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THE THINKING MAN'S GUIDE TO BALLOT INITIATIVE STRATEGY

Submitted by Chuck Gunther
V.9 16 July 2006

(The purpose of this work is to promote ballot initiative usage and effectiveness.)

Each component that is mishandled will shift vote percentage points to the opposition. Are you willing to lose by a few points? Any prospective initiative should be critiqued by several sympathetic politicians and successful initiative sponsors. The two most common fatal mistakes made by initiative sponsors are

  1. An initiative that reduces government revenues;

  2. Not using a pollster to determine the current level of voter acceptance.

  1. Use moderation. Overly aggressive initiatives fail. Therefore don't attempt to reduce taxes (this would reduce government revenue abruptly and scares the timid electorate.). Just make government revenue and taxes grow slower (this is seen as acceptable by most voters.). What the voters will accept is more important than what the sponsor wants.

    1. An example of a far reaching/disruptive/ill-conceived initiative that failed is the 10 mil tax cap statewide initiative in 2000. It would have drastically reduced local government revenues and therefore received only 29% of the vote (this frightened voters to the max.).
      A pollster was not consulted here.

    2. An example of a moderate/common sense initiative that passed overwhelmingly because it simply made government revenue/taxes grow slower is the Mat-Su Borough tax cap/revenue cap of 2005. Similar laws are now in effect in 4 or 5 major tax districts in Alaska.
      A pollster was consulted here.

  2. Always use a pollster for strategy guidance and to determine what percent of the vote this initiative would get today (without voters having heard opposing viewpoints.).

    If it has 60% acceptance today then it has about a 50% chance of victory at the end of the campaign. Support always declines when negative viewpoints are publicized by the opposition. History shows us that people are in favor of many things -- until they hear the opposing viewpoint.

  3. Always consult an attorney for advice on legality of initiative and proper wording.

  4. Keep the initiative simple. It should be easily explainable in one sentence. It should be self-evident as to purpose. It will be rejected if voters can't understand it, or if they don't know which side to believe. Know what objections will be raised before it's even written.

  5. Is funding available up front? Funding pays for polling, attorney fees, signature collection, advertising, promotion, and campaign.
    1. Most funding promised will never arrive.

    2. Funding can be placed in a "performance escrow" to protect the contributor from fraud, and guarantee availability to campaign.

    3. Cash vs. Cash (balance of power analogy.).

  6. Has it been attempted before? Why did it fail? Can it be done locally? (Anchorage = 5,000 signatures plus $5,000 cash minimum.). Or must it be done statewide? (28,000 signatures plus $50,000 cash minimum.). Avoid signature collection between November and April.
    1. Anchorage municipal initiatives are constitutional; they change the Constitution/Charter and are more permanent for that reason.

    2. Alaska Statewide initiatives are only statutory; they can be easily overturned by the Legislature after only 2 years as happened with Term Limits and the Wolf Initiative.

  7. Be sure to use an "electably clean" front man. If a controversial front man is used then the media will point out his "faults" and he will become a liability. Voters will vote against him by defeating the initiative. Keep "controversial" names off the sponsors' list. Remember -- Self-promotion hurts the initiative. Avoid a front man that is a publicity seeker. Be extremely cautious with the Liberal Media. Try to limit interviews mostly to written responses to written questions. Give minimal personal info. Give "politically correct" type answers.

The initiative community in Alaska is in it's infancy. The purpose of this paper is to encourage its hard working and dedicated members to organize and cooperate as our opponents certainly do; otherwise we have little chance to get government under control, as has been achieved in Colorado/Oregon/Washington State.

RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF COMPONENTS TO AN ANTI-TAX BALLOT INITIATIVE
(Submitted December 2005)

(Preface: Supplement to "The Thinking Man's Guide to Ballot Initiative Strategy". This Guide assumes that scientific polling shows that the initiative has 60%+ approval Before the campaign. This allows for some loss of support After opposition speaks out.)

  1. TIMING (during recession is best) 20%
    (Importance declines slightly with increased mildness level of initiative).
  2. INITIATIVE MILDNESS LEVEL 20%
    (severe, far reaching initiatives fail).
  3. AMPLE FUNDING 20%
    (to offset opposition media campaign).
  4. OPPOSITION WEAKNESS 15%
  5. SIMPLICITY OF INITIATIVE 5%
  6. FRONT MAN "ELECTABLY CLEAN" 5%
  7. ELECTION TURNOUT DRAWING CONSERVATIVES 5%
  8. GUIDANCE FROM SUCCESSFUL INITIATIVE SPONSORS & POLITICIANS 5%.

Taxes that grow 7% yearly are a formula for disaster since salaries grow only 2-3% yearly.

Links & Groups

  • Initiative and Referendum Institute/ Mr. Waters)
  • WWW.permanent-offense.org (Washington State/ Tim Eyman)
  • OTU (Oregon/ Bill Sizemore)
  • SeattleTimes.comArchives search I-695 on 11 Oct 99 (describes Colorado's TABOR) (Douglas Bruce)
  • Interior Taxpayers Association/Fairbanks, Alaska (Yahoo-InteriorTaxpayers Association) (Donna Gilbert)This group has been extremely successful, we might want to emulate them.

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