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Popular Referendum States and Year Adopted

States may limit the subject matter of popular referenda. States may apply a single-subject rule or other restrictions.

Year of Adoption

Twenty-three states have a popular referendum process. Note that all but two of these states—Maryland and New Mexico—also have the initiative process.

Alaska: 1959
Arizona: 1912
Arkansas: 1920
California: 1911
Colorado: 1910
Idaho: Constitutional provision adopted 1912, laws specifying mechanics adopted 1933
Maine: 1908
Maryland: 1915
Massachusetts: 1917
Michigan: 1908
Missouri: 1908
Montana: 1906
Nebraska: 1912
Nevada: 1904
New Mexico: 1911
North Dakota: 1914
Ohio: 1912
Oklahoma: 1907
Oregon: 1902
South Dakota: 1898
Utah: 1900
Washington 1912
Wyoming: 1968

Subject Matter Limitations

Four states have no restrictions on what sorts of laws can be subjected to the popular referendum: Arkansas, Idaho, Maine and North Dakota. It is unclear whether the following language in Nevada applies to popular referenda (provisions for which are included in the relevant article), or only to initiatives: “This Article does not permit the proposal of any statute or statutory amendment which makes an appropriation or otherwise requires the expenditure of money, unless such statute or amendment also imposes a sufficient tax, not prohibited by the Constitution, or otherwise constitutionally provides for raising the necessary revenue.”

The other 19 states limit the subject matter of laws that the popular referendum can address.

State

Citation

Subject Matter Excluded From Popular Referendum

Alaska

Const. Art. XI, § 7 and AS § 15.45.250

Dedications of revenue, appropriations, local or special legislation or laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety

Arizona

Const. Art. 4, § 1, Pt. 1(3)

Laws immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety, or for the support and maintenance of the departments of the state government and state institutions

California

Const. Art II, § 9

Urgency statutes, statutes calling elections or statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for current expenses of the state

Colorado

Const. Art. V, § 1(3)

Laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, and appropriations for the support and maintenance of the departments of state and state institutions

Maryland

Const. Art. XVI, § 2

Laws making any appropriation for maintaining the state government or for maintaining or aiding any public institution, not exceeding the next previous appropriation for the same purpose

Massachusetts

Const. Art. XLVII, Pt. VI, Subpt. III, § 2

Laws that relate to religion, religious practices or religious institutions; the appointment, qualification, tenure, removal or compensation of judges; the powers, creation or abolition of courts; the operation of a particular town, city or other political division or to particular districts or localities of the commonwealth; or the appropriation of money for the current or ordinary expenses of the commonwealth or for any of its departments, boards, commissions or institutions.

Michigan

Const. Art. II, § 9

Acts making appropriations for state institutions or to meet deficiencies in state funds

Missouri

Const. Art. III, § 52(a)

Laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, and laws making appropriations for the current expenses of the state government, for the maintenance of state institutions and for the support of public schools

Montana

Const. Art. III, § 5(1)

Appropriations of money

Nebraska

Const. Art. III, § 3 and NRS § 32-1408

Acts making appropriations for the expense of the state government or a state institution existing at the time of the passage of such act. The secretary of state is prohibited by law from accepting for filing any referendum petition which interferes with the legislative prerogative contained in the Constitution of Nebraska that the necessary revenue of the state and its governmental subdivisions shall be raised by taxation in the manner as the legislature may direct.

Nevada

Const. Art. 19, § 6

Note: It is unclear whether the following language applies only to initiatives or also to referenda: “This Article does not permit the proposal of any statute or statutory amendment which makes an appropriation or otherwise requires the expenditure of money, unless such statute or amendment also imposes a sufficient tax, not prohibited by the Constitution, or otherwise constitutionally provides for raising the necessary revenue.”

New Mexico

Const. Art. IV, § 1

General appropriation laws; laws providing for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety; for the payment of the public debt or interest thereon, or the creation or funding of the same, except as in this constitution otherwise provided; for the maintenance of the public schools or state institutions; and local or special laws

Ohio

Const. Art. II, § 1d and 1e

Laws providing for tax levies; appropriations for the current expenses of the state government and state institutions; and emergency laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety. Laws authorizing any classification of property for the purpose of levying different rates of taxation thereon or of authorizing the levy of any single tax on land or land values or land sites at a higher rate or by a different rule than is or may be applied to improvements thereon or to personal property.

