Date of Award

Spring 4-17-2019

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science and International Affairs

Department Chair or Program Director

Kramer, John

First Advisor

Farnsworth, Stephen

Second Advisor

Cooperman, Rosalyn

Major or Concentration

Political Science


Direct democracy plays a significant role in 24 states across the country. The process of allowing the public to gather signatures, place an issue on the ballot, and then approve it represents the purest form of democracy and provides the ultimate check on unresponsive legislatures. However, in some cases ballot initiatives are repealed by state legislatures after being approved by voters. This research paper asks the following question: are there identifiable trends to the legislative repealing of direct ballot initiatives after they have been approved by the majority of the voting public? After considering past arguments and history surrounding initiatives, this paper observes five case studies that state legislatures tried to repeal. It finds that the legislature tends to using outside entities to justify repeal (blaming out-of-state groups and utilizing the judiciary), and that if repeal is taken up, total repeal bills are generally introduced first. It also observes that states with less rules surrounding legislative alteration will introduce repeal easier, and can apply “emergency clauses” to pass repeal bills with no possibility of voter referendum. Finally, it finds that the governor’s role in the repeal process is less about party and more about optics. This is distinct from the state legislature, whose members will usually side with their party even if their constituents hold the opposite opinion. Based on these trends this project proposes solutions— most notably increased oversight of emergency clauses and more voter awareness of the process. It also gives recommendations for future research in the subject.