A potential criticism of this system is that increasing the number of initiatives on the general election ballot might confuse or frustrate voters. If voters felt overwhelmed by the information demands of a longer ballot, they might abstain from voting on some initiatives or simply vote “no” on all of them (Bowler and Donovan 1998; Bowler, Donovan, and Happ 1992; Cronin 1989). Research shows, however, that voters who would otherwise lack sufficient information often rely on cues from those backing a proposal to cast an informed vote (Lupia 1994, discussed in greater detail above).
For MDD, the most important implication of this research is that voters could be trusted with making even more decisions if they had access to reliable endorsements to guide them. Party labels offer one of the most efficient cues voters can use to identify initiatives compatible with their policy preferences. If voters believe a particular party is aligned with their own interests, they can reasonably infer that the proposals it endorses are as well. By combining their knowledge of a party’s platform with its positions on particular initiatives, voters can make informed decisions. Without such voting cues, the more decisions voters must make, the more information they must collect. Voters do not need more information, however, when they face 25 initiatives rather than five if their party states an opinion on all 25. The same information shortcut could be used to make multiple decisions.
The inclusion of both proposing and endorsing parties’ labels directly on the ballot would provide voters with the most essential piece of information they would need to make a competent decision: who is backing an initiative. Even those with limited knowledge of the measures prior to entering the voting booth could quickly identify their party’s proposals. Voters’ “preexisting stock of knowledge” about parties’ platforms (Bowler and Donovan 1998, 24), which enables even uninformed voters to identify candidates on the ballot who share their policy preferences, could also guide their voting on parties’ initiatives. During the general election, voters could simply vote for all the initiatives proposed or endorsed by their party, and against the rest. (While some may feel more comfortable investing the time and effort to thoroughly investigate each proposal before voting, the research predicts this additional information would not change the votes they would have cast relying solely on their party’s cues.) What might initially appear to be an overwhelming number of decisions to be made in the primary and general elections would ultimately come down to just one: a voter’s favorite party.