The voter initiative and the power of the governor: Evidence from campaign expenditures

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Although a great deal of research examines the impact of the voter initiative process on the state legislature, the consequences for the state executive branch have been largely ignored. The voter initiative process provides the governor with a method to circumvent the legislature, which may increase the power of the governor in theory. However, it also provides citizens with a means to bypass the traditional lawmaking process and avoid the governor’s veto. This may reduce the power of the governor and lead to policies farther from the preferences of the governor. This study examines the impact of the voter initiative process on the power of the state governor by estimating total election cycle spending. Campaign expenditures are expected to reflect any sustained gain or loss in power due to the availability of the voter initiative process. The results indicate that gubernatorial campaign expenditures are significantly lower in states in which the voter initiative process is available. This finding suggests that state governors sustain a loss in political power when the voter initiative is available. Additionally, the findings imply that individuals may employ the voter initiative process as a substitute for gubernatorial support.
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