California has nearly bankrupted itself with them, these referendums. All sort of initiatives are brought to the ballot without much in the way of how those items might be financially supported. Good citizens evaluate the “worthiness” of the requests and vote accordingly. Without understanding context, or cost, voters leave state officials scrambling to pay for it all. Occasionally, the state’s Supreme Court will prevent the addition of a referendum to the ballot, like it did with a move by many citizens to divide the state into three distinct ones. But generally, the initiatives go to the voters with many open questions.
Still, these may be the most direct way for citizens to interact with our democracy. Voters decide what, if any, things matter. Political subdivisions make choices which may make it more, or less, successful to retain and attract us to the fold. Competition is good. Even if not, it is ubiquitous.
In our own fine state, referendums are usually limited to school funding. What is our appetite for spending? What risk will we tolerate? If we don’t support the effort, what harm is caused? Will not spending have a greater impact than the surety if we do?
Ballot initiatives are growing in import. Be informed and vote like it matters. Isn’t skipping it assuredly a failure to our responsibility in a democracy? This referendum conundrum requires something from us and we should give it.