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California's 2014 Ballot Initiative Transparency Act (BITA) and its Impact on Public Involvement in the Ballot Initiative Process

  • Author(s): Romero, Mindy
  • Keidan, Greg
  • et al.
Abstract

About half the states in the U.S. now provide a ballot initiative process to voters as a form ofdirect democracy. Citizens are provided the opportunity to vote on proposed laws or constitutionalamendments, which are written and proposed by members of the public. Most studies examiningthe impact of ballot initiatives have focused on the changes in public policy that occuras a result of this form of direct voter engagement. In recent years, however, scholars have begunto examine these questions from a different angle, measuring the scope and depth of civicengagement generated by ballot initiatives. Our study examines the kind of public engagementthat takes place early in the ballot initiative process, before propositions actually make it to theballot, utilizing California’s recent reforms to the ballot initiative process as an empirical case.Employing a multi-method approach, we analyze how California’s Ballot Initiative TransparencyAct of 2014 impacted public involvement in the ballot initiative process. This law was designedto make this process more transparent while encouraging greater public participation in ballotinitiatives before they are approved for the ballot. We seek to understand whether this reformhas led to greater public engagement in the ballot initiative process, and greater public input intoCalifornia state policy.

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