This section contains a brief
discussion and comparison of
alternatives for qualifying the U.S. Initiatives that
are to be placed on the ballot as Candidate Initiatives for vote by
the nationwide Electorate.
There have been no nationwide Initiatives in the U.S.
This planned constitutional Amendment will authorize them. United States
(abbreviated to Initiatives) can implement only such laws as Congress already
has the power to enact.
It is expected that there will be many groups with ideas
for proposed Initiatives to place on the ballot for vote by
the Electorate. Obviously, there has to be some way to keep the proposed
Initiatives to a reasonable number and to ensure their quality. There are three
basic systems that can function as a gateway to
decide which Initiative is held back and which is let through and
placed on the next ballot for vote by the Electorate:
Popular Signature Petition
Following the method used in many States, a
is prepared that defines the
proposed law. A required number of voters must sign the petition. If the
hurdle of the required number of signatures is not cleared, the petition fails; if the
signature hurdle is cleared, the petition become an Initiative and is placed on the
next ballot for vote by the Electorate.
Internet Voting System
A system of Internet voting will be used to rate
the proposed initiatives on a database. The highest-ranking proposed
initiatives will become Candidate Initiatives on the ballot.
A Boule of randomly selected citizens eligible to vote, rather like a
large grand jury acting as deputies of the people.
These three methods are briefly discussed and compared below.
Direct initiatives are allowed in
States (AZ, AR, CA, CO, ID, MO, MT, NE, ND, OK, OR, SD, UT, WA), all of which use the popular petition method.
Usually, the first step is gathering a team of citizens to prepare a
popular petition that defines the proposed law. The team then obtains sufficient
funds to campaign for popular support and to gather more than the required number
of voter signatures supporting the petition. The required number of signatures
varies widely, but the median is about eight percent of those who voted for the
gubernatorial office in the last election. The petition is then filed with
state officials who count only the valid signatures. The proposed law is voted
on in the next election, or in a special election. If it passes by a majority, it
In addition to state direct initiatives, U.S. voters are presented with a range
of other direct democracy items, such as state indirect initiatives in an
additional 10 states, state statute
referendums, state constitutional referendums, city initiatives and referendums,
etc. 70 percent of the U.S. Electorate votes on state and city initiatives
p.1) and over time, almost 100 percent vote on some type of state
The two most significant and successful users of Initiatives are
Athens and modern
Switzerland. It is perhaps most significant that the populations involved
are small. Ancient Athens had a population of about 100,000. Switzerland has a population of about 7,300,000 divided into 26
relatively autonomous Cantons. 50,000 signatures are required to petition a
popular vote on new federal legislation.
The States' direct initiative method could be
used for a nationwide Initiative. Instead of the required number of petition
signatures being based on the gubernatorial vote in the previous election, it
could be based on the Presidential vote. Using the States' median of requiring eight
percent of the gubernatorial voters and the 100,000,000 voters for the office of President in
the 2000 elections, the required number of petition signatures would be
8,000,000 for each Initiative.
Petition Qualification Internet Voting by the
has great appeal. It could, for example, be operated by an
online citizen institution (OCI) that
uses a secure, peer-reviewed, online voting system. The organizing institutions
should be fully transparent. This system has the theoretical potential to allow the People's
governance rights and political equality
to be realized.
Electronic voting at the polls is becoming accepted in many locations
around the world. However, this is not the same thing as Internet voting.
Internet voting requires that every voter can be uniquely identified at
their personal computer (or equivalent) while connected to the Internet. This is
normally done by a user-name and password combination known only to the
individual voter and to the central voting system. In theory, this is within
today's technology. And, with the increasing availability and use of biometric
identification and digital signatures, it is certainly well within the scope of
future technologies. The subject of E-Government is
receiving official attention—e.g., the
Congressional Internet Caucus.
Since 2000, there have been several
examples of U.S. political Internet voting at a party level, e.g.:
The Republican Party used Internet voting to mobilize voters living in
the remotest regions of Alaska to participate in the 2000 Republican
The Arizona Democratic Party, seeking to boost participation in its
party caucuses, conducted the first-ever binding Internet vote in 2000.
Drawing on the Arizona experience, the Michigan Democratic Party
implemented Internet voting as a means to improve accessibility and
voter turnout for its presidential caucuses in 2004.
