Timeline of the National Citizens Initiative for Democracy

The National Citizens Initiative for Democracy proposal is the product of a long process of critical evaluation. The Constitution does not currently offer lawmaking by initiative; many people have proposed such an addition. The National Initiative is the current and most viable effort to date.

The below table contains a chronological history of the People’s efforts to create a National Initiative:

1895 – 1943 "At the Congressional level, between 1895 and 1943, 108 proposals to amend the U.S. Constitution by adding national I&R were submitted. Seven would have created a general I&R, that would have allowed for consideration of any issue. The others created I&R for specific issues only or that had issue-specific prohibitions. For example, Abourezk would not permit the declaring of war, calling up troops, or amending the constitution and would permit statutory modifications by Congress with a two-thirds majority or simple majority after two years" (I&R Institute).
1968 – Florida Florida gained constitutional amendment by direct initiative.
1972 – Montana Montana gained constitutional amendment by direct initiative (statutory direct initiative had been available since 1908).
1972 – Citizen Power

In his first term as U. S. Senator (AK 1969-81), Mike Gravel authored and published, Citizen Power. There he stated: "As both an elected public official and a private citizen, I have become increasingly distressed over the continuing exclusion of the people from any meaningful role in our governmental, economic, and social power structures. At the same time, I have become acutely aware of the rising dissatisfaction and crumbling patience among citizens constantly frustrated in efforts to participate in decision-making processes which directly impinge on their lives" (p. ix). In expressing trust in the people as lawmakers, Gravel proposed in an appendix: “A Model Constitutional Amendment for Initiative and Referendum.” The message of Citizen Power stands as a clear harbinger of Mike Gravel’s later focus on “National Initiative for Democracy.”

1977 – Voter Initiative Constitutional Amendment Proposal

During his second term as U. S. Senator in the 2nd Session of the 95th Congress, Senator Mike Gravel co-sponsored S. J. Res. 67: 1977 Voter Initiative Constitutional Amendment introducted by Senators James Abourezk (SD) and Mark Hatfield (OR). It failed to make it out of committee. Both antecedents testify to Mike Gravel’s unreserved trust in The People as citizen lawmakers – when properly informed and supported to engage in a solidly deliberative process.

1988 – National Initiative’s Conceptual Beginnings

The National Initiative–as a full blown project–had its conceptual beginnings in the fall of 1988 while Mike Gravel–now a private citizen–was living with his wife on the Monterey Peninsula in California. As the principal speaker at a coalition celebration of Human Rights Day on Dec 10, 1988, Mike Gravel laid out a proposal called the "California Initiative." He gradually attracted a small group to support his proposal.

1992 Mississippi Mississippi gained indirect initiative for constitutional amendments.
1989-93: Emergence of a Band of Supporters and Incorporation

In the wake of Mike Gravel’s continuing efforts at disseminating his ideas on this matter in public and private gatherings, a coterie of supporters developed. The most activist supporters emerged among members of the World Federalist Association in California, Illinois and Missouri. These activists, in turn, provided the impetus for Mike Gravel to develop a plan of action to address the issue of the absence of direct participation of the people in lawmaking at the national and global levels at the same time. (This approach was later discovered to be politically too ambitious.) A visible outcome in 1992 was the formation of the National Initiative’s first incorporations “One World” and “Philadelphia II.”

1993-1994: “Philadelphia II” – A Proposed Citizen Law to Be Enacted State-by-State

In accord with its double purpose, the proposed law—when enacted, state-by-state through the initiative process—would have 1) established initiative lawmaking in each state; 2) established a federal agency then called “American Electoral Association” to administer citizen lawmaking nationally and in all the states; and 3) issued a popularly legislated national call to a world meeting to discuss the issue of global governance. As a citizen initiative, “Philadelphia II” was then first filed in Missouri on October 28, 1993 and in California on November 1, 1993. In Missouri the effort, while adequately financed, was thwarted by the Secretary of State’s initial refusal to issue a ballot summary which adequately expressed the content of “Philadelphia II.” After suing the Secretary of State, the sponsors, in an out of court settlement, received an adequate ballot summary. However, four of the six months’ window for gathering signatures was consumed in this legal process. This, in turn, forced the Missouri sponsors to discontinue funding the effort having acquired only half the necessary number of signatures. In California, the sponsors were stymied by lack of funding for conducting a successful signature gathering campaign to qualify the Philadelphia II Initiative petition for the ballot.

