voters.
This fall, Arizonans must keep track of 19 measures on the November ballot. They include a smorgasbord of well-intended reform efforts from a voter lottery to our own pig protection program. There's an old saying that you can have too much of a good thing. The citizen initiative process may be verging on just that.
Benjamin Barr is a constitutional policy analyst with the Goldwater Institute. The Goldwater Institute does not support or oppose specific legislation, but adheres to its educational mission to help policymakers and citizens better understand the consequences of government policies.
-Saint Petersburg Times: "Crimping citizens initiatives, or not?"
-Florida Constitution, Article X, Section 21, Constitutional Pig Protection
-Arizona 2006 Ballot Propositions
-Federalist Society Upcoming Event: Direct Democracy in Action - A Closer Look