Oklahoma

Const. Art. V, § 2

Laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety

Oregon

Const. Art. IV, § 1(3)

Acts that become effective earlier than 90 days after the end of the session

South Dakota

Const. Art. 3, § 1

Such laws as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, or laws necessary for the support of the state government and its existing public institutions

Utah

Const. Art. VI, § 1 and Utah Code § 20A-7-102

Laws passed by a two-thirds vote of the members of each house

Washington

Const. Art. II, § 1(b)

Such laws as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, or laws necessary for the support of the state government and its existing public institutions

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52(g) and Wyo. Stat. § 22-24-401

Laws related to dedications of revenue, appropriations, local or special legislation or laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety

All states require proponents of a popular referendum to follow guidelines. These guidelines may include an application process, registering a certain number of sponsors, submitting the full text and an explanation of the measure, affidavits, the office or offices to file with, registering a proponent or opposition organization, campaign finance issues and the process for withdrawing a referendum.

Application and Filing Requirements

Nine states require filing an initial number of signatures of sponsors as part of an application to circulate a popular referendum petition.

State

Citation

Number of Signatures to File

Alaska

AS § 15.45.260

At least 100

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1804

At least 20

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. § 11-901

5

Massachusetts

Const. Art. XLVII, Pt. VI, Subpt. III, § 3

10

North Dakota

Const. Art. III, § 2

At least 25

Ohio

O.R.C. § 3519.01(B)

1,000

Oregon

O.R.S. § 250.045

At least 1,000 and no more than 2,000

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-7-302

At least 5

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52(b) and Wyo. Stat. § 22-24-402

At least 100

Four states require a filing fee in statute.

State

Citation

Fee Amount

Alaska

AS § 15.45.260 and .270

$100; refunded if application is properly filed

California

Const. Art II, § 10 and Elec. Code § 9001

$2,000; refunded if measure qualifies for the ballot within two years

Washington

RCW § 43.07.120

Amount is specified by secretary of state by rule.

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 22-24-403

$500; deposited in general fund

Where to File Application

In 18 states, the application to circulate a popular referendum petition is filed with the chief election officer. This is generally the secretary of state, but in Alaska and Utah, the lieutenant governor is the state’s chief election officer. In California, it is filed with the attorney general, and Ohio requires a second filing with the attorney general in addition to the secretary of state. In Arkansas and Maryland, the application is filed with the state election board.

State

Citation

Where to File Application

Alaska

Const. Art. XI, § 2 and AS § 15.45.260

Lieutenant governor

Arizona

ARS § 19-111

Secretary of state

Arkansas

Const. Art. 5, § 1 and A.C.A. § 7-9-105

State Board of Election Commissioners

California

Elec. Code § 9001

Attorney general

Colorado

Const. Art. V, § 1(3)

Secretary of state

Idaho

IC § 34-1804

Secretary of state

Maine

21-A MRS § 11-901

Secretary of state

Maryland

Elec. Law § 6-103

State Board of Elections (Note: the board is empowered to adopt rules for filing applications, so presumably such applications are filed with the board.)

Massachusetts

Const. Art. XLVII, Pt. VI, Subpt. III, § 3

Secretary of the commonwealth

Michigan

MCL § 168.471

Secretary of state

Missouri

Const. Art. III, § 52(a) and Mo.Rev.Stat. § 116.332

Secretary of state

Montana

Const. Art. III, § 5(1) and MCA § 13-27-202

Secretary of state

Nebraska

NRS § 32-1405

Secretary of state

Nevada

Const. Art. 19, § 1 and NRS § 295.015

Secretary of state

New Mexico

NMSA § 1-17-8

Secretary of state

North Dakota

Const. Art. III, § 2

Secretary of state

Ohio

ORC § 3519.01(B) and ORC § 3519.01(B)

Secretary of state and attorney general

Oklahoma

Const. Art. V, § 3 and OK Stat. Tit. 34, § 1

Secretary of state

Oregon

Const. Art. IV, § 1(4) and ORS § 250.045

Secretary of state

South Dakota

SDCL § 2-1-3.1

Secretary of state

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-7-302

Lieutenant governor

Washington

Const. Art. II, § 1(b) and RCW § 29A.72.010

Secretary of state

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52(b) and Wyo. Stat. § 22-24-402

Secretary of state

Withdrawing a Popular Referendum

Seven states specify a process for withdrawing a popular referendum petition from circulation; the remaining states do not.

