This is an article by the Initiative & Referendum Institute, Los Angeles, CA

Initiative & Referendum Institute

at the University of Southern California 

 

 


 

Initiative & Referendum Institute

 

USC School of Law

 

Los Angeles CA 90089-007

What are ballot propositions, initiatives, and referendums?

Ballot measures or ballot propositions are proposals to enact new laws or constitutional amendments or repeal existing laws or constitutional amendments that are placed on the ballot for approval or rejection by the electorate. There are several different kinds of ballot measures:

An initiative is a proposal of a new law or constitutional amendment that is placed on the ballot by petition, that is, by collecting signatures of a certain number of citizens. Twenty-four states have the initiative process (list). Of the 24 states, 18 allow initiatives to propose constitutional amendments and 21 states allow initiatives to propose statutes. In most cases, once a sufficient number of signatures has been collected, the proposal is placed on the ballot for a vote of the people (“direct initiative”). In some cases, the proposal first goes to the legislature, and if approved by the legislature, is not voted on by the people (“indirect initiative”). For constitutional amendments, 16 states allow direct initiatives and two allow indirect initiatives. For statutes, 11 states allow direct initiatives for statutes, seven allow indirect initiatives, and two states (Utah and Washington) allow both direct and indirect initiatives.

referendum (sometimes “popular referendum”) is a proposal to repeal a law that was previously enacted by the legislature, and that is placed on the ballot by citizen petition. A total of 24 states permit referendums, most of them states that also permit initiatives. Although the Progressives considered the referendum as important as the initiative, in practice, referendums are fairly rare, especially compared to initiatives.

legislative measure or legislative proposition (or sometimes “referred” measure) is a proposal placed on the ballot by the legislature. All states permit legislative measures (list) and all states except for Delaware require constitutional amendments to be approved by the voters at large. In some states, legislatures place nonbinding advisory measures on the ballot. Legislative measures are much more common than initiatives and referendums, and are about twice as likely to be approved. Some states, such as Florida, also allow certain commissions to refer measures to the ballot.

There is no provision for any sort of ballot proposition at the national level in the United States.  However, the initiative and referendum are available in thousands of counties, cities and towns across the country and are utilized far more frequently than their statewide counterpart.

 

 

Click here for helpful handouts on the I&R process

 

© 2013 Initiative & Referendum Institute

USC School of Law

Los Angeles CA 90089-007

2 thoughts on “This is an article by the Initiative & Referendum Institute, Los Angeles, CA

    1. Thanks for the comment, Ian.
      Is it that here in Australia referendums are hardly ever successful?

      What is it like in Switzerland? It looks like Switzerland could successfully crack down on CEOs. I reblogged something about this in my previous post. Here I copy just some of it:

      “Does anyone seriously doubt that, if America had the same national referendum system that Switzerland does, voters in the United States would vote just as aggressively as the Swiss have to curb CEO abuses?

      There is no provision for any sort of ballot proposition at the national level in the United States. However, the initiative and referendum are available in thousands of counties, cities and towns across the country and are utilized far more frequently than their statewide counterpart.”

      Maybe there is more chance for Switzerland to crack down on CEOs than there is for the USA.

      “Does anyone seriously doubt that, if America had the same national referendum system that Switzerland does, voters in the United States would vote just as aggressively as the Swiss have to curb CEO abuses?

      Actually, the 68 percent support for Sunday’s Swiss referendum that gives shareholders broad new powers to curb excessive pay for bankers and corporate executives, might well be shy of the mark that the US could hit.

      Switzerland has a long history of allowing citizens to initiate and implement legislative changes. Under Swiss law, any issue can be put to a national referendum if supporters of a vote attain 100,000 petition signatures seeking the test. In recent years, the Swiss have voted on people’s initiatives to guarantee “six weeks of vacation for everyone,” to put an “end to the limitless construction of second homes” that crowd Alpine villages, to expand the ability of tax-supported building society
      savings to finance energy saving and environmental measures, and to require money gained from maintaining casinos be used for the public
      interest

      There is no provision for any sort of ballot proposition at the national level in the United States. However, the initiative and referendum are available in thousands of counties, cities and towns across the country and are utilized far more frequently than their statewide counterpart.”

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