The need for initiative volunteers

By Thomas D. Elias

A recently vetoed California law that would have required at least some ballot initiative signatures to be gathered by volunteers, instead of paid workers, contained the following statement:

“The voters amended the California Constitution to reserve for themselves the power of the initiative because financially powerful interests, including railroad companies, exercised a corrupting influence over state politics.”

The initiative process actually was volunteer-driven at one time, witness the so-called Clean Environment Initiative of 1972. That measure lost but most of its have been achieved, including a moratorium on new nuclear power plants in California, taking lead out of gasoline and other provisions now taken for granted.

It was organized by the People’s Lobby group, headed by the legendary couple, Ed and Joyce Koupal, who started the modern initiative era when they opened shopping malls to petition carriers.

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