State

Citation

Petition Withdrawal Process

California

Elec. Code § 9604

Proponents may withdraw a measure at any time before filing the petition.

Missouri

Mo.Rev.Stat. § 116.115

The sponsor may file a written notice to withdraw the initiative with the secretary of state.

Nevada

NRS § 295.026

May be withdrawn by any of the people authorized to do so in the original application; withdrawal is made via a form prescribed by the secretary of state.

Ohio

O.R.C. § 3519.08

Any time more than 70 days before the election, a majority of the committee members may withdraw the petition by writing to the secretary of state.

Oklahoma

OK Stat. Tit. 34, § 8

Any time before the final submission of signatures, the delegated proponents may write to the secretary of state to withdraw.

Oregon

O.R.S. § 250.029

The chief petitioners may withdraw at any time before submitting the total number of signatures for verification. All of the chief petitioners must sign the form to withdraw.

South Dakota

SDCL § 2-1-2.3

May remove no later than 120 days prior to the next general election and at least two-thirds of petition sponsors must sign the form

The guidelines for the format and content of petitions vary by state. Most states require that the petition bear a title and/or summary of the proposed measure. Who writes this varies. Several states require two officials to write or review the title and/or summary, given the importance of these items for a ballot measure.

Petition sheets will always include space for signatures. Other requirements may include a legal warning, a statement that the petition circulator is paid, a summary of the proposed measure, the full text of the measure, the county or district where the signature was collected, a warning to signers and more.

Who Writes the Title and Summary for the Petition

Ten states have at least one government official draft or review the petition title and/or summary. Another 10 states allow petition sponsors to draft the title and/or summary, in some cases with approval by a state official. In some states, the official title of the legislation that is the subject of the referendum appears on the petition. Details on who or which offices writes the title and summary are listed below.

State

Citation

Who Drafts Title and/or Summary

Alaska

AS § 15.45.320

Lieutenant governor

Arizona

A.R.S. § 19-101(A)

Petition sponsor

Arkansas

Const. Art. 5, § 1 and A.C.A. § 7-9-107

Petition sponsor

California

Elec. Code § 9006

Attorney general

Colorado

C.R.S.A. § 1-40-106

A title board, which is comprised of the secretary of state, attorney general and director of the office of legislative legal services

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1809

Petition sponsors, with approval of attorney general

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. § 901(4)

Secretary of state

Maryland

Const. Art. XVI, § 4

Written by petitions sponsors, approved by attorney general

Massachusetts

Const. Art. LXXIV, § 2 and M.G.L.A. ch. 54, § 53

Secretary of state and attorney general

Michigan

MCL § 168.482b

Drafted by sponsors and approved by board of state canvassers

Missouri

Mo.Rev. Stat. § 116.030 and .180

Petition bears the title of the bill it seeks to repeal, and the secretary of state drafts the ballot title that appears on the petition.

Montana

MCA 13-27-312

Petition sponsors, approved or rewritten by attorney general

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. St. § 32-1405

Petition sponsors

Nevada

N.R.S. § 295.009

Petition sponsors

New Mexico

NMSA § 1-17-9

Petition sponsors, with approval by secretary of state

North Dakota

NDCC, 16.1-01-09

Drafted by secretary of state and approved by attorney general

Ohio

O.R.C. § 3519.01(B)

Petition sponsors, approved by attorney general

Oklahoma

OK Stat. tit. 34, § 1 and 3

The title of the bill being referred is included on the petition, and a “simple statement of the gist of the measure” is printed at the top of the petition (authorship is not specified).

Oregon

O.R.S. § 250.065(4)

Attorney general

South Dakota

SDCL § 2-1-3.1

Petition includes the title of the referred law.

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-7-303

The title of the act subject to the petition appears on the petition.

