September 30, 2005

An Experiment in Voter Initiative, Introduction part I

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ironically, Rhode Island is one of the least “progressive” states in the nation, at least in terms of its direct democratic procedures. Rhode Island lacks either voter initiative, where laws can be passed by a direct vote of the people, or voter recall, where voters can recall public officials they are dissatisfied with. State Senator Marc Cote is the legislative leader of a drive to implement voter initiative in Rhode Island, a drive actively supported by Governor Don Carcieri.

The coming year will see many theoretical arguments for an against voter initiative. The initial argument against is that voter initiative is too easily manipulated by big money special interests. So far, this argument is unconvincing. Those making this argument have yet to explain how decisions made by hundreds of thousands voting by secret ballot are more susceptible to manipulation than are votes made by a few hundred who can be punished (losing committee assignments, losing committee chairmanships, etc.) for making the “wrong” decision.

I know that many conservatives oppose recall on principle. I am not sure if there is a “conservative” position on initiative. Over the coming months, we will find out…