Over at a New York Times' readers' forum, "Room for Debate", there's a debate about the use of the ballot initiative in America, and how to make it more democratic. Jim Fishkin argues that the Deliberative Poll offers a means to avoid the pitfalls of ballot initiatives.
At the state level, the initiative has well-known problems. In big states like California, the agenda is mostly set by groups that can afford the signature gathering. It costs about $3 million to put a constitutional measure on the ballot. The signature process is also not very thoughtful or deliberative. When you are approached at a supermarket to sign a petition, little information is exchanged about the pros and cons of the issue....At both the local and state levels, there is a way to get voters more involved in setting the agenda, by creating a representative and thoughtful way for the people to determine whether a proposition should go on the ballot. If a random sample of voters were to deliberate under transparent and balanced good conditions and then conclude that a proposition should be put before the people, the public interest rather than that of an interest group would most likely be served.Jim is joined in the debate by Frederick Boehmke, John Matsusaka, Lee Tien, and a lot of comments. Take a look.