Washington

RCWA § 29A.72.060 and .120

Attorney general

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 22-24-407

Secretary of state

Statutes on Petition Contents

States include a range of requirements for petition format and contents including legal warnings, serial numbers provided by officials, notarization, date of the election the measure is to be voted upon, the measure’s full text, summary, the district or county where the signature was gathered, if the circulator is paid, fiscal analysis, affidavit of circulator, circulator information, rights of the potential signer, names of proponents or proponent organization and deadline for signatures. Statutes for petition contents for each state are:

  • Alaska: AS § 15.45.320 and .330
  • Arizona: Const. Art. 4, § 1, Pt. 1(9) and A.R.S. § 19-101(A)
  • Arkansas: A.C.A. § 7-9-105 and -106
  • California: Elec. Code § 9007 et. seq
  • Colorado: CRS § 1-40-105 and -110
  • Idaho: I.C. § 34-1801a, § 34-1804
  • Maine: 21-A MRSA § 901, 903
  • Maryland: Const. Art. XVI, § 4 and Elec. Law § 6-201 and -202
  • Massachusetts: Const. Art. XLVII, Pt. VI, Subpt. III, § 3 and MGL ch. 54, § 22A
  • Michigan: MM.C.L.A. 168.482
  • Missouri: Mo.Rev.Stat. § 116.030 and .050
  • Montana: MCA 13-27-201, -202 and -205
  • Nebraska: Const. Art. 3, §3; NRS § 32-1402 and -1403
  • Nevada: Const. Art. 19, § 3; N.R.S. § 295.009
  • New Mexico: NMSA § 1-17-2 and -5
  • North Dakota: NDCC § 16.1-01-09
  • Ohio: Const. Art. II, § 1g; O.R.C. § 3519.01 and 3519.05(C)
  • Oklahoma: OK Stat. tit. 34, § 1
  • Oregon: O.R.S. § 250.052; § 250.045
  • South Dakota: SDCL § 2-1-3
  • Utah: Utah Code § 20A-7-303
  • Washington: RCWA § 29A.72.100
  • Wyoming: Const. Art. III, § 52(c); Wyo Stat. § 22-24-407.

Individuals who physically gather signatures are referred to as circulators.

General Requirements

Every state includes requirements for the circulators operating in the state. Most common are requirements that they be at least 18 years of age, a citizen, a registered voter and/or a resident of the state.

State

18
Years Old

Citizen

Qualified to Register

State Resident

Registered

Voter

Not Allowed

Alaska

 

Yes

Yes

 

Yes

 

 

Arizona

 

 

 

 

Yes

County recorder or justice of the peace. Cannot have had a penalty for violation of title 16 (election laws) or title 19 (initiative and referendum laws) in the past five years, been convicted of treason or a felony and has not been restored to civil rights, or been convicted of any offense related to fraud, forgery or identity theft.

Arkansas

Yes

 

 

 

 

Cannot have been found guilty of a criminal felony or a violation of election laws, fraud, forgery or identification theft

California

Yes

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado

Yes

Yes

 

 

 

 

Idaho

Yes

 

 

Yes

 

 

Maine

 

 

 

Yes

Yes

 

Maryland

Yes

 

 

 

 

 

Massachusetts

 

 

 

 

 

No requirements specified

Michigan

Yes

Yes

 

 

 

 

Missouri

Yes

 

 

 

 

Cannot have been convicted of or pled guilty to crimes involving forgery

Montana

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

Nebraska

Yes

 

 

 

 

 

Nevada

Yes

 

 

 

 

 

New Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

No requirements specified

North Dakota

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

Ohio

Yes

 

 

Yes

 

 

Oklahoma

Yes

 

 

 

 

 

Oregon

 

 

 

 

 

Cannot in the last five years have been convicted of a crime involving fraud, forgery or identification theft or subject to a civil penalty due to an election offense.

South Dakota

Yes

 

 

Yes

 

No registered sex offender may circulate a petition unless the person is in the employ of and under the immediate supervision of another person and under circumstances which preclude any contact with children.

Utah

Yes

 

 

Yes

 

 

Washington

 

 

 

 

Yes

 

Wyoming

Yes

Yes

 

 

 

 

For citation information, please contact the NCSL Elections and Redistricting Team.