1994-1996: Refiling the “Philadelphia II” Initiative in Washington–and Suing

Because there would be no off-year elections in Missouri and California in 1995, the sponsors of “Philadelphia II” decided to file the initiative petition in the state of Washington where an off-year initiative election was possible. There in contrast to the sponsors’ experience in Missouri and California, the Attorney General in Washington–after the Secretary of State approved the petition as to form–refused to issue any ballot summary. The sponsors again sued. The case, with the cooperation of the Attorney General, was referred directly to the Washington state Supreme Court. Before the court Mike Gravel, though not an attorney argued the sponsors’ case on October 27, 1995 pro se. On February 26, 1996, in Philadelphia II v. Gregoire (128 Wn.2d 707), the Court granted to the sponsors a procedural victory but substantive defeat. The court agreed with the petitioners’ plea on the procedural aspect in affirming the Attorney General should have issued a ballot summary as its Constitution mandated. However on the merits of Philadelphia II’s case, the Court sided with the Attorney General in agreeing the substance of the Philadelphia II initiative did not qualify as state initiative matter because Philadelphia II sought to enact federal law. Consequently on June 28, 1996, the sponsors of Philadelphia II appealed to the United States Supreme Court. After its filing brief received designation as Mike Gravel v. Christine O. Gregoire (No. 96-21) for certiorari, a U. S. Supreme Court hearing was denied in October 1996. Thus the sponsors of Philadelphia II had won a battle but lost the war in Washington State.

1996: A Tactical Jurisdictional Shift in the Wake of Litigating Experience

The experience of having to sue for access to the state initiative process in two of three states where the sponsors filed the Philadelphia II Initiative prompted Mike Gravel with the board of directors to make a major shift in tactics. The National Initiative was restructured as a direct national election–the first in our history. Thus the state-by-state approach to national enactment–adopted in 1993–was abandoned. Additionally, inclusion of a call for the convening a plenipotentiary world meeting to discuss global governance was dropped from the proposal. The re-crafted document was renamed: “United States Initiative.” In conjunction with this development, the non-profit educational California corporation, “One World,” was renamed, “Direct Democracy.”

1996-2000: Re-crafting the Proposed Law – Center-staging Civic Maturation

Over the years, Mike Gravel and the board continued refining the document. The “United States Initiative” was renamed: “Direct Democracy Initiative” in 1999. Also at this time, an insight about a national initiative of major significance surfaced.

From the earliest calls–by populists and progressives at the turn of the twentieth century as exemplified, in the People’s Party Platform of 1896 for a national initiative, this political tool was seen merely as a means of reform of representative government. Accordingly, resort to its use was advocated only as a substitute measure. Something to be resorted to but only occasionally. That is, only when representatives failed to respond on issues widely supported by the People. However, Mike Gravel and the sponsors came to see a national initiative more fundamentally as an advance in democratic government in recognition of the experience of the Swiss for the past 150 years. More specifically, they came to see initiative more fundamentally as a structural prerequisite for the civic maturation of the polity. It order to help disseminate this relatively unknown perspective on direct democracy, Professor Hirsch’s published "Direct Democracy and Civic Maturation," in Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly.

2001: A Finalized “National Initiative” Proposal & Introduction of Website

A final stage in the development of the proposed legislation was reached in 2001 in the break-out of the “National Initiative” into two concurrent pieces of proposed legislation: “Democracy Amendment” and “Democracy Act.” That is to say, it was decided at this juncture by Mike Gravel and the board that registered voters would be provided with two initiative proposals to be enacted by a single vote: an amendatory proposal and a statutory proposal interlocked with each other. The sponsor of this double proposal now became “The Democracy Foundation,” a new public citizen body incorporated in the state of Virginia. The corporate body designated to conduct the national election on Democracy Amendment and Democracy Act became “Philadelphia II.”

