Initiatives v Oligarchy

Our Founders' Warning: “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Can a State IQA Replace Signature Petitions?

Can State IQA Replace Signature Petitions


Can a State IQA Replace Signature Petitions even though State problems are different from the U.S. government problems, State IQA (SIQA) could solve many problems with the signature-petition initiative process currently experienced by the States—for example:

  1. Special interests groups increasingly usurp the state initiative process.
  2. Often, there is no quality control of State initiatives other than to ensure that they comply with the law.
  3. Generally, signature gatherers present only pro-initiative information thereby misleading signers.
  4. There is no feedback mechanism for Citizens to influence the wording of an initiative.
  5. The State incurs large costs to verify signatures.
  6. The number of initiatives can be excessive and overwhelm the voters.
  7. Initiative’s text, title and slogans often confuse and mislead voters.
  8. Inappropriate initiatives often waste voters’ time.
  9. Opinions distributed to voters often present a one-sided perspective.

Replacing signature petitions with an IQA (i.e., Citizens’ Initiatives Assembly) almost entirely precludes these problems. The planned IQA solution in this web site should prove helpful to States as a reference in developing a SIQA Legislative Referendum. Unfortunately, the SIQA approach does not scale down proportionally from the U.S. population to a State population. However, the shorter distances in a State should permit SIQA members the convenience to meet on weekends rather than weekdays. Larger States should find the cost of a SIQA to be entirely acceptable.

Any of the States could implement a SIQA by constitutional referendum. Alternatively, voters in the 16 States permitting direct constitutional initiatives could propose a SIQA to replace state signature petitions. This will benefit the States, probably expanding from the initial states to other states and large cities. It will also advance this Amendment by increasing familiarity and confidence in the Solution’s nationwide implementation. Three States, Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona, are in various stages of moving in this direction by use of Citizens’ Initiative Review Commissions.

Economy of State IQA Scale

Theoretically, any State could use the IQA process instead of its signature petition process for qualifying initiatives. Unfortunately, the size of an IQA needed to create equal accuracy representation of the people’s views does not change above about 100,000 voters. In other words, the IQA’s total annual cost is roughly the same for the U.S. with a population of over 300 Million or the State of Wyoming with just over 500 Thousand.

An alternative is to accept a lower representation accuracy to keep the costs down. This shown in the chart below, where the accuracy is statistically called the Confidence Interval – the tighter the interval the higher the accuracy.

The question can city or state IQA replace signature petitions is one of scale. The larger the population the less cost per capital. In general, only the largest states and cities could consider it.

As a reference point at the high end of the graph, a sample size of 1,070 randomly selected registered voters give a nationwide poll a theoretical ability to predict the opinion of the nation to ± (plus or minus) three percent in 19 out of 20 polls. However, telephone pollsters usually gather the data. A significant proportion of the polling sample normally decline to participate. Expert statisticians replace those who decline to participate with people who have similar socio-economic-age-race backgrounds. This reduces the polling accuracy to a degree dependent on how well the experts select the replacements. The size of this sample (over 1,000) is greater than the size of a national assembly and beyond the feasible range for an IQA.

The Athenian example is the smallest, with at most about 45,000 citizens eligible to vote—i.e., excluding women, slaves, non-citizens and non-adults from the total population. Their 500-member Citizens’ Assembly (they called it the “Council of Five-Hundred” or “IQA“) would give them a confidence interval of about ± 4.35 percent in predicting what the citizens wanted to vote on—assuming that their random selection by lot was good, which it probably was not by today’s standards. The cost of a 500-voter IQA would be very high in a modern developed society of this size.

At a State level, the smaller States may decide they cannot afford an IQA and opt for the signature petition method. On the other hand, some large Cities may decide that they can afford it. For those preferring the IQA solution, State or City Citizens’ Initiative Assemblies can change some features and achieve substantial cost saving. British Columbia demonstrated this in 2004. For example:

  1. Reduce the standard of accuracy for the cross-section from ± 4.5% to perhaps ± 7.5% by using only a 150 to 180 person IQA.
  2. Reduce the maximum number of Initiatives to less than those at the U.S. level.
  3. Reduce the IQA meeting length to two-day weekend meetings—taking advantage of shorter travel times compared to a nationwide system and minimizing members’ work disruption.
  4. Take two or more votes on a Candidate Initiative with different IQA membership several months to a year apart to increase the accuracy—i.e., improving the confidence interval while keeping a smaller IQA size.

