Is the US a direct democracy?
Direct democracy as a medicine against conflict in the USA
As with any election that gives people the opportunity to make decisions about issues that affect their daily lives, the subjects of the voting proposals have ranged from animal welfare, drug legalization, workers rights, race and immigration, abortion to creating a new one Flag, sovereignty rights and about the fate of direct democracy itself.
Colorado voters voted to reintroduce gray wolves to the southern Rockies after they were hunted to extinction in the 1940s. In Arizona and New Jersey, citizens voted to legalize recreational marijuana use, while South Dakotans voted for both medicinal and recreational use. In California, gig firms like Lyft and Uber have secured the future as voters approved labor law changes that allow firms to continue their successful business model.
Abortion remains an issue with no clear consensus among the national electorate. Voters in Louisiana voted for stronger restrictions on abortion, while voters in Colorado opposed them.
Race and immigration were also on the ballot paper, albeit in a subtle way in some cases. In Rhode Island, voters agreed to remove the word "plantations" from the official state name. In a symbolic vote in Alabama, voters approved the removal of wording from the state's constitution that gave white and men certain rights, and in Mississippi, voters voted for a new state flag, symbolizing white supremacy have been permanently removed. In Alabama, Colorado, and Florida, voters overwhelmingly voted for constitutional amendments that clarified that only US citizens can vote in state or local elections.
In Puerto Rico, which is not a state but a protectorate of the United States, voters have once again voted in favor of upgrading to a US state. The vote is not binding, but it is hoped that the US Congress will take note of this and consider making Puerto Rico the 51st state, thereby respecting the citizens' right to self-determination.
The future of direct democracy itself was on the ballot paper in several countries. Bills in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota were ballot papers that would make future votes difficult to pass. Voters in Florida and North Dakota rejected requests that constitutional amendments must be passed twice before they could go into effect, and Arkansas also rejected a bill to make it difficult to collect signatures for voting. These are results that show the strong belief of the citizens in the necessity of direct democracy as a means of control and compensation for the government.
But even though the citizens made it clear in this election that they want a strong and lively system of direct democracy, the courts are increasingly denying people the ability to make correct decisions on issues that are most important to them. Through generous and questionable interpretations of the formal requirements for including topics on the ballot paper, the courts have invalidated initiatives prior to the election because they violated opaque and illogical laws that both restrict the content of nominations and prescribe who is allowed to collect signatures at all.
This election, like many others before it, made it clear that direct democracy at the state level in the United States is an important tool of self-government and a necessary control when it comes to limiting the power of governments. It is also a safety valve that enables the people to vote on controversial and divisive issues in such a way as to achieve a peaceful solution to the problem. This will reduce the political stress that could lead to ongoing unrest among voters. For this reason, direct democracy is also a decisive instrument at the federal level that must be discussed - in order to enable the same safety valve at the federal level that is available at the state level. Americans need the opportunity to express their opinions on highly controversial issues collectively as a nation. If there were direct democracy at the federal level, there would be little doubt that voters would be less likely to elect people who benefit from disagreement on an issue and instead put those who respect the rule of law and themselves in office will work for unification and not for division. Let us hope that this choice is the first step in raising the critical awareness necessary to enable citizens to have direct democracy at the federal level, so that we no longer have to lay our fate in the emotional aberrations of a single person .
Article image by Patrick Thibodeau (CC BY 2.0 - https://www.flickr.com/photos/18635830)
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