Publication Date



89 p. ; An outstanding student paper selected as a Honors Paper.


The use of citizen's initiatives to amend state constitutions reached record high levels in the 1992-93 biennium. Proponents of the initiative argue that it provides a healthy means of turning a voter's distrust into much-needed governmental reform. Yet critics are quick to point out that correcting the abuses of representative government is not the only objective of the initiative campaigns of the 1990s. The initiative also has been used to denigrate the rights of minorities. In addition to threatening the rights of minorities, some critics argue this weapon may undermine the federal guarantee that each state shall have a republican form of government. On a philosophical level, the current debate over the proper roles of initiatives and elected representatives turns on the same issue that prevailed at the time the earliest state constitutions were framed: how shall we choose between popular sovereignty and representative government? Yet at a practical level, the question is not that simple. Thus, the real question is how to obtain the right blend of representative institutions and direct democratic processes. The purpose of this article is to answer this challenge by offering a concrete proposal for a new method of bringing about constitutional change that combines elements of representative government with the type of direct democratic influence associated with the citizen's initiative. This proposal is intended to strike a balance between the need to provide citizens with unimpeded access to a legitimate means of reforming their government and the countervailing interest in protecting minorities and legislatures from the sorts of abuses associated with the traditional, direct initiative process. Although this article uses the constitutional amendment process in the State of New Mexico as its primary example, the method proposed to stmcme this amendment process is intended to serve as the foundation for further work on new methods of enacting both statutory and constitutional initiatives in other states. Part II of this article begins the task of constructing a new method of amending state constitutions by reviewing the various procedures that states have devised to structure the process of constitutional change in the past. Part III then focuses on the initiative process in particular and analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of this process in its traditional form. This analysis sets the stage for the concluding sections of this article, which set forth a concrete proposal for a new method of constitutional change and show how this new method avoids the weaknesses of the traditional initiative process while enhancing its strengths.


University of New Mexico School of Law

Document Type

Student Paper

Included in

Law Commons



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