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High Leverage Proposals for Electoral and Political Transformation


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by Tom Atlee

June 2003





Handle legislative and administrative arrogance, corruption and inaction using national, state and local initiative processes through which We the People can create and vote on needed laws when our representatives are unable or willing to do so. The initiative process is the closest thing to direct democracy outside of a village town meeting. The usual process is that someone composes a law or other proposal and gets it "qualified" for the ballot by getting a specified number of registered voters to sign petitions that it should be on the ballot. It is placed on the ballot and described (and debated) in voter information booklets, meetings and the media -- and then voted on by the citizenry.

Switzerland is famous for having a national initiative process in place for 140 years, but the US is only one of five major democracies that don't have a national initiative process. However, almost half (24) of all US states have their own initiative processes, as do thousands of towns, cities and counties.

Most national initiative process designs use one of two approaches:

  1. NATIONAL: Most proposals involve the national approach in which some percentage (usually around 3%) of voters nationwide sign a petition asking for a vote on some proposal, at which point that proposal is voted on in the next national election, passing or failing by popular vote. For example, see
  2. STATE: People concerned about states' rights advocate the states approach in which a specified number of states (around 25%) agree -- either by state initiative process or by state legislature resolution -- that a national proposal should be voted on by all states, at which point a majority of states can vote to change a federal statute, and 3/4ths of them could amend the Constitution. For example, see

Over recent decades local and state initiative processes have fallen prey to manipulation by well-funded special interests and to poor public judgment -- problems that would be handled by clean money proposals (2, above) and citizen reflective councils (4, above). It is extremely important to address these problems in any national initiative process. Here are two such proposals:

On the other hand, why wait?

Spearheaded by former US Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska 1969-1981), the NI4D campaign is currently very active. They are not waiting for Congress to create a national initiative system because Senator Gravel doesn't believe Congress will ever do that. Instead, NI4D is inviting all elegible U.S. voters to vote directly on a Democracy Amendment and Democracy Act establishing their sophisticated initiative system. If you are an eligible voter, you can vote right now online at or through the mail. When NI4D has the votes of over 50 million U.S. voters -- or whatever number exceeds the majority in the most recent Presidential election -- they will declare the the Amendment and Act enacted. They will base their declaration on "first principles" -- majority rule and the right of self-governance -- the principles that gave We the People the right to establish the Constitution and Congress in the first place. NI4D expects that, with this much support and organization, the federal government would have to go along with the enactment or face serious repercussions. This is certainly an interesting approach.