UC Law Constitutional Quarterly


Angela Chrysler


The California constitutional amendment initiative process requires a small number of signatures to appear on the ballot and only a simple majority vote to amend the California Constitution. The California courts are the only institutional actors that can review the process, and even then the courts' review is limited. Proposition 8 is a quintessential example of how the initiative system allowed the electorate to amend the constitution without deliberation or safeguards in place to protect the interests of a minority group. The California constitutional amendment initiative process should be reformed by looking at other initiative processes, such as those in Switzerland and Massachusetts. The goals of the reforms would be to guarantee that multiple institutional actors are assessing the benefits and negative effects of the proposed constitutional amendments and to ensure that the state constitution is not constantly being amended by a majority who might simply have an initial visceral reaction to a particular social behavior or marginalized group. California should still have a process where the electorate is heard, but reflection and deliberation should be part of the process.