Monday, August 9, 2010

Parting Thoughts on the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy

The two back-to-back initiative conferences I attended in San Francisco last week were incredible - agendas packed with many speakers from all over the U.S. and the world sharing their experiences with direct democracy.

As a Californian, I take the initiative process for granted.  It's been around for almost one hundred years (next year is the initiative's centennial) and while I have often thought about ways it could be improved, these conferences have added a sense of scope and urgency.  There is broad consensus around the globe (at least among folks attended these conferences) that California's initiative process sets an example - both good and bad - for direct democracy.

Our process is much shorter than in other countries and even states, it  has practically no interaction with the legislative process (unlike other nations and states), there is no independent legal review of measures put before voters (as Colorado has) and despite all our disclosure, money used to qualify measures is not well-disclosed early on, and money given to nonprofits can be obscured from public view.

Basically, there is much room for improvement and this needs to happen not only because California voters deserve better but also because, whether we like it or not, California is setting an example for direct democracy around the world.  And I can think of a number of countries where the people living in them would benefit greatly if they could have a direct say on the policies and laws of their government.

I made lots of great new friends, both in the U.S. and abroad during my stay in San Francisco and hope in the months and years ahead we will work together to make the initiative process better in California and beyond.

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