Hypothetically, adding the confidence interval to the IQA passing-vote percentage can offset the reduced accuracy of representation. For example, if the confidence interval were ± 8%, the IQA vote to pass a candidate initiative would be a supermajority of 58 percent. On the other hand, this supermajority requirement could hamstring the IQA into inaction on important issues. Moreover, it departs from the fundamental idea of majority rule for issues not affecting constitutional issues and, in particular, individual rights. Consequently, the  rules of the IQA (i.e., U.S. Citizens’ Initiative Assembly) do not incorporate this idea. Instead, a Candidate Initiative requires two separate passing votes.

This could reduce the State or City costs to perhaps 25 percent—i.e., $15-$20 million per year—of that experienced at the nationwide level. The number of Voters that one IQA member represents is the key factor affecting the per-capita cost. For example, using rough guesstimates:

Constituency Citizens Eligible
to Vote
Voters per
Annual Cost Cost per
1. At a nationwide level, there are about 406,000 Voters per Member, so the approach is very cost effective. The on-going annual cost of the U.S. IQA per Voter will be about $0.31 per year per voter. (i.e., $60,000,000 annual budget/)(480 members*406,000 voters per member) = $0.31)
2. Costs for a typical State with say 4,000,000 eligible voters might be about $5 per year per voter. (i.e., $20,000,000/(180 members*22,000 voters per member) = $5)
3. However, in the least populated states with about 350,000 eligible voters, the cost per voter would run about $43 per year per voter. (i.e., $15,000,000/(150 members*2,300 voters per member) = $43)
4. On the other hand, the ancient Athenians, with only about 45,000 voters, were willing to pay a far greater price to maintain their democracy—in today’s terms, probably about $670 per year per voter. (i.e., $30,000,000/(500 members*90 voters per member) = $670)
Nationwide 195,000,000 480 ±4.5% 406,000 60,000,000 31¢
Typical State 4,000,000 180 ±7.3% 22,000 20,000,000 $5
Least Populous States 500,000 150 ±8.0% 2,300 15,000,000 $43
Ancient Athens 45,000 500 ±4.4% 90 30,000,000 $670

At a nationwide level, the approach is very cost effective. Costs for a typical state are reasonable. However, in the least populated states, costs are rather high. On the other hand, the ancient Athenians were willing to pay dearly to protect their rights.The question can city or state IQA replace signature petitions is one of scale. The larger the population the less cost per capital. In general, only the largest states and cities could consider it.A “rules of thumb” is apparent from this chart. If the electorate’s size doubles, the IQA cost per voter decreases to half. The reverse is also true.

Each State and large City will have its own views on the use of Citizens’ Initiatives Assemblies. They differ greatly in population, geography, political philosophy, constitution, and laws. Each one will generally have its own unique design requirements. These are beyond the scope of this web site and need addressing independently to avoid confusion. The information on this web site should provide a useful reference point. If one of them adopts an IQA to replace their signature petition system, if only for a trial, this will provide valuable confirmation and impetus for the planned nationwide system.

States and Cities with Easiest Demonstration of an IQA

Some may argue that the focus should be starting a demonstration of the IQA before starting the Citizens’ Initiatives Amendment process. There is logical merit to this view. However, the impetus to conduct the demonstration is not currently in place. Starting the Amendment process in a few states first will generate the political impetus to start the demonstration.

It will be easiest for states and cities that already have both constitutional and legislative direct initiatives to demonstrate an IQA. The cost of the IQA per capita will be least in those with the larger populations. Using an arbitrary cutoff of one million persons, 8 states and 5 cities qualify:

State or City Approximate Population
2003-2006 Extrapolated
Census Data
Annual Cost
Per Capita
1. Annual costs per capita are calculated assuming the IQA has about 180 Members and an annual cost of $20,000,000.
2. Data from Census Bureau, I&RI-States, I&RI-Cities, and Wikipedia
California 35,484,000 0.56
Missouri 5,704,000 3.51
Arizona 5,581,000 3.58
Colorado 4,551,000 4.39
Los Angeles, CA 3,849,000 5.20
Oregon 3,560,000 5.62
Oklahoma 3,512,000 5.69
Arkansas 2,726,000 7.34
Houston, TX 2,144,000 9.33
Nebraska 1,739,000 11.50
Phoenix, AZ 1,513,000 13.22
San Antonio, TX 1,297,000 15.42
San Diego, CA 1,257,000 15.91


The annual cost is tolerable in all of these states and cities. However, in California the cost per capita is clearly far lower than in the others. Moreover, an IQA will cost far less than California’s current cost for signature petitions. (Note, the above table has costs per capita while other data on this page has costs per voter.)

In all of these states and cities, the decision to replace their signature petitions with an IQA can be made by initiative or referendum.