Centennial of Initiative, Referendum, Recall, and Suffrage

Today (October 10th) marks the centennial of California’s Initiative, Referendum, Recall, and Suffrage. In a special election on this day in 1911, voters approved several ballot measures that forever changed California.

Assemblyman William C. Clark

A name that you’ve probably never heard before is that of William C. Clark. Clark served only two terms in the Assembly (1911 and 1913) but left his mark through a series of important bills.

SCA 22 (joint authored with Senator Lee C. Gates) which gave California voters the right of initiative and referendum.

SCA 23 (joint authored with Senator Lee C. Gates) which gave California voters the ability to recall statewide and legislative elected officials.


Another notable legislator was Senator Charles W. Bell, author of SCA 8, which gave women the right to vote in California nearly a decade ahead of those in the rest of the United States. In 1918, Californians would elect the first four women to the legislature.

Finally, Senator Albert Eugene Boynton and Assemblyman C. C. Young authored a bill that abolished the “party circle” and “party line” ballots and gave Californians the right to vote for the candidates of their choice on uniform secret ballots. The following session, Young became Assembly Speaker (1913-1919) which he held until he was elected Lieutenant Governor.


One last interesting historical note is that it’s easy to forget that the major changes created by these bills were not universally supported;
SCA 8 (Women’s Suffrage) was opposed by 5 Senators and 12 Assemblymembers.
SCA 23 (Recall) was opposed by 4 Senators and 10 Assemblymembers.
SCA 22 (Initiative and Referendum) was opposed by a single Senator.

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