Vote ‘no’ on direct democracy

By Tyler Davis

Voters will have big issues to vote on during Election Day on Nov. 6, including abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization. Same-sex marriage is on the ballot in Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington, while marijuana legalization is on the ballot in Washington, Oregon and Colorado. Campaign financing and the death penalty are also among the 174 ballot initiatives across the U.S. this year.

Even though 54 percent of the nation is in favor of same-sex marriage, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released June 6, no state has ever approved a ballot measure that would legalize gay marriage, meaning that existing marriage equality has only come about through courts and elected officials. We elect representatives and follow judicial process  for a reason, and defying their decisions sets a dangerous precedent.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said that ballot initiatives “should be used not to destroy representative government, but to correct it whenever it becomes misrepresentative.”

Direct democracy has become a weapon of special interest groups. The four same-sex marriage initiatives on the ballot were not put there solely by concerned citizens.  An Oct. 9 New York Times editorial stated that Proposition 13 “caused a damaging fiscal shift, depriving municipalities of needed revenue.” Business magnate Warren Buffet was an adviser to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2003 gubernatorial campaign and urged him to repeal Proposition 13 to fix the state’s financial woes.

Of course, people are unlikely to vote for higher taxes if they don’t have to consider the budget as a whole. Elected officials have to represent their constituents in a well-informed way. Voters are often bombarded with advertisements for high profile ballot initiatives, which can unfairly shift the outcome.

Although it may seem ideal to allow citizens more involvement in policy making, direct democracy becomes an agent of chaos when it is hijacked to turn back the clock of progress. These initiatives have moved away from their grassroots purpose and become another way for special interest groups to subvert democracy.