Street view of the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Democracy Decoded: Season 3, Episode 4

The Questions on Your Ballot

Democracy Decoded: Season 3, Episode 4

The Questions on Your Ballot

Go back to Season 3 episodes


When elected officials aren’t prioritizing the needs of their constituents, voters can make their voices heard on a state and local level through ballot initiatives.  In this episode of Democracy Decoded, host Simone Leeper breaks down the power of ballot initiatives, showcasing how everyday citizens can use this tool of direct democracy to bring about significant change. She speaks with advocates, politicians and experts who have had first-hand experience in crafting and enacting these ballot measures. This episode serves as an inspiring reminder that through the ballot initiative process, ordinary people have the ability to make an impact in their community.

Simone talks to Micheal Davis Jr., the Executive Director of Promote The Vote, about the ballot initiatives in Michigan that have expanded voting access. She then brings in Lata Nott, Senior Legal Counsel of Voting Rights at Campaign Legal Center, who explains how ballot initiatives allow voters to circumvent their state legislatures when they feel that they are not being truly represented. Simone then turns to Arizona, where former Attorney General of Arizona Terry Goddard and CLC Senior Legal Counsel for Campaign Finance Elizabeth Shimek discuss Proposition 211, also known as the Voters’ Right to Know Act, an initiative designed to help shine light on the original sources of secret campaign spending in Arizona and ensure voters know who is spending big money to influence their ballots.


Read the full transcript


Host and Guests:

Simone Leeper litigates a wide range of redistricting-related cases at CLC, challenging gerrymanders and advocating for election systems that guarantee all voters an equal opportunity to influence our democracy. Prior to arriving at CLC, Simone was a law clerk in the office of Senator Ed Markey and at the Library of Congress, Office of General Counsel. She received her J.D. cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 2019 and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 2016.

Micheal Davis, Jr is Executive Director of Promote the Vote Michigan. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Sociology, Micheal has led statewide electoral operations and coordinated advocacy campaigns, locally and across the country for the last 15+ years. Micheal previously worked for Ann Arbor’s Community Action Network and the AmeriCorps VISTA, where he served with the Youth Empowerment Project. He then joined State Voices, supporting efforts to increase civic engagement on a national level. In the decade since, Micheal has been active in advancing workers’ rights, including electoral campaigns within the labor movement, serving as the Political Director for the Michigan AFL-CIO and leading the outreach and expansion of its organizing department. Micheal is thrilled to lead the Promote the Vote team and to continue the fight to ensure fair democratic elections and practices in Michigan for years to come.

Lata Nott is Senior Legal Counsel, Voting Rights at Campaign Legal Center. Before joining CLC, Lata was the Deputy Director of Policy for State Voices, where she provided state-based organizations with legal, legislative, and strategic support for voting rights, voter protection, and redistricting programs.  Prior to that, she was the Executive Director of the First Amendment Center at the Freedom Forum; she remains a fellow at the Freedom Forum, serving as a subject matter expert on First Amendment and free expression issues and regularly speaking to the media, policymakers, and the general public about the implications that existing laws, proposed legislation, and tech company policies have for free expression and civic engagement. 

Terry Goddard served as Arizona Attorney General from 2003 to 2011. He focused on protecting consumers and fighting trans-national organized crime. He led the Arizona effort against international money laundering and the polygamous sects in Northern Arizona and Utah. In 2010, he received the Kelly-Wyman Award, the highest recognition given by the state attorneys general. Terry also served as Mayor of Phoenix from 1984 to 1990.  He was elected President of the National League of Cities and named Municipal Leader of the Year in 1988. Since 2016, Terry led an initiative effort to stop anonymous political contributions in Arizona elections. After 3 unsuccessful attempts to qualify for the ballot, on the fourth try 72% of Arizona voters approved the Stop Dark Money initiative. Terry currently teaches at Arizona State University College of Law.  

Elizabeth Shimek is Senior Legal Counsel, Campaign Finance at Campaign Legal Center. Prior to joining CLC, Elizabeth worked as Chief of Staff for Wisconsin State Representative Greta Neubauer, where she worked with policymakers and stakeholders to develop innovative public policy, increase public engagement in the legislative process, and push back against efforts to undermine our democratic systems. Elizabeth has served as an advisor to state-level political campaigns and caucuses and previously worked as an attorney specializing in political and government law at Maistelman & Associates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.



Arizona Leads on Stopping Secret Spending

Midterm Ballot Initiatives Strengthening the Freedom to Vote Win Big

Proposal 2: Voting rights proposal approved in Michigan

States are Making it Harder for Ballot Initiatives to Pass


About CLC

Democracy Decoded is a production of Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization which advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels, fighting for every American’s right to responsive government and a fair opportunity to participate in and affect the democratic process. Learn more about us.


The Democracy Group logo on a blue background with yellow microphones

Democracy Decoded is part of The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts that examines what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.