In September 2004, and after several pilot
votes on the communal level, 20,000 citizens of the Swiss
were offered the opportunity to cast their votes over the Internet in a
federal referendum. For the first time in the world, parts of the electorate
were able to cast their votes through remote internet voting for a binding
Interestingly, it appears
that the principal factor influencing voters to choose Internet voting was if
they could save time over conventional voting. The net result was that the
total number of voters did not change much, but their methods of voting
There are, however, significant security issues
involved with e-voting. These are monitored by many organizations such as the
nonprofit Electronic Frontier
etc. The general conclusion is that e-voting is feasible but that
integrity are still major issues yet to be resolved before widespread use can be
Let us assume:
That the number of voter is 100,000,000—i.e.,
about the same number who actually vote in general elections—and
not reduced or selected in some way to be a subset of the Electorate.
initiatives per year—the
for the Boule.
A 12-minute effort for a citizen to make an informed voting decision
by reading 500 to 1,000 words of available information and thinking about
A Citizen's time worth of $10 per hour—roughly
the minimum wage including overheads.
The annual amount of time needed for the
nationwide Electorate to qualify initiatives will be 100,000,000 x 500 x 1/5 = 10 billion person-hours or $100
billion dollars-worth of voters' time. Even if the number assumptions are rough
and debatable, the conclusion remains that the costs are excessive. Of course,
the People will not really spend so much of their time in this manner, so a few activist voters
will control the vote.
Athens and modern Switzerland amount to very small democratic units by today's standards. By their
small size, it is theoretically feasible for virtually all the Electorate to
determine or at least influence which Initiatives they wish to vote on. However, with U.S.
actual voters numbering
million and a far greater geographic size, expecting the entire Electorate to choose what
they wanted to vote on would be absurd.
However, a representative sample of the Electorate
could make a decision for the Electorate. In fact,
even in small Athens, they introduced a
Council of Five Hundred, with important
preliminary jurisdiction when the regular Assembly of the People was not in
session. The selection of the Council's members was usually by lot and for only
one year, thereby preventing monopoly of the office of deputy by professional
politicians. The Boule took care of things until the
entire Electorate could vote—a concept with a 2,500 year provenance!
In 2004, the Canadian Province of British Columbia (population
4.2 million) made deliberative
direct-democracy history by convening a Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. The
Citizens' Assembly consisted of 161 voters selected by
stratified random sample of registered voters and without an obligatory duty to
serve. The government provided secretariat support and a chairperson was
assigned. (In other words, this was not a totally independent organization.)
They worked part-time with pay for a period of 11 months. Their
deliberations led to a proposed new electoral system (a Direct Initiative) that
went directly to vote by the people of British Columbia at the provincial
general elections on May 17, 2005. A 60 percent vote was needed for passage, but
it received only 57 percent of the vote and therefore failed. The reports,
videos and voice recordings of the
Citizens' Assembly activities are available for viewing and download. The issues
were complex but a stratified random sample of voters was up to the job.
A representative sample of the
Electorate to form a Boule can easily be created in the U.S. by randomly
Boule Members from the best available databases. Members will be the
Electorate's sworn deputies to act in the best interests of all U.S. citizens
and their constitutional rights.
The Boule functions to deliberate on the merits
of the proposed Initiatives, suggest changes to the authors if necessary to improve their
comprehensibility that they may reasonably be absorbed by the
Electorate, and act as a gateway to select which proposed Initiatives are placed on the next ballot for vote by the Electorate.
Any individual or group of U.S.
citizens can submit proposed Initiatives by publication. The official
publication sites will be negotiated and authorized by the Boule, and will be
located in a one or more specific location(s) on a specific days so that everyone knows where to look for the information. The
should be able to get an advantageous agreement on the extent that the publisher will
provide editorials, letters from the public, and perhaps some free Initiatives. If
free publication is not available, then it will be necessary to publish in a
paid advertisement. Though payment may be undesirable for some, it will serve an important benefit of preventing too many facetious and
mischievous Initiative proposals, and will be within the financial capability of a group of
More details of the Boule are
given in the Rules,
Constitutional Amendment pages.
