Strategies & Goals
The process of initiative and referendum is critical if we are to shift power back into the hands of ordinary citizens. For years, politicians and special interests have attacked the citizen initiative and referendum process with impunity. Their goal: to undermine the most powerful tool citizens possess for restoring accountable government. Now, through the Citizens in Charge Foundation, the people are fighting to protect their rights at the ballot box.
Citizens in Charge Foundation (CICF) is uniquely positioned as the only national organization committed to defending the ballot initiative process in states where it exists and expanding it to those states where citizens currently lack the process.
In 2009, working with citizens and local organizations across the country – and across the political spectrum – Citizens in Charge Foundation edcuated citizens and opinion leaders about the importance and benefit of an open and accessible initiative process. Critical information on changes to the initiative process were put in the hands of voters while the changes were being debated by lawmakers so that citizens could make informed decisions about initiative policy in their state.
- In Oklahoma, while the legislature debated several key changes to the initiative process, CICF mounted a statewide awareness campaign to inform citizens from the capital city to the western cattle ranches on how those changes would effect their initiative rights. Knowledge is power, and armed with the knowledge of what an open and acessible initiative process, voters were able to successfully ask lawmakers to ease restrictions on their process.
- When a group of Missouri legislators proposed several severe restrictions on the initiative process, CICF was able to provide information to legislators, activists and media outlets on how similar policies had worked - or failed - in other states. Once armed with the facts about restrictions on the initiative process, the legislature quickly scrapped plans to impose restrictions on voters.
- CICF currently has Citizen State Coordinators organizing and educating supporters of the initiative process in 16 states; and that number keeps growing.
Through these efforts, CICF has empowered citizens to protect the initiative rights of 137 million Americans.
Although CICF’s educational efforts were successful in many states, the pro-initiative coalition has not prevailed everywhere. Legislation passed this year in Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon damages citizen initiative rights. Not only do these new laws contain elements ruled unconstitutional in other states, they also include a new provision imposing serious financial and criminal penalties on the proponents of initiatives for any wrongdoing in the course of the petition effort – even for violations not committed by them, but by people they hired to collect signatures!
Preventing such obvious intimidation is essential, and only an informed public and swift action against restrictive laws can prevent it. Lawsuits in these three states and others are needed to overcome restrictions on the initiative process. Our legal actions help galvanize grassroots support and inform the media about the illegal harassment of citizens engaged in the democratic process.
Strengthening our ever-growing and active grassroots network will allow us to accomplish the following goals in the next twelve months:
- Have a Citizen State Coordinator organizing supporters in every state.
- Provide even more information to citizens, opinion leaders and officials on how to maintain an open and accessible initiative process.
- Challenge the restrictions passed in Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon as well as additional unconstitutional restrictions on the books in other states.
- Defend the initiative and referendum process in the court of public opinion.