Real Choice

Matsusaka (2004), p. 143:

Voting is an important way citizens signal their policy preferences; for many it is the only way. To convey a preference, a voter must have a choice in the ballot box. The initiative provides a choice: vote for the proposal or reject it in favor of the status quo. Candidate elections do not always provide a choice. Indeed, competition in candidate elections is likely to lead to an absence of choices as Downsian parties converge on the same policies. The convergence of candidates, a fact continually bemoaned by ordinary citizens, has some desirable properties if they converge in the vicinity of the median voter. However, if the parties perceive the position of the median voter incorrectly, they might converge on the wrong point, and there is nothing in the electoral process that would self-correct. The initiative offers a way to break the gridlock of Downsian competition because it allows proposals to reach the voters outside the milieu of party competition. The fact that even seemingly crazy and hopeless proposals can be placed before the voters by a determined petitioner is particularly important, because these are the proposals that are unlikely be brought before the public under party competition. The possibility that a "crazy" proposal might turn out to enjoy majority support is more than theoretical: [California’s] Proposition 13, for example, was dismissed by leaders of both parties and most expert opinion before its overwhelming victory.