November 15, 1990

Letters to the Editor
Washington Post
15th & L NW
Washington DC

Dear Editor:

In the Sunday, November 4 "Close to Home," Post editorial staffer Michael Mahoney reasoned that "...voters don't decide the issues, they decide who will decide."

Mr. Mahoney's article is entitled "How Taking the Initiative Undermines Democracy." With any amount of research, one would find quite the contrary: initiatives are democracy-saving devices.

A major problem in a democracy starts with low voter turnout. This may be because the citizens are apathetic, and not really interested in democracy, or because they feel frustrated that there is no one to vote for who represents their viewpoint.

However it begins, the problem manifests as a government no longer of, by and for the people, but having special interests of its own.

If government policy does not reflect the will of the citizenry, and this gulf grows into a great enough difference, a democracy-minded activist can, through an initiative, round up the citizens' will in the form of votes to pass legislation.

This is no easy task, and takes much determination on the part of those who feel motivated strongly enough to undertake such a task. Proponents of initiatives are usually greatly outspent by the opponents whose special interests the initiative affects.

Regardless, initiatives mostly succeed, either in making a law, stirring up public debate, or in registering new voters.

At present, many current government policies are greatly at odds with opinion poll figures. In the last election, only __% of eligible Americans voted. This should indicate where we stand as a democracy.


Brett Hamrick