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Repeat Measures

 

Restrictions on Repeat Measures

Overview

Five states currently prohibit the same or a substantially similar measure from reappearing on the ballot for a specified period of time after it is rejected by voters. Time periods range from two years in Mississippi to five years in Wyoming. If an initiative is found to be the same or substantially similar to an initiative that appeared on the ballot within the specified time frame, state election officials deny the proponent's initiative application.

In none of these states are the terms "same" and "substantially similar" defined in statute or the constitution. The decision about whether a measure is the "same" or "substantially similar" is left to a state official, generally the state's chief election officer or, ultimately, the courts.

States with Bans on Same/Substantially Similar Initiatives

 

Language of the Ban

Time Period

Massachusetts

A measure cannot be substantially the same as any measure that has been qualified for submission or appeared on the ballot at either of the two preceding biennial state elections.

Six years (banned from next two biennial state elections)

Mississippi

If an initiative is rejected, no initiative petition proposing the same or substantially the same amendment shall be submitted to the electors for a minimum of two years.

Two years

Nebraska

The same measure, either in form or in essential substance, shall not be submitted by initiative petition more often than once in three years.

Four years

Oklahoma

Any initiative measure rejected by the people cannot be again proposed by initiative within three years by less than 25 percent of the legal voters.

Three years

Utah A measure that fails to pass cannot be resubmitted for two years Four years

Wyoming

An initiative petition may not be filed for a measure substantially the same as that defeated by an initiative election within the preceding five years.

Six years

Source:  National Conference of State Legislatures, May 2009

In many states, a similar restriction is imposed on the legislature, prohibiting bills that have been defeated (or bills that are substantially the same as ones defeated) from being reintroduced-either as a bill or an amendment-during the same legislative biennium. Florida, Mississippi, Ohio and Wyoming are examples of initiative states with such rules for their legislatures.

Pros & Cons

Banning the same or a substantially similar measure from reappearing on the ballot for a specified period of time helps to reduce the number of measures on the ballot. It also helps to reduce voter frustration by not asking voters to repeatedly vote on a measure they have already rejected.

Initiative proponents, however, say such restrictions are unfair. They believe that if a petition gathers enough signatures, that is an adequate demonstration of its popular support, and it deserves a vote in the next election.

For More Information

For more information on initiative and referendum, contact Jennie Drage Bowser in NCSL's Denver office.

 

 

 

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