Category Archives: Referendum

“Republican” Forms of Government & the U.S.

Article IV of the U.S. Constitution guarantees to every state a Republican form of government.  Unfortunately, the Constitution does not define or explain what is meant by the term.  What we do know is that the Framers were not using the term in any way as a reference to the Republican Party of today (the Republican Party was formed in the middle of the 19th century and the Constitution was ratified in the late 18th century).  Understanding the reference to a Republican form of government is important to the overall discussion of democracy in the United States and around the world and merits a closer look.

 Some believe that the answer is to be found in the writings of various Framers; or in the pages of the Federalist Papers.  Others believe the matter has been resolved by the courts or by various acts of Congress over the years.  In reality, the term continues in popular and academic circles without a definite understanding.  Generally speaking, “republicanism” provides an alternative to monarchies, dictatorships, and other forms of non-democratic government.  There appears to be widespread agreement on the role that representation plays in republics if by representation we mean that legitimate government power is based on the consent of the governed.  There is also widespread agreement that republican forms of government provide an alternative to forms of direct democracy (government that allows for citizens to directly make laws without the participation of elected or otherwise empowered officials).  This latter point raises some questions; for example, what do we say about governments based on the decisions of elected representatives that also allow for initiatives, propositions, referendums and other direct forms of participation?  Are such governments “republican” as far as the Constitution is concerned?

For a different take on the meaning of a republican form of government read Tim Heald’s piece in the Telegraph.  Republican forms of government abound throughout the world.  How does our’s compare.



(Video)California’s Pot Proposition

Next month, California will decide on Proposition 19, which would allow adults 21 and older to grow and use marijuana recreationally. Who are the supporters of Proposition 19 and why do they support the initiative? This videos sheds light on the controversies surrounding the initiative. (10/10/10 CBSNewsOnline, Bill Whitaker)

1. Who are the former chiefs of police supporting Proposition 19, and what reasons do they give for their action?

2. Why are the medical marijuana shops opposed to Proposition 19?

Legal Pot: California’s ‘Golden Opportunity?’

Although marijuana is an illegal substance under federal law, in 1996 Californians voted to legalize it for medical use only by doctor’s prescription. In the November ballot Californians will again be asked to vote on Proposition 19, an initiative designed to legalize marijuana for recreational use.  Who are the proponents and who are the opponents of  Proposition 19? This article reveals how the initiative is doing in the polls as we head toward the general election in November. It also shows who is for and who is against the initiative. (9/26/10 Associated Press in ABC News, Marcus Wohlsen) … Read Article

1. What, according to Richard Lee, is the benefit of legalizing marijuana in the state of California?

2. According to Pleasant Hill Police Chief Pete Dunbar, what is the reason to vote against Proposition 19 in November?

Supreme Court: Petition Signers Can’t Keep Names Secret

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, June 24 that petition signers on state ballot referenda do not have a constitutional right to keep their names anonymous. (6/24/10 ABC News, Ariane de Vogue and Ann H. Sloan) … Read Article

1. Discuss First Amendment scholars’ opinion on the Supreme Court’s ruling.

2. Discuss the caveat provided by Justice Samuel Alito in the Supreme Court’s majority ruling.