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Liberals Move On Initiative Reform

December 1, 2008

Liberals and Democrats in Southern California have been meeting to talk about initiative reform. Here's an update of what they're up to, via the Calitics blog.

From Our Foreign Bureaus: Iraq Referendum, Independent-Minded Greenland

November 30, 2008

IRAQI REFERENDUM: The 2009 referendum most important to Americans may take place in Iraq. Sunni parties won a commitment for a public referendum by July 30, 2009 on the new security agreement between the U.S. and the Baghdad government. That agreement calls for full American withdrawal by the end of 2011. A vote by the Iraqi people to reject the agreement could lead to an even earlier withdrawal by the U.S.

A Disc Golf Referendum?

November 25, 2008

Not every ballot measure must be momentous: The frisbee folk in the north California city of Chico are angry about a decision to remove a disc golf course from a local park. So they're working to qualify a referendum to reverse the decision.

First City-Wide Referendum Ever in Taiwan Goes Down to Defeat

November 17, 2008

Taiwan has recently strengthened direct democracy, making referenda easier. And so the teachers association in the southern port city of Kaohsiung sought to use the enhanced referendum powers in the national law to reduce class sizes from 35 to 25 students. The measure failed however -- because fewer than 10 percent of voters showed up.

Shocked, Shocked Department: 'Hanky Panky' in Chicago Community Referendum

November 11, 2008

A crooked election in Chicago? Never. But it seems that in a liquor referendum in Chicago's Beverly community, voters weren't able to cast ballots for the first 90 minutes of balloting. The referendum, which would have permitted one local establishment to sell alcohol, lost, 63 votes to 59. More details are here.

More Referenda, Fewer Initiatives

November 3, 2008

Sunday in the Sacramento Bee, I wrote about my idea for reforming California's direct democracy. The piece is here. It's part of a weekly feature called "The Conversation." Please contribute your own thoughts on the idea. At root, the idea is to make it easier to qualify referenda -- ballot measures to block an act of the legislature -- for the ballot, and make it harder to qualify and pass initiatives. The idea is to make initiatives, which are common, rare, and to make referenda, which are rare, more common.

The People To Decide On Royal Succession

October 8, 2008

The royal line of succession in Denmark favors boys over girls. But Danes will get to vote on changing those rules in a referendum next year. If the measure is approved, royal succession would be based on birth order, not sex.


Stat of the Day: A True Citizen Legislator

October 3, 2008

We've reached the final hours of this global conference of journalists, academics and others interested in gobal direct democracy. Today has focused on the European Union, a subject so mind-numbing that this American can't wait to get home and watch some playoff baseball.

One great statistic came out of today's talks, courtesy of Gabriela Felder, a University of Zurich political scientist: an 80-year-old Swiss man, living his life in Zurich, will have voted on 1,800 referenda and initiatives in his lifetime.


'Think Like a Philosopher And Write Like a Farmer'

October 2, 2008

That's the motto of the In-House Drafting Committee, one of the most interesting government offices I've come across. The committee handles the official translation of all legislation -- including initiatives and referenda -- in Switzerland. It's a crucial role in a country with three major national languages -- German, French and Italian. They do not have a light hand--they do serious editing for clarity and for constitutionality. The office has an interesting collection of people: historians, political scientists, linguists and two-- count 'em, two -- theologians.

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