From the end of 1980s the Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania successfully moved towards re-independence. At that stage referendums were a useful tool to carry through the transition peacefully. Today, each constitution of the Baltic Republics provides for instruments of direct democracy that have been used in different ways. It is assumed that the possibility of a referendum introduces the people into the decision-making process as an additional veto player whose participation is needed for a change in the legislative status quo. It is further expected that direct democratic instruments empower the citizens, forming a broader spread of power. The results reported in this paper, however, challenge these assumptions. Regardless of the mechanism employed, direct democracy fails to fulfil the desired effect of allowing citizens to take political decisions directly and over the heads of their representatives. Rather, referendums have been used strategically for partisan interest. The poor performance of direct democracy in the Baltic States to date is not only a result of strategic choices made by the authorities, but also of citizen-unfriendly procedural designs. In all three countries there are many formal constraints diminishing the will of the people.