Gunnar Johanson


Most governments in the United States operate as a representative democracy through elected officials. Over time, advocates have successfully reformed many of our institutions to give citizens themselves more power through direct democracy. The direct election of United States Senators, the presidential primary, recall, the direct initiative, and popular referendum are all developments in the governments of the United States that place power directly in the hands of voters. Direct initiatives and popular referendums, specifically, are lingering evidence of the Progressive Era of the 1900s. Like most reforms of that time, proponents of direct initiative and popular referendum believed it would aid in breaking up concentrated political power in corporations and their enablers in the state legislatures. Almost half the states instituted direct initiative and popular referendum before 1920.

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