Four states require training for circulators:

  • Arkansas (A.C.A. § 7-9-601)
  • California (Elec. Code § 9607)
  • Colorado (C.R.S. § 1-40-112; § 1-40-135)
  • Oregon (OR Rev. Stat. § 250.048)

Affadavits or Sworn Oaths

Twenty-two states (all except Massachusetts) require circulators or proponents to sign affidavits or other sworn statements as to the accuracy or authenticity of the petitions.

  • Alaska (AS § 15.45.1360)
  • Arizona (Const. Art. 4, § 1, Pt. 1(9) and A.R.S. § 19-112)
  • Arkansas (Const. Art. 5 § 1)
  • California (Elections Code §§ 104, 9022)
  • Colorado (Const. Art. V, § 1(6) and C.R.S. § 1-40-111)
  • Idaho (I.C. § 34-1807)
  • Maine (21-A MRS § 902 and 903-A)
  • Maryland (Const. Art. XVI, § 4)
  • Michigan (M.C.L.A. 168.482, 168.544c)
  • Missouri (V.A.M.S. § 116.030)
  • Montana (MCA § 13-27-302)
  • Nebraska (Neb. Rev. St. § 32-630 and -1404)
  • Nevada (N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 3; Nev. Rev. Stat. § 295.0575)
  • New Mexico (NMSA § 1-17-5 and -6)
  • North Dakota (NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 3; NDCC, 16.1-01-09)
  • Ohio (Const, Art. II, § 1g and O.R.C. § 3501.38)
  • Oklahoma (OK Stat. Tit. 34, § 6)
  • Oregon (O.R.S. § 250.045(10))
  • South Dakota (DCL § 2-1-10)
  • Utah (U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-303(3))
  • Washington (RCWA 29A.72.030)
  • Wyoming (W.S.1977 § 22-24-411)

Paying Circulators

Some states place restrictions on how sponsors may pay petition circulators. Six states prohibit sponsors from paying circulators on a per-signature basis. Alaska prohibits payment in excess of $1 per signature. (Note:  This provision was found unconstitutional by a superior court judge, affirmed by the state supreme court in August 2020.) Bans on payment-per-signature have met with mixed results in the courts. Federal courts have invalidated payment-per-signature bans in Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio and Washington. However, the bans in North Dakota and Oregon were upheld by federal circuit courts.

Information on states that restrict payment to circulators are below.

State

Citation

Payment Restrictions

Alaska

AS § 15.45.340(b)

Circulators may not receive payment greater than $1 per signature. (Note: This provision was found unconstitutional in July 2020 by a Superior Court judge and was later affirmed Aug. 31, 2020 by the state supreme court.)

Arizona

ARS § 19-118.01

Payment on a per-signature basis prohibited

Montana

MCA § 13-27-102

Payment on a per-signature basis prohibited

North Dakota

ND Cent. Code § 16.1-01-12(1)(j)

Payment on a per-signature basis prohibited

Oregon

Const. Art. IV, § 1b

Payment on a per-signature basis prohibited

South Dakota

SDCL § 12-13-28

Payment on a per-signature basis prohibited; bonuses based on reliability, longevity and productivity are permitted.

Utah Utah Code 20A-7-104 Payment on a per-signature basis prohibited.

To place a popular referendum on the ballot, sponsors must gather signatures on petitions. The states vary in the number and the baseline used to determine the number of signatures required. Some of the states also require signatures to be gathered from across the state, although some of these requirements have been found to be unconstitutional. Most states also include requirements for verifying the authenticity of signatures.

Montana, Nebraska and New Mexico have two signature thresholds: The first is sufficient to trigger a referendum vote, and the second, higher amount triggers a referendum vote and also suspends operation of the law in question until the election.

Number of Signatures Required

State

Citation

Signatures Required

Alaska

AS § 15.45.370(2)(A)

10% of total votes cast in previous general election

Arizona

Const. Art. 4, §1, Pt. 1(3) and (7)

5% of votes cast for all candidates for governor in previous election

Arkansas

Const. Art. 5, § 1

6% of total votes cast for the office of governor in the last general election

California

Const. Art. 2, § 9(b)

5% of votes cast for all candidates for governor in the last gubernatorial election

Colorado

C.R.S.A. Const. Art. 5, § 1(3)

5% of votes cast for secretary of state in last election

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1805

6% of the qualified electors at the time of the last general election

Maine

Const. Art. IV, pt. 3, § 17(1))

