Undoing the Initiative: When are Ballot Measures Challenged in Court, and When Do Judges Overturn Them?
25 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 4 Sep 2009
Date Written: 2009
Over 400 initiatives have been passed by popular vote in 23 states since the 1960s. One third of the ballot propositions have been challenged in the courts, and over half of the challenges have ended in the courts striking down or amending the proposition. Using a unique data set of all of the ballot measures passed in all states that have had initiatives since the 1960s, we estimate several multivariate, multilevel models of initiative challenges and court decisions. We find that the margin of passage of an initiative or referendum has a significant effect on whether it is challenged in court. Once a ballot measure is challenged, judges who are elected or appointed but with possibility of recall are likely to uphold the ballot measure while judges who are appointed without possibility of recall are likely to strike down or amend the measure. Initiatives containing multiple issues are surprisingly less likely to be challenged in court than initiatives containing only one issue. The substantive issue area addressed by an initiative has little effect on whether it is challenged or struck down by the courts.
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