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Taking the initiative

November 15, 2008

Robert M. Stern and Tracy Westen make good points. For example, it should take a supermajority to pass an initiative that calls for a supermajority. But they miss the most needed revision.

For ballot qualification, California should forbid paid signature gathering. Requiring a large number of interested voters to spend their time gathering signatures, instead of a small group of people who spend their money, would significantly democratize the proposition process and reduce the number of propositions. Sufficiently motivated groups of registered voters still would be able to gather signatures and put propositions on the ballot -- moving us back toward the original intent of the proposition process. Propositions were originally intended to allow voters to express their interests, but now propositions mostly express the interests of money.

David Reisner

Los Angeles

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Losers in public votes on initiative ballot measures always grouse. They say that initiatives by public petition can be lengthy, rigid, inflexible and error-prone -- and that there are just too many. There were 10 on the November ballot.

In contrast, thousands of bills were filed in California's Assembly and Senate, and most were drafted out of public view. What's the problem with the public having at least 10 initiatives to debate in the open? The best cure for unsatisfactory democracy is more democracy.

Carl Olson

Woodland Hills

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