Thomas Jefferson said there is "no safer depository of the ultimate power of society but the people themselves." Initiative and referendum is the means by which ultimate political power is retained by the citizens. It is a reminder that in our republican form of government nothing is more sacred than the right and freedom to govern ourselves. In its purest form is a powerful tool for defending liberty and restraining tyranny.
The key to an effective initiative and referendum process is the availability and dissemination of accurate information, including disclosure of the facts, assumptions and perspectives on which the information is based, from which voters can reliably form their own opinions. Unfortunately, available information is often limited to emotionally appealing sound bites, which may be valuable and effective campaign tools, but give voters little substantive information by which to truly evaluate issues.
The absence of an effective tool for disseminating unbiased information and analysis, coupled with the growing trend toward lawmaking through the initiative and referendum process led to the commissioning of these guidelines. The Arizona Economic Forum believes that a disciplined method of reviewing, analyzing and reporting on ballot propositions and their impacts is critical to ensuring an informed electorate. This document simply puts forward an approach for standardized ballot analysis. It does not provide information on any specific ballot proposition and does not establish a process for implementing these types of analyses.
What follows are step-by-step guidelines for analyzing a ballot proposition and producing a Ballot Proposition Report, which identifies and summarizes the major implications of a ballot measure. These guidelines could be used by individual citizens, organizations, news reporters, educators and others who are concerned about giving thoughtful consideration to ballot issues, and wish to undertake the analysis process. It is only one approach, but an important first step in raising the standards by which ballot measures are presented, weighed and decided in Arizona. The primary emphasis of the analysis outlined is fiscal, as this is the area of greatest concern to the Arizona Economic Forum.