The following shows that the Boule Method has clear advantages over the
In the petition method, the larger the population the more people and finances
are available to collect signatures. Therefore, the required number of
signature must be increased proportionately to limit the number of petitions and
petitions. As was shown above,
if State standards were used, then
at least 8,000,000 signatures would have to be
collected for each Initiative. The cost to the supporters of the petition would be
huge, and the cost to the Government of validating each vote and counting them would be immense—it is believed that the State's cost of the recent special recall petition in California was
over $30,000,000, and since California has
12.2 percent of the U.S. population, this
extrapolates to a U.S. cost of $246,000,000 per petition. These numbers, even if
crude and reducible by refinement of the petition method, indicate that the
petition method scales up to unreasonable costs for
By comparison, the Boule method best applies for a large population and large
geographic areas (though it would not be cost-effective for small populations). The
budget is about $60 million—about 31¢
per capita—for not just
one, but all the Initiatives. Assuming five initiatives per year, this means
that the signature-petition method would be about 10 to 20 times as expensive as the
Boule method for nationwide Initiatives. Of course, the number of signatures
required can be reduced and the extravagances of the California recall can be
omitted. On the other hand, nationwide signatures would probably require
extensive geographic and perhaps demographic validations, so optimistic
projections lowering their costs are probably unrealistic. Realistically, the
low end of the range can perhaps be halved—i.e., say 5 to 20 times as expensive
as the Boule method.
A principle purpose of both the petition and Boule methods is to select which
proposed Initiatives get onto the ballot. However, they use entirely different
In the petition method, the selection is based in large part on how well the
petition campaign is financed and promoted. For 2004,
BISC reported in their
Money Talks: The 2004 Buyer's Guide that "Proponents spent an average of $12.3 million to
qualify and advance their initiatives, while groups opposing the measures spent
slightly more than $6 million apiece". The signatures can usually be obtained if
there are plenty of volunteers or if sufficient funds are available to employ
signature collectors—the going rate is
75 cents per
Petition campaigns tend to be somewhat emotional and occasionally chaotic as
last minute efforts are made to get enough signatures.
In the Boule method, the selection is thoughtful and deliberative to select
Initiatives that most benefit all U.S. citizens.
In the petition method, the wording of the
Initiatives becomes fixed after the initiative has been filed.
From this early date, the initiative can no longer
be modified, so the People's debate does not affect the wording. Moreover,
qualification signatures need only be gathered from activist backers—without any
demonstration of widespread public support. Thus, a few
activists can initiative wording that in part the majority do not want—the devil
is in the detail. But the electorate must either approve the whole initiative or
reject it and try to start the whole process again. This is akin to the "pork"
appended to congressional bills and antithetical to direct democracy. It is one
reason why some inferior State initiatives get on the ballot and approved.
This problem is avoided in the Boule method:
Each Proposed Initiative is reviewed by the
Boule, which accurately represent the People's views. If it is not in the
People's best interest it will either be culled or suggested changes will be
sent to the authors to
correct the proposed initiative or to remove an inappropriate "special interest" benefit.
All Proposed Initiatives are published in a
newspaper and posted on the Boule Internet site. Any citizen can
comment on them long before they are finalized.
The process of going from a Proposed
Initiative to a Candidate Initiative involves substantial review and
consideration of the public interest by a Boule consisting of a
cross-section of all the people that can be relied upon seldom to let an
inappropriate Initiative, or part of an Initiative, get on the ballot.
technology behind the feedback of information from Citizen to Boule is
The Electorate must not be overwhelmed or confused by the
direct legislation becomes a fiasco.
In the petition method there is nothing to prevent Initiatives in far larger numbers
and greater complexity than the Electorate can possibly handle. Petitions are
normally produced by small autonomous groups and their quality is not assured. If the group
consists of intellectually elite members of the public, Initiatives may not necessarily
comprehensible to enough of the voters. The result is to risk frequent
situations in which the Electorate is
overwhelmed. For example, in Switzerland, three-fold increase in the number of
initiatives produced by signature petitions have been a major factor in a
decline of voter
participation over the last 50 years from 60 percent to 40 percent.
The Boule Members have sworn an oath of duty to assure
Initiative quality and to prevent the Electorate from being overwhelmed.
They rank proposed Initiatives in importance. Complex Initiatives are simplified and
clarified by task force. A limited number are then selected for submission to the Electorate.
There are two readings of each Candidate Initiative in full Boule plenary session in
separate months at which the Members vote to stop or move the Initiative forward.
Because the Boule is a random sample, the less able Members contribute importantly by not
permitting Initiatives that cannot be understood and
assimilated by a reasonable proportion of voters.
Experience in State Initiatives suggests that about 12 Candidate
Initiatives every two years is close to the limit that the Electorate can study
enough to make an informed decision. Even this number may induce some irritation
in States that have their own initiatives concurrently on the ballot.
Consequently, the number of nationwide direct initiatives is controlled by what can be achieved
within the scope of this planned Amendment.
