Op-Ed: Direct democracy in California has been a dangerously mixed bag. It doesn’t have to be

From The Los Angeles Times:

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By contrast, the review process for citizen ballot measures is woefully inadequate and sometimes leads to the passage of initiatives that don’t stand up to legal scrutiny. That’s what happened with Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage, and Proposition 187, which limited public services to immigrants who are here illegally. Both measures won at the polls but were later thrown out by the courts.

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The law could be improved, however, by requiring legislators to complete their review earlier. As it is now, the deadlines for hearings and for withdrawing a bill from the ballot are the same. If the hearings happened earlier in the process, there would be more time for legislators to negotiate compromises with ballot sponsors.

Another good next step for California would be to adopt the kind of citizen review panels already up and running in Oregon. The state impanels a randomly selected group of voters to hear from a ballot measure’s proponents and opponents as well as experts on the implications of the proposed policy. The panel then presents its findings to the public through a 750-word summary published in the voter guide. When voters go to the polls, they have the advantage of being informed by the disinterested considerations of a body of their fellow citizens.

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