10% of the total votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election

Maryland

Const. Art. XVI, § 3

3% of the votes cast for governor at the preceding biennial state election

Massachusetts

Const. Art. LXXXI, § 4

2% of the entire votes cast for governor at the preceding biennial state election

Michigan

Const. Art. II, § 9 and MCL § 168.471

5% of total votes cast for all candidates for governor in the last general election

Missouri

Const. Art. III, § 52(a) and 53

5% of the total vote cast for governor at the last election

Montana

Const. Art. III, § 5(1) and 5(2)

5% of the votes cast for governor at the preceding election; 15% of the votes cast for governor in the preceding election in a majority of legislative districts is required to suspend operation of an act pending the election.

Nebraska

Const. Art. III, § 3 and 4

5% of the whole number of votes cast for governor in the last election. 10% is require to suspend the law prior to the vote.

Nevada

Const. Art. 19, § 1 and NRS § 293.127563

10% of the votes cast in last general election

New Mexico

Const. Art. IV, § 1

10% of the total number of votes cast in the last general election, or 25% to suspend operation of the act until the election

North Dakota*

Const. Art. III, § 4

2% of the residential population according to the last federal decennial census

Ohio

Const. Art. II, § 1c and 1g

6% of the total votes cast for the office of governor in the last election

Oklahoma

Const. Art. V, § 2

5% of votes cast for governor in the last election

Oregon

Const. Art. IV, § 1(3)

4% of the votes cast for all candidates for governor at the last election

South Dakota

Const. Art. 3, § 1 and SDCL § 2-1-5

5% of the total votes cast for governor at the last election

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-7-301

8% of the active voters in the state on Jan. 1 following the last regular general election

Washington

Const. Art. II, § 1(b) and RCW § 29A.72.150

4% of the votes cast for the office of governor at the last election

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52

15% of the total ballots cast in the previous general election

* See also: 2011 N.D. Op.Atty.Gen. No. L-04, 2011 WL 1130010 (July 5, 2011).

Geographic Distribution Requirements

Thirteen of the 23 popular referendum states have geographic distribution requirements for petition signatures. These provisions stipulate that petition signatures must be gathered from multiple parts of the state. They are an effort to ensure that petition signers do not represent just the interests of heavily populated areas. Some of these geographic distribution requirements have been found to be unconstitutional, largely on “one person, one vote” grounds. States with geographic requirements that use entities that are unequal in population, such as counties or even state legislative districts, are more likely to have the requirement challenged in court. Geographic requirements based on U.S. House districts, which must be highly equal in population, have been ruled constitutional.  

State

Citation

Geographic Requirement

Alaska

AS § 15.45.350(2)

Signers must be residents in at least three-fourths of the state house districts, and signatures in each house district must equal in number at least 7% of those who voted in the preceding general election

Arkansas

Ark. Const. Art. V, § 1

3% of total votes cast for the office of governor from at least 15 counties

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1805

6% of the qualified electors at the time of the last general election in at least 18 legislative districts. In 2021, Idaho passed SB 1110, which would have required signatures from 6% of the qualified electors at the time of the last general election in all 35 legislative districts, but in August 2021, the Idaho Supreme Court blocked implementation of that law.

Maryland

Const. Art. XVI, § 3

Not more than half of signers may be residents of Baltimore City or of one county.

Massachusetts

Const. Amend. Art. 48, Gen. Prov., Pt. 2

No more than one-quarter of signatures may come from a single county

Missouri

Const. Art. III,  § 52(a)

5% in each of two-thirds of the congressional districts

Montana

Const. Art. III, § 5(1)

5% of the vote cast for governor at the preceding election from at least one-third of legislative districts

Nebraska

Neb. Const. Art. III, § 3; Bernbeck v. Gale, 59 F.Supp.3d 949 (2014); 829 F.3d 643, United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

A requirement for 5% of the registered voters in two-fifths of the counties each was held unconstitutional, but that case was vacated because of an issue of standing.

Nevada

N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 2; American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada v. Loma (2006); N.R.S. 295.012; 293.127563; Angle v. Miller, 2010, 722 F.Supp.2d 1206

The required signatures must be distributed equally among all of the petition districts (NRS § 295.012 and NRS § 293.127563).

