History of Initiatives & Referendums
The Progressive Era (1890's to 1920's) was a time of widespread social and political reform, mostly aimed at breaking up the power of monopolies and trusts. At the time, wealthy individuals could "purchase" influence in state governments. In order to break this power, Progressives believed the common citizen should have a way to get directly involved with their state government.
Thus, the Initiative and Referendum process was born. First adopted by South Dakota in 1898, the process was adopted by many new western states as the United States moved west. Now, over 26 states have initiative and/or referendum processes available to citizens. (For more, click here: Direct Democracy)