Ballot Initiatives, Constitutional Referendums and Effects on Various Groups

Date of Award


Document Type



College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Degree Name

Bachelor of Art in Political Science

Honors Thesis Director

Scott Huffmon


ballot initiatives, constitutional referendums, direct legislation, minority groups


Direct legislation in the United States is a subject that has received a great deal of attention recently. A large proportion of this attention however has been focused on the potential for direct legislation to harm minority groups. An example of this negative potential can be seen in a group of ballot propositions that were presented to California voters in the 1990s. These initiatives can all be interpreted as targeting various minority groups in California. As California is the state which makes use of the ballot initiative more frequently than any other, this is a cause for concern. There are however several other factors that make it unclear whether direct legislation will more often lead to negative outcomes for minorities. There is also a noticeable effect of direct democracy generally on political participation. Several studies have found a positive correlation between the extent that a state uses ballot initiatives and referenda with political participation indexes such as voting rates. These findings complicate the negative attention that ballot initiatives have recently received.

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