New Mexico

Const. Art. IV, § 1

10% of the votes cast in the last general election in each of three-fourths of the counties, or 25% to suspend operation of the act until the operation

Ohio

OH Const. Art. II, § 1g

3% of the votes cast for the office of governor in the last election in half of the counties

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-7-301(1)

From at least 15 of 29 senate districts, signatures equal to 8% of the number of active voters in the county on Jan. 1 following the last regular general election.

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52(c)(ii)

15% of the total vote cast in the last election in at least of two-thirds of the counties

Verification

States vary in how they verify the collected signatures. Some states do not specify a method for verification. A handful require that each signature be individually verified, including Nebraska (NRS § 32-1409), Ohio (ORC § 3519.15), Oklahoma (OK Stat. Tit. 34, § 6.1) and Utah (Utah Code § 20A-7-306(3) and -306.3).

The following 11 states use a statistical sampling method to determine if petitions have enough valid signatures:

  • Arizona (A.R.S. § 19-121.01)
  • California (Elec. Code § 9031)
  • Colorado (C.R.S. § 1-40-116)
  • Maryland (Elec. Law § 6-207)
  • Missouri (Mo.Rev.Stat. § 116.130)
  • Montana (MCA 13-27-303)
  • Nevada (Const. Art. 19, § 3)
  • North Dakota (ND Cent. Code § 16.1-01-10)
  • Oregon (ORS § 250.105)
  • South Dakota (SDCL § 2-1-16)
  • Washington (RCW § 29A.72.230)

Withdrawal of a Signature

Eleven of the popular referendum states specify a procedure by which a person may withdraw their signature from a petition. In most states, this must be done on or before the date the petition is submitted for verification and is done by filing a form with election officials.

  • Alaska (AS § 15.45.350)
  • Arizona (ARS § 19-113)
  • California (Elec. Code § 103 and 9602)
  • Colorado (CRS § 1-40-109(3))
  • Idaho (IC § 34-1803B)
  • Maryland (Elec. Law § 6-203(c))
  • Missouri (Mo.Rev.Stat. § 116.110)
  • Montana (MCA  § 13-27-301(3))
  • Nevada (NRS § 295.055)
  • Ohio (ORC §  3501.38(H))
  • Utah (Utah Code § 20A-7-305)

The timelines for signature gathering for popular referenda differ significantly from those for initiatives. First, they tend to be much shorter—an average of 90 days. Also, instead of being based on the date of the election, deadlines for filing popular referendum petitions are generally based either on the day the legislature adjourns or on the date the bill that is the subject of the referendum was signed by the governor. Seven states (Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio and Oregon) allow sponsors extra time to gather additional signatures if the petitions submitted are insufficient.

Timeline and Submission Deadlines for Collecting Signatures

State

Citation

Timeline

Alaska

AS § 15.45.370(2) and .400

Petitions must be filed within 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session at which the act was passed. If petitions are insufficient, sponsors may circulate and file a supplementary petition within 10 days of the date that notice was given if 90 days have not expired after the adjournment of the legislative session at which the act was passed.

Arizona

Const. Art. IV, § 1

Petitions must be filed by 5 p.m. on the 90th day after the applicable legislative session adjourns sine die.

Arkansas

Const. Art. 5, § 1; A.C.A. § 7-9-111

Petitions must be filed 90 days after the final adjournment of the session in which it was passed, except when a recess or adjournment shall be taken temporarily for a longer period than 90 days, in which case such petition shall be filed not later than 90 days after such recess or temporary adjournment. If a petition is declared insufficient but has at least 75% of the required signatures in total and in at least 15 counties, sponsors may have an additional 30 days to gather more signatures.

California

Const. Art. II, § 9(b) and Elec. Code § 9014

Circulation may begin once the attorney general has drafted a circulating title and summary; petition must be submitted within 90 days after the enactment date of the statute.

Colorado

Colo. Const. art. V, § 1(3) and CRS § 1-40-117

Petitions must be submitted not more than 90 days after the final adjournment of the session of the general assembly that passed the bill on which the referendum is demanded. There is a 15-day cure period after a statement of insufficiency is issued by the secretary of state, and proponents may deliver additional signatures during this time.