Voter participation is related to the issue of overwhelming the Electorate. The
two countries that use initiatives the most are the United States and
studies show that these two countries present the
lowest average levels of turnout among established democracies. As a
consequence, both countries are testing and implementing new methods whereby
voters can participate more efficiently by means of mail-in votes and Internet
It is believed that voters do not have the
time or enthusiasm to look at the numerous proposed initiatives—let
alone deliberating on
them and choosing the most worthy. This is one of the
fundamental reasons that a Boule is
necessary. It prevents
ballot information from being imposed
on the voters and it ensures
are important, well prepared and present the issues that the Electorate want
to see on the ballot.
Voters have little time to research issues on their own. They need reliable,
straightforward and informative preamble and fair pro and con arguments that help them quickly understand
the significance of their voting decision.
The petition method ensures that the petition is drafted and promoted by
devotees of the cause. The petition itself may have subtly emotive
wording. The devotees release only information favorable to the petition. An
anti-petition group has to be formed by others, if they start quickly
enough and can raise the funds. In most cases, the petition group is far better
funded than the anti-petition group.
The Boule method requires that the initial Initiative drafts from whatever source
have an informative preamble plus fair pro and con arguments attached. If a proposed
Initiative advances, the Boule
members in favor of the Initiative enhance the clarity and content of the pro
arguments, while those against the Initiative do likewise for the con arguments. These
are not the arguments of devotees, but of a random sample of the voters who have
the duty, time and responsibility to evaluate the Initiative fully. This means that the
preamble and pros
and cons of an Initiative will be truly helpful to the voters. Moreover, each Candidate
Initiative must be posted on the Internet; it will also be published by the press,
and perhaps other media. The public will have at least two months to comment via
publication (letters to the editor, advertisements, etc.) giving feedback to the
Boule, which can then take action to remedy any deficiencies in the
The key function of the Boule is to select and develop
Initiatives on which the People would desire to vote if they had a comprehensive
opportunity to think about the issues. There are two defensible ways to define who the “People” are for this purpose:
Registered Voters. Registered voters number about 135
million (2005 estimate). This seems to be the best
population from which to select the Boule if its primary function were to
predict the outcome of the vote on Initiatives. It is also the population
who can sign signature petitions to qualify initiatives in the States.
Citizens who are Eligible to Vote. There are about 195
million (2005 estimate) Citizens who are eligible to vote, whether or not they are
registered. This seems the most inclusive population from which to select
the Boule. Many eligible voters do not register because
they: do not wish to be called upon for jury duty, are disenchanted with the
current political system, or not interested in voting. Nevertheless, for the
most part, they are as good tax-paying Citizens as those registered to vote.
Since the Boule is a surrogate for the
People, and the right of tax-payers to be enfranchised is clear, the Boule
membership should be drawn from as many U.S. Citizens as reasonably feasible. For
this reason, the second definition of the People is used in this Solution.
Citizens under 18 years of age (25.7
percent of the total) are not included in the Boule, assuming
traditionally that their judgment had not developed sufficiently and that their
parents and other Citizens will represent them adequately. Polls of their opinions
can be taken and they can be invited to present opinions before the Boule.
Admittedly, including Citizens who are eligible to vote will reduce the
ability to predict the vote on Initiatives. Moreover, because of its
deliberative nature, Boule Members will no longer reflect the views of the
population from which they were drawn (this is true for either definition of who
are the "People"). Fortunately, these two issues can be
roughly compensated by having Members vote twice on Candidate Initiative. The
first time doing their best to make the best choices on behalf of all U.S.
Citizens. The second time, Members who normally do not vote should abstain, and
those who normally do vote should vote as if they had not been through a
thorough the deliberative process. This second vote will provide a prediction of the
nationwide vote, and comparison with the nationwide vote will test it probity.
Further refinement of the second vote should be able make it a useful predictive tool.
The decision to include Citizens who are
eligible but not registered to vote may have an additional benefit: the
Initiative process will give them a genuine stake in participation, and may
increase voter turnout.
It is always preferable that important issues such as those contained in
be considered without excessive emotion, otherwise decisions tend to be made
hastily and without proper consideration to all the consequences.
The petition method tends to create an emotional environment from the start.
People must be encouraged to sign the petition, and therefore the petition may
emotional words or have some catchy description attributed that make people feel good about it—even if in reality the description has little to do with the content of
The Boule method takes a deliberative
approach, and does not need to promote it to collect signatures. The gag order
stops the press and media from stirring up a lot of emotion, at least until the
Candidate Initiative is published.
