Does the typical California voter have the expertise to wade through hundreds of pages of ballot measure text and summary, replete with complicated details about state budget procedures and tax policy? Can voters remember, less than a week after the election, what Proposition 39 was supposed to do? Can they be expected to look up a dozen penal code sections in order to fully grasp the consequences of Proposition 35's Section 6(b)?
California's initiative process, which recently celebrated its 101st anniversary (and which just last week put 11 extremely complex policy questions before voters), rests on the premise that the people are sovereign and may overrule their elected representatives. The process asks a lot of voters. Does it ask more than other responsibilities of citizenship?
In the jury box, citizens are asked to sift through testimony, exhibits and arguments tossed at them by competing sides, often on issues well beyond their everyday expertise: What does the DNA evidence show? Did the defendant act like a reasonable person? How should we interpret the disclaimer? We trust that jurors rise to the occasion even when a defendant's life is on the line. Surely we should trust that voters do as well in the initiative process.