Frustration with the legislative process has given rise to the popular, but unwise, idea that giving the voter-at-large the power to directly pass or repeal laws or amend State Constitutions would somehow result in better government. Let's have a closer look at the downside of bypassing our elected representatives by creating a Fourth branch of government (Direct Democracy) through Initiative & Referendum.
- Rather than "empowering the people" I&R bestows more power on the highly-organized and well-financed special interest groups of every description who can afford to purchase expensive media time to manipulate public opinion in slick TV spots without meaningful debate, pro and con. A poorly informed and impassioned public may disregard individual rights in the so-called interest of "health, safety, or welfare." Conservative social and economic issues would likely be labeled, "Religious Right", "Extremist", "Sexist", "Racist", etc.
- It would be difficult to raise funds to match the big-money bucks of the gambling interests, NEA teachers' union, anti-gun groups, environmental extremists, welfare rights groups, pro-abortion organizations, socialized medicine supporters, anti-homeschoolers, pro-homosexual rights groups, and drug-legalizers.
- How would we educate the public-at-large, and raise money to get out the vote For or Against one or more ballot issues? Better to invest time and money electing conservatives to represent us on our issues who will vote against liberal issues.
- I&R would bypass the checks and balances of our representative form of government--no Legislative Committee Hearings, Floor Debate, Amendments, majority (or 2/3) vote of both houses, Conference Committees to work out the differences between House and Senate versions of a bill, or Gubernatorial Veto.
- The Courts have thrown out many initiatives approved by the people in I&R states. Court appeals are an additional big expense to the I&R process.
- Any influence one might have on their District Representative or Senator on important issues would be lost to voters from all over the state with differing political persuasions.
- With a low voter turnout, a small number of people, accountable to no one, can pass bad laws, repeal good laws and amend state constitutions. It would be almost impossible to repeal voter-approved laws.