Initiative & Referendum Institute

at the University of Southern California 

 The Library


Kaufmann and Waters. 2004. Direct Democracy in Europe. Carolina Academic Press


This book is the most comprehensive reference guide to more than 200 years of experience with the initiative and referendum process in Europe. With the European Union enlarging with ten new countries and the continent heading to its first Europe-wide referendum, the book offers background, facts, and analysis from more than 35 countries that will help the reader understand these important and emerging events. The volume also explores and describes criteria and requirements for a working I&R process at all political levels.


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Waters, M. Dane. 2003. The Initiative and Referendum Almanac. Carolina Academic Press.


No other book has ever provided such a complete and comprehensive history of the initiative and referendum process in the U.S. Waters provides such information as the definitions of initiative and referendum; the roots of the initiative and referendum movement; the history of how the process has been utilized; regulations of the initiative process in each state; legislative attempts to regulate the process; and the role of the judiciary. The book also includes a series of essays by leading scholars and activists about the reforms brought about through the initiative process, and a brief discussion on the future of the initiative process through the eyes of activists and elected officials.

A complete listing of all relevant laws associated with utilizing the initiative and referendum process in each state, as well as a checklist of the major steps of which initiative proponents should be aware, are also included in the almanac. The appendix contains a complete listing of every statewide initiative that has appeared on the ballot since 1904; a complete listing of all the popular and legislative referenda that have appeared on the ballot since 1998; as well as other charts and graphs tracking the usage of the process since its adoption in 1898.


"This is what we have been waiting for. As penetrating and stimulating as it is thorough and even-handed, the Almanac will spark and inform debate about our most democratic process of lawmaking. It is a gift to activists and scholars alike." - Richard Parker, Williams Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

"This uniquely comprehensive volume provides a wealth of invaluable information about the initiative and referendum process in the United States. The volume combines detailed information about the constitutional and statutory bases of initiative and referendum usage in all fifty states; descriptions of the major court decisions and legislative attempts to regulate the process; comparisons of I&R provisions across the states; and scholarly analyses of some of the main theoretical debates concerning its use. This is certain to be a critical resource for academics, policy analysts, advocates, lawmakers, citizens, the media—indeed, anyone interested in this increasingly important method of citizen lawmaking." - Elisabeth R. Gerber, Professor of Public Policy, University of Michigan

"The initiative and referendum mechanisms are two of the jewels of American democracy. They have been the tools to usher in critically important reforms in society, and they serve to excite and engage the electorate. This almanac provides a detailed roadmap on the history and workings of this important process. I recommend it for any person interested in politics in America." - Wayne Pacelle, Senior Vice President, The Humane Society of the United States


"Complete, thorough and well-written. As a state legislator on the front lines of policy development, the Initiative and Referendum Almanac is my go-to guide for information on I&R. An invaluable source of background whether you are a first time student or a seasoned I&R expert and a must-have if you seek to intelligently debate the subject."

Representative Eric Paulsen, Minnesota State Legislature


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Waters, M. Dane. 2001. The Battle Over Citizen Lawmaking. Carolina Academic Press.

Since 1990, the use of the initiative and referendum (I&R) has grown substantially in the United States and around the world, leading to a flood of new regulations.  These regulations have generated many questions that have so far remained unanswered or been discussed only in the journals of specialized journals.  Thus it has been difficult for practitioners and citizens to get the information they need to understand the regulations and their wider implications.  There are legal questions about signature gathering, limits on campaign spending, etc.; political questions about implementing the relevant statutes; philosophical questions about equality and about freedom of expression.  The book comprehensively address these issues from the viewpoint of leading scholars, opinion leaders, journalists, elected officials, activist and attorneys.