Congress and State Legislatures may wish to initiate, modify or repeal
good reason, and can propose Initiatives to do so. Their Members are also our most
knowledgeable citizens, able to produce the highest quality of Initiatives. A critical
benefit for Government is that by proposing an Initiative they will be able to advance
some intractable issues that they otherwise find very difficult to address and
have to table.
The petition method does not easily accommodate Initiatives that are initiated by
Government, because the citizen support group of devotees may or may not form,
and it is inappropriate that Government spend public money to promote them.
The Boule readily accommodates both Congressional and State sponsored
Initiatives. In fact, the Boule rules specifically
expedite Congress and State Legislature
initiated Initiative, and especially a bipartisan Initiative.
Using the petition method,
wealthy special interest groups would become deeply involved in Initiatives that affect
them. Huge amount of money are
available to influence the outcomes. In
for example, the spending on Initiatives peaked at $140,000,000 in 1996, and it
was widely felt that special interest groups had captured the Initiative process.
The petition method at the nationwide level involves substantial
organization and funding. It is exactly this environment that makes special interest groups such an enticing source of support and funding. If sufficient
funds are available, it is almost assured that enough signatures can be obtained
by paid signature gathers. Qualification of a petition to be on the ballot in
this way is no guarantee that the Initiative is any good or well thought out—in fact it almost assures that the Initiative represents the interests of a
relatively small number of special interest groups or wealthy individuals and not the wishes or
will of the People.
In fact, a new profession of "Initiative Project Manager" has arisen in some
States. For a substantial fee, these professionals will undertake to manage an
initiative from the draft stage through getting the petition signatures and
qualifying it for the ballot. They may also manage the campaign to promote the
initiative to the voters and potentially get it passed. All it takes is a
healthy amount of money.
The Boule method, on the other hand, has five powerful features that make it
impossible (though no doubt they will try) for special interest groups to affect the language of the
or whether or not they are placed on the ballot:
There can be no direct
communication or contact between those who initiate a proposed Initiative and the
penalties for trying to
tamper with the Boule are severe, and involve mandatory time in a federal penitentiary—a
major deterrent for those who are sufficiently wealthy that a fine is not a serious curb on
gag order is in effect, so
special interests cannot easily get information or use the Media
to influence the Boule.
will operate sting traps and Boule Members will be offered
detect and prosecute tampering.
An elected or appointed body is
inescapably subject to improper influence, whereas a Boule of randomly selected voters serving
for only one year and protected like a grand jury is, for practical
purposes, virtually immune to tampering or corruption.
There is of course, nothing to stop any individual or group from trying to influence the voters
via the media after the Initiative has been published and made known—it is their
constitutional right. However, in the run-up to the elections the voters still have the
Boule's preamble and pro and con arguments
attached to the Initiative to help balance their influence.
Information age decision-making has to keep pace with affairs, otherwise actions can be
too late to influence the outcome.
The petition method has an inherent time delay while preparations are made;
signatures collected; and then validated, counted, and certified. Even in
California's 2003 gubernatorial recall scramble, it took 169 days, from
announcing the plans on February 5th to certification of the petition results on
July 24th. Most petitions do not have the financial resources that were
available for the
California recall and take much longer.
In the Boule method, a proposed Initiative could theoretically go from initial
publication for the attention of the Boule to approval for the ballot in under 60 days. However, this would be a most
undesirable rush, and the system is set up to a deliberative pace to avoid hasty decisions. Still,
Boule's deliberative pace is about as
fast as a mad scramble for the petition method. If, at a later date, the People
decide that they wish to have a faster response, the ability is there.
Introduction of the Boule Method for selecting and managing the
Initiative process as an effective and efficient system is probably the single
most important and key feature of this planned constitutional Amendment.
Without it, the system probably could not work.
It is clear from the above discussion that:
The Boule is an effective and
reliable method that makes Initiatives
feasible in a large democracy;
whereas the petition method cannot be used
effectively in a large democracy.
The Boule permits
all U.S. citizens
to have input to the creation and development of Initiatives.
This is not only fair and appropriate, but provides sufficient real power that
they no longer feel powerless.
The Citizens' Boule provides the
Congress a useful ability to initiate and make use of Initiatives.
The petition method
or any use of appointed or elected organizations are all
subject to pervasive influence by special interest groups, which defeats the Solution. The
approach does not suffer from this defect.
chosen by the Boule will generally be
precisely those the Electorate most want to see
on the ballot; whereas the petition method is a hit or miss
affair that wastes much signature-gathering effort and often
overloads voters and wastes their time.