Don’t Have $2,000 to File a California Ballot Initiative? File in Europe Instead!

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The California ballot initiative system used to provide a cheap way for regular citizens to get some attention for their ideas, be they good or bad. But that was back when it cost just $200 to file an initiative, and get it posted online with a title, summary and fiscal analysis. Even if you didn’t have the money to actually qualify the measure with millions of dollars’ worth of signatures, you could get a little attention.

Democrats, who have been trying to strangle California’s direct democracy, curbed that open process by raising the filing fee to $2,000. But here’s some good news: there’s another place to advance your ideas: Europe.

The European Union has a European Citizen’s Initiative. It’s not a ballot initiative but it is an agenda-setting initiative. You can advance your idea, get on a web site (on which people can sign – an option that California doesn’t give its citizens), and get some notice for your idea.

Anyone can bring forward an idea for a European Citizen’s Initiative. You don’t have to be a European. Now, of course, to begin the process, you would need friends –at least 7 of them, each representing a different EU member nation. But there are many people from many European countries who would be willing to help you—in part to bring more attention to the new European Citizen’s Initiative tool.

Now, to go further, you’d need 1 million signatures across 7 countries, which takes resources. That’s a high level for a Californian to reach. But the process does allow a Californian to advance an idea, and make European friends in the process.

If you’re interested in filing, start at this website.

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