"Dane Waters has done a commendable job in bringing a focus to an edited book project that provides a new perspective on the growing literature on direct democracy. The emphasis on a legal perspective may even help bring the topic to greater attention in classes on law and politics." - The Journal of Politics, February 2002

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Abrams, Elliot. 2002. Democracy: How Direct? Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

For more than two hundred years Americans have been debating how direct a democracy they want. Many hold that representative government too seldom reflects the people's real views, while others counter that direct popular voting will lead to excesses of passion and deficits of deliberation. In Democracy: How Direct? Elliot Abrams brings together eminent scholars to discuss the issues surrounding the dilemma of a representative versus direct democracy. This collection of previously unpublished essays begins by examining the views of our nation's founders and the historical perspectives on our democracy and then debates modern issues such as polling, public opinion, and the referendum process. With their valuable combination of historical analysis, contemporary data, and theoretical understanding, these essays will surely raise the level of the ongoing debate surrounding the nature of American democracy.

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Sabato, Ernst and Larson. 2001. Dangerous Democracy. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Direct democracy is alive and growing in the form of statewide ballot initiatives. Currently, twenty-four states allow individuals and groups to propose laws for direct voter consideration and tens of millions of dollars flow into the initiative industrial complex each election cycle. This book assesses the health of the initiative process through the insights of the leading initiative scholars, top journalists, and important political consultants from across the country. The book provides a critical and balanced look into a political mechanism that is having a profound influence on American politics.

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Gerber, Elisabeth. 1999. The Populist Paradox. Princeton University Press

Do small but wealthy interest groups influence referendums, ballot initiatives, and other forms of direct legislation at the expense of the broader public interest? Many observers argue that they do, often lamenting that direct legislation has, paradoxically, been captured by the very same wealthy interests whose power it was designed to curb. Elisabeth Gerber, however, challenges that argument. In this first systematic study of how money and interest group power actually affect direct legislation, she reveals that big spending does not necessarily mean big influence.

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Schmidt, David. 1991. Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot Initiative Revolution. Temple University Press

After decades of disuse, a startling upsurge in the use of the Initiative and Referendum—law-making by citizen petition and popular vote—occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. In Citizen Lawmakers, David Schmidt tells the stories of the individual activists, such as Howard Jarvis and Ed Koupal, and the political groups that made this happen. While other studies have analyzed the statistics of the ballot initiative revolution, this book provides the personal, political, and historical contexts vital to understanding the causes and the tremendous impact of the trend toward ballot-box lawmaking over the last two decades. Schmidt demonstrates how "ordinary individuals, even in this age of monstrous bureaucracies and larger-than-life celebrities, can, and do, change this nation’s laws to make government more accountable."

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Samples, John. 2002. James Madison and the Future of Limited Government. Cato Institute Press

This book looks at the ways in which Madison's ideas might instruct and inform our era. Alex Kozinski, Stephen Engel, and Roger Pilon call for a return to Madison's belief that the powers of the federal government are limited to those granted in the Constitution. The historians Joyce Malcolm and Robert McDonald examine the ways in which Madison was unique and the differences he had with Jefferson. Tom G. Palmer, Jacob Levy, and John Samples reflect on Madison's implications for contemporary multiculturalism and the practice of direct democracy. Walter Berns and Michael Hayes hold up his strict separation of politics and religion for both praise and blame. The book closes with essays by James Dorn and John Tomasi, which suggest that developing nations and the larger world would do well to follow Madison's concern for limited government and human rights.

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Brenner, Reuven. 2002. The Force of Finance. Texere

The book shows why open, democratized financial markets and, eventually, institutions of direct democracy - referenda and initiatives - are the institutions that can prevent people, businesses and countries to persist too long pursuing mistaken ideas, strategies and policies, and thus for them to prosper. Countries dig themselves into a deep hole when they do not let these institutions to emerge.


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Bowler, Donovan and Tolbert. 1998. Citizens as Legislators: Direct Democracy in the United States. Ohio State University Press

Early in the twentieth century, many American states began experimenting with direct democracy. Direct democracy—primarily the initiative device—allows groups to place directly before voters laws affecting taxation, spending, term limits, school choice, gay rights, immigration, and numerous other state issues. Ballot initiatives were expected to allow citizens the option of getting around legislators who were seen as beholden to wealthy interests; early defenders of the process argued it would make state politics more responsive to the public will, and more responsible. Citizens as Legislators examines direct democracy in America at the end of the twentieth century to see if it has lived up to these expectations.

