San Jose Valley Mercury News
Break the Grip of Wealthy Interests Controlling California's Ballot Measure System
by Daniel G. Newman, co-founder and president of MapLight
California voters gained the power to place measures on the ballot a century ago to break the grip of wealthy interests controlling government. Initially, the requirement to gather large number of petition signatures ensured that only measures with broad popular support would make it to the ballot.
Now paid signature gatherers qualify any measure, for a price. It's largely wealthy companies and rich individuals who wrote the 11 state measures Californians voted on Tuesday.
Do you have $1 million to spare? No? Then your money didn't matter much in the ballot measure campaigns. There were just 47 funders who spent $1 million or more on the campaigns, but their funds made up a whopping 80 percent of all funds raised.
Three common-sense changes to California's ballot measure system would make citizens' voices count more and big bank accounts count less...
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Daniel G. Newman is the co-founder and president of MapLight and is a 2011-13 network fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.