Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal


In order to assess the value of the statewide ballot measure as a tool for environmental advocates, this Comment will explore the electoral outcomes of citizen-sponsored statewide environmental ballot measures in four Pacific states with a long history of direct democracy. California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska, all rich in pristine lands, make up just one region of the American political landscape, but they provide a meaningful picture of the history of environmental ballot measures.

This Comment narrows the broad topic of “environmental” ballot measures into six workable categories of environmental ballot measure. Using this framework, the aim of this Comment is to identify the types of environmental policies that have been well-received by voters, as well as those categories that are commonly rejected at the ballot box. Certainly, previous election outcomes alone are not enough to determine whether to pursue a ballot measure as a means to achieving a policy goal. However, electoral outcomes of the past are instructive for identifying likely outcomes in the future.

This aspect of environmental law is important for environmental advocates to make informed choices when forming their strategy for achieving their statewide environmental policy goals. Lawyers should consider all strategies at their disposal when advising their clients on the best way to achieve their policy objectives, including ballot measures. This Comment proposes that, in limited circumstances, ballot measures may be a preferred strategy to change environmental policy.

The Comment begins by laying out the legal history of the ballot measure. It continues by reviewing the reasons an advocate may choose to utilize a citizen-sponsored initiative over the traditional method of lawmaking, and discussing other pre-campaign considerations. Next, the Comment provides the methodology and scope of the election data reviewed before progressing to a discussion of electoral outcomes. The Comment finishes with recommendations and conclusions about electoral outcomes by informing lawyers and advocates about the use of ballot measures for effecting change in the environmental arena.