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Qvortrup, Mads. 2002. A Comparative Study of Referendums. Manchester University Press

Democracy means the rule of the people. Yet in all countries, the role of the citizen is limited to periodic general elections and occasional referendums - especially in Britain where the doctrine of 'Parliamentary sovereignty' was until recently an article of faith. However, referendums are becoming an important feature of Western democracy. Citizens are increasingly being called upon to decide complex political issues by the very same people they elected to make those decisions. This study offers the first comparative assessment of the referendum, looking at its development in Britain, Europe and the United States.


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Book Cover ImageEllis, Richard. 2002. Democratic Delusions: The Initiative Process in America. University of Kansas Press

It is becoming common in many states: citizens seizing the opportunity to reclaim government from politicians by signing a petition to put an initiative on the ballot and then voting on it. During the past decade alone, Americans voted on nearly 500 statewide initiatives. Particularly in the West, direct legislation increasingly defines and dominates the political agenda. Although this may appear to be democracy in action, Richard Ellis warns us that the initiative process may be putting democracy at risk. In Democratic Delusions he offers a critical analysis of the statewide initiative process in the United States, challenging readers to look beyond populist rhetoric and face political reality.

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Smith, Daniel. 1998. Tax Crusaders and the Politics of Direct Democracy. Routledge

Daniel A. Smith exposes the truth about the American tax revolt. Contrary to conventional wisdom, recent ballot initiatives to limit state taxes have not been the result of a groundswell of public outrage; rather, they have been carefully orchestrated from the top down by professional tax crusaders: political entrepreneurs with their own mission.


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Broder, David. 2001. Democracy Derailed: Initiative Campaigns and the Power of Money. Harcourt

Where once most state laws were passed by legislatures, now voters in half the states and hundreds of cities decide directly on such explosive issues as drugs, affirmative action, casino gambling, assisted suicide, and human rights. Ostensibly driven by public opinion, the initiative process is far too often manipulated by moneyed interests, often funded by out-of-state millionaires pursuing their own agendas.  In this highly controversial book, David Broder, the "dean of American political journalism" (Brill's Content), explains how a movement that started with Proposition 13 in California is now a multimillion-dollar business in which lawyers, campaign consultants, signature gatherers, and advertising agencies sell their expertise to interest groups with private agendas.

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Bowler, Shaun and Donovan, Todd.1998. Demanding Choices: Opinion, Voting and Direct Democracy. University of Michigan Press

Referenda on important public policy questions have come to play a central role in policy making in many states. As cynicism about government has increased, many have sought to take policy questions out of the hands of elected officials and put the questions directly before the voters for decision. And yet many are skeptical about the ability of voters to make intelligent decisions about complex policy issues. Shaun Bowler and Todd Donovan present a searching and original examination of how voters make decisions in direct referenda. The authors ask if voters have some information about the issue easily at their disposal and if they make choices that seem sensible given their interests and the information they have. Looking at the way voters respond to different kinds of questions, the authors suggest that while direct democracy has its failings, the flaws do not necessarily lie with citizens being "duped" or with voters approving propositions they do not want or do not understand at some basic level.

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Piott. 2003. Giving Voters a Voice: The Origins of the Initiative and Referendum in America. University of Missouri Press.

Giving Voters a Voice studies the origins of direct legislation, one of the most important political reforms enacted during the Progressive Era. Steven L. Piott begins with the source of the idea in the United States and proceeds to the earliest efforts aimed at generating a national movement to expand the parameters of popular democracy in the 1890s. He then broadens his examination to include the unique ways in which twenty-two states came to enact legislation allowing for the statewide initiative and referendum between 1898 and 1918.

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University of Southern California

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