Survey: Ballot measure system needs reform

Californians like the ballot initiative process but want to see it reformed, according to a survey being rolled out tomorrow by an East Bay nonprofit.

While Californians strongly support keeping the initiative process – only 21 percent of those surveyed said it should be ditched entirely – an overwhelming 81 percent favored a system of review and revision aimed at avoiding legal issues or drafting errors, something several other states already have. When asked who should conduct such a review, 42 percent plurality preferred a citizen commission over such other possibilities as the state Supreme Court or the Legislature.

The survey also found that 68 percent of Californians agreed that the rights of various groups are sometimes attacked via the initiative process, and 41 percent felt their own rights had been attacked by ballot initiatives. Registered voters strongly supported disclosure of ballot initiative funders in the official state voter guide (79 percent) and on the actual initiative petitions (62 percent).

The Greenlining Institute – a Berkeley-based entity that advocates for communities of color and other disadvantaged groups – commissioned the survey of 1,555 Californians (with oversamples for Latinos and African-Americans), conducted online by Knowledge Networks in both English and Spanish from June 14 through July 1. Respondents will be re-interviewed in December to learn more about what type of initiative reforms they would support.

The poll had a 3.1-percentage-point margin of error, and was funded by The James Irvine Foundation, California Forward, and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.