I’m giving a talk on campus on Thursday, October 4th entitled, “The Challenge of Direct Democracy: The History of Ballot Measures in Maine.” Details are here. I’ll post more about the data for the talk at a different time, but I’ve collected the statewide results for all ballot questions in Maine since 1909 (and since the early 1800s for constitutional amendments). Mainers can vote on a variety of ballot questions: bond authorizations (the most frequent in the data), constitutional amendments, citizen initiatives, legislatively referred referendums, and people’s veto measures (which veto laws passed by state legislators).
Below are the cumulative totals (that is, the running totals as the years pass) for these different types. Bond questions have been on Maine ballots only since 1951 but have been frequent features of Maine elections ever since. Mainers have voted on constitutional amendments to the Maine constitution on a regular basis for almost 200 years. Of the lines below these, the only “jump” in the data are for Initiatives, which are still far less common than bonds and amendments but have ticked upward at a faster rate in the last 30 years.
The data are fascinating, and I’ll cover these descriptively first, looking at trends like this. But then I’ll consider the issue from a normative perspective. Is all this direct democracy good for us?