Citizens as Legislators

Direct Democracy in the United States

Edited by Shaun Bowler, Todd Donovan, and Caroline J. Tolbert

Parliaments and Legislatures



316 pp. 6x9

$29.95 paper 978-0-8142-0778-9
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Early in the twentieth century, many American states began experimenting with direct democracy. Direct democracy—primarily the initiative device—allows groups to place directly before voters laws affecting taxation, spending, term limits, school choice, gay rights, immigration, and numerous other state issues. Ballot initiatives were expected to allow citizens the option of getting around legislators who were seen as beholden to wealthy interests; early defenders of the process argued it would make state politics more responsive to the public will, and more responsible. Citizens as Legislators examines direct democracy in America at the end of the twentieth century to see if it has lived up to these expectations.

The seven contributors to this volume use the American experience with direct democracy to investigate some fundamental questions of politics: Can modern democracy have direct citizen participation in legislation? What are the consequences of more (or less) direct citizen access to government? Are policy outcomes different under direct versus representative government?

The authors look at the context of initiative campaigns and detail the rise of the modern initiative campaign industry. They examine how campaigns affect voters and how voters deal with the array of decisions they face in direct democracy states. They go on to explain why certain policy outcomes are different in direct democracy states.

Table of contents:

  • An Overview of Direct Democracy in the American States, Todd Donovan and Shaun Bower
  • Election Law and Rules for Using Initiatives, Caroline J. Tolbert, Daniel H. Lowenstein, and Todd Donovan
  • California's Political Warriors: Campaign Professionals and the Initiative Process, David McCuan, Shaun Bowler, Todd Donovan, and Ken Fernandez
  • Contending Players and Strategies: Opposition Advantages in Initiative Elections, Todd Donovan, Shaun Bowler, David McCuan, and Ken Fernandez
  • Direct Legislation: When Is It Used and When Does It Pass? Susan A. Banducci
  • Searching for Ideological Consistency in Direct Legislation Voting, Susan A. Banducci
  • The Influence of Elite Endorsements in Initiative Campaigns, Jeffrey A. Karp
  • Changing Rules for State Legislatures: Direct Democracy and Governance Policies, Caroline J. Tolbert
  • Pressuring Legislatures through the Use of Initiatives: Two Forms of Indirect Influence, Elisabeth R. Gerber
  • Race/Ethnicity and Direct Democracy: The Contextual Basis of Support for Anti-Immigrant and Official English Measures, Caroline J. Tolbert and Rodney E. Hero
  • Direct Democracy and Minorities: Changing Attitudes about Minorities Targeted by Initiatives, James Wenzel, Todd Donovan, and Shaun Bower
  • Responsive or Responsible Government? Todd Donovan and Shaun Bowler

Shaun Bowler is professor of political science at the University of California–Riverside. Todd Donovan is professor of political science at Western Washington University. He and Shaun Bowler are coauthors of Electoral Reform and Minority Representation: Local Experiments with Alternative Elections. Caroline J. Tolbert is assistant professor of political science at Kent State University.