News Release

Citizen Lawmaking Under Attack


A leading democracy activist reports that state legislatures are undermining the ballot initiative process.

Founder of Reclaim Democracy!, Milchen recently wrote “The Escalating Attacks on Citizen Lawmaking” in Governing.

He said today: “Progressive ballot initiatives enjoyed historic success nationwide last November, including wins on raising minimum wagessecuring voting rightsexpanding Medicaid, and protecting reproductive rights (pro-abortion-rights voters won in all six states with questions on the ballot, including three GOP strongholds. Now, Republican legislators are attempting to obstruct or sabotage the citizen initiative process in a dozen or more states.

In his recent piece, Milchen reports, “Republican politicians increasingly deem citizens choosing progressive policies an unacceptable intrusion into their powers and push bills to undermine ballot initiatives on three different fronts: erecting barriers to initiatives reaching the ballot, making passage more difficult and corrupting voters’ intent post-passage.”

With residents of a dozen or more states working to place reproductive rights initiatives on their state ballots, GOP attacks against citizen lawmaking are escalating. “Despite tremendous success by progressives last year, the number of state initiatives is declining as barriers are raised,” said Milchen. “This escalating attack on citizens parallels ongoing voter suppression attempts but has received little media scrutiny.”

He added: “Direct democracy is a nonpartisan tool and often is employed by conservative citizens to rein in liberal legislatures, too. The GOP attacks on citizen initiatives endanger a crucial check on legislative extremism and could further undermine democracy.”