The Green Party believes that the initiative/referendum/recall process is an essential part of California politics and, on balance, a useful way of furthering grassroots democracy.
Past elections have seen an abundance of initiatives that have been variously received by the voters.
Perhaps the most damaging elements of the California initiative process from a Green perspective are the cost and time constraints involved in ballot qualification. In order to qualify, supporters must gather the signatures of five percent of the registered voters within 150 days. In practice, considerable organizational talent and large sums of money are needed to qualify (at least 50 cents per signature). The professionals who gather such signatures are not interested in educating the voters about the issues. They have found that many Californians, when properly approached, will put an initiative on the ballot without knowing more about it than its title.
Currently, changes in the law are being planned that would make the process even less accessible to voters.
The Green Party advocates reforming the initiative process:
Extend the period of time for gathering signatures to 180 days.
Require that at least 15% of all signatures be gathered by unpaid volunteers.
Require both proponents and opponents of an initiative to inform the voters about the issues, using government-sponsored means.
Require that organizational proponents of initiatives be prominently listed at the beginning of every initiative.
The Green Party supports the use of petitionary referenda as a viable recourse in keeping elected officials sensitive to significant issues and public opinion. The petitionary referenda gives citizens the chance to repeal bills recently passed by the legislature and approved by the governor.
In contrast to the initiative, the use of petitionary referenda is in decline - only six petitionary referenda have qualified for the ballot since 1940. This is due, in part, to the referendum process: proponents of a referendum must gather a number of signatures equal to five percent of the votes cast for the governor in the last election, and must do so within 90 days of the bill's passage. The referendum process excludes certain types of bills such as tax levies, appropriation measures, calls for special elections, etc.
The Green Party recommends that we reactivate the referendum process:
Require companies doing business in the California initiative industry to set aside a portion of their revenues and facilities for use by groups unable to pay full fare for such services.
Reduce the number of signatures required to qualify a referendum for the ballot to three percent of the votes cast for the governor in the last election.
As in the case of the initiative and referendum, the recall process gives citizens a chance to practice grassroots democracy by removing elected officials who are disapproved of by a majority of voters.
Rarely has a recall effort against a state-level officeholder ever qualified for the ballot. It has sometimes been abused by groups seeking political ends other than removing an officeholder who they feel has performed poorly. Also, some citizens simply don't understand the meaning of the term "recall."
The Green Party proposes simplifying the recall process:
Substitute the term "removal" for "recall."
Require all signatures for a removal effort be obtained through voluntary solicitation.