2002: The Democracy Symposium – The Vetting of “National Initiative.”

The Democracy Symposium was held in colonial Williamsburg, VA in mid-February, 2002. Some nineteen scholar-presenters were selected on the basis of their published record on various aspects of the National Initiative. In addition to the record of the presenters’ papers, the proceedings of the symposium were documented via video and written transcriptions of presenters’ formal oral presentations and committee of the whole discussions. No formal resolutions, however, were presented nor sought. Rather the views expressed and debated at the symposium enabled the sponsors and others interested to convene for a two day work session during the summer of 2002. At this gathering the two pieces of concurrent legislation–section by section and provision by provision of the National Initiative–were finalized for presentation to the People.

September 17, 2002: Formal Announcement of Voting on “National Initiative.” On September 17, 2002–the annual anniversary date of the final day of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 (which convention we refer to as “Philadelphia I”)–the sponsors and guests gathered at the historic Old Tavern in Philadelphia to formally announce the beginning of voting on “National Initiative.” Adding an historical touch to this event were re-enactors of the constitutional framers, James Madison and James Wilson and also Thomas Jefferson (who was in France as United States ambassador during the Constitutional Convention). These historic individuals at the nation’s “Philadelphia I” event–through the re-enactors–offered toasts to this “Philadelphia II event,” this second peaceful revolution–two-plus centuries later.
2003: Internet Voting Begins June 1, 2003

Will the American people vote for a national initiative if presented with the opportunity to do so? Significant empirical data suggests they will. The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut has been collecting the results of public opinion polls on Americans’ stand on directly participating in lawmaking since 1937. Their database empirically shows a vast majority of the American people today are in favor of a national initiative. Thus, the sponsors of National Initiative are confident a great majority of voters will vote for to amend the Constitution and statutorially establish policy and make laws directly–precisely what the National Initiative offers. Voting began with a direct mail campaign in Portland, Maine.

2006 – 2007

On April 17, 2006 at the National Press Club in Washington, D. C. Senator Mike Gravel announced himself as a Democratic candidate for President in 2008 with the campaign slogan: “Let the People decide.”

Prior to announcing his candidacy, Mike Gravel formally resigned from all three of the National Initiative boards. As a result, from that point onwards no organizational relationship has existed between Senator Mike Gravel as citizen and/or Senator Mike Gravel’s candidacy for President in 2008 and The Democracy Foundation, Philadelphia II and Direct Democracy.

However Senator Gravel’s domestic policy as a candidate was: “Neither political party can afford to challenge the power of special interest groups to reform the structure of representative government. We Americans, however, can exercise our Constitutional right to empower ourselves as lawmakers by enacting National Initiative as “law of the land.”

Additionally, when Senator Gravel was asked on national television why he was running for President in 2008, he responded that the two top and immediate reasons are to advance enactment of National Initiative and to end the Iraq war.

2008 In pursuit of the 2008 Presidential nomination, Senator Gravel—as a result of being excluded from the later debates of the Democratic party—quit the Democratic party and joined the Libertarian party. When he failed to obtain it’s nomination for President in late May 2008, Senator Gravel came to the end of his career in electoral politics.

On June 6, 2008, he wrote to all who had supported him in the Presidential race in 2008.

2012 July 4 The Philadelphia II election begun in 2002 was concluded. The National Initiative for Democracy was renamed to the National Citizens Initiative for Democracy. The text was substantially revised and clarified. A new election was begun on the improved proposal on the same date.

Edit history:

24 Dec 2004 Created by Don H. Kemner, Corporate Secretary, The Democracy Foundation
07 Jun 2008 Edited by Joshua Pritikin, Minor edits and conversion to a table format