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1803

Petitions must be filed not more than 60 days after the final adjournment of the legislative session which passed the bill on which the referendum is demanded.

Maine

Const. Art. IV, pt. 3, § 17(1)

Petitions must be submitted by 5 p.m. on or before the 90th day after the recess of the legislature, or if the 90th day is a weekend or holiday, by 5 p.m. on the preceding day  that is not a weekend or holiday.

Maryland

Const. Art. XVI, § 2, 3(b) and 3(d)

Petitions may be signed at any time after an act is passed and must be submitted by June 1. For an act passed less than 45 days before June 1, the first third of the required number of signatures must be submitted within 30 days of the act’s passage, and the time for filing the additional required signatures is extended another 30 days.

Massachusetts

Const. Art. LXXXI, § 4

Petitions must be submitted not more than 90 days after the law which is the subject of the petition has become law.

Michigan

Const. Art. II, § 9 and Mich. Comp. Laws § 168.471

Petitions must be submitted within 90 days following the final adjournment of the legislative session at which the law was enacted.

Missouri

Const. Art. III, § 52(a) and Mo.Rev.Stat. § 116.100

Petitions must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. 90 days after the final adjournment of the legislative session.

Montana

Const. Art. III, § 5(1) and MCA § 13-27-301

No later than six months after the adjournment of the legislature which passed the act. This deadline pertains to when counties must submit petitions with verified signatures to the secretary of state. Petitions must be submitted to counties for verification four weeks before this deadline.

Nebraska

Const. Art. III, § 3 and NRS § 32-1407

Petitions must be filed within 90 days after the legislative session at which the law was passed adjourns either sine die or for more than 90 days.

Nevada

Const. Art. 19, § 1 and NRS § 295.045 and .056

Petition must be filed with county officials not later than 15 days following the primary election. Final deadline is not less than 120 days before the next general election.

New Mexico

Const. Art. IV, § 1 and NMSA § 1-17-12

Petitions must be submitted not less than four months prior to the next general election. If petition is insufficient, sponsors have 30 days to solicit and obtain additional signatures, submit proof to show that rejected signatures are valid or make the petition more definite and certain.

North Dakota

Const. Art. III, § 5 and 6; NDCC § 16.1-01-09(7)

Petitions must be submitted by midnight within 90 days of the date the legislation was signed by the governor and filed with the secretary of state. If a petition is insufficient, a period of 20 days is allowed for correction.

Ohio

Const. Art. II, § 1c and 1g; ORC § 3519.16(F)

Petitions must be submitted within 90 days after the law is filed by the governor in the office of the secretary of state. If signatures are determined to be insufficient, an additional 10 days is allowed to gather more signatures.

Oklahoma

Const. Art. V, § 3 and OK Stat. Tit. 34, § 1, § 4 and § 8

Signature gathering begins on a date specified by the secretary of state and cannot be less than 15 or more than 30 days from the date when all appeals and rehearings have been resolved or have expired. Petitions must be submitted by 5 p.m. not more than 90 days after final adjournment of the legislative session at which the bill was passed.

Oregon

Const. Art. IV, § 1(3) and ORS § 250.105

Petitions must be submitted not more than 90 days after the end of the session at which the act was passed. Petitions carried by paid circulators must be filed on a monthly basis. If the petitions were filed at least 165 days before the election and the submission deadline has not passed, and the signatures are deemed insufficient, petitioners may submit more signatures.

South Dakota

SDCL § 2-1-3.1

Petitions must be submitted within 90 days of the adjournment of the legislature which passed the law.

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-7-306(1)

Petitions must be submitted either before 5 p.m. 30 days after the first individual signs the petition or 40 days after the legislative session ends, whichever is earlier.

Washington

Const. Art. II, § 1(d) and RCW § 29A.72.030 and .160

Petitions must be submitted not later than 90 days after the final adjournment of the legislature; if that deadline falls on a Saturday, the office of the secretary of state must be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m..

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52(e) and Wyo. Stat. § 22-24-412

Within 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session at which it was passed

All 23 popular referendum states require political organizations that support or oppose a ballot measure, often considered political action committees, to follow state campaign finance laws. These include filing reports and designating organization officers. The following is not a legal, comprehensive list of every campaign finance law governing the referendum process in each state but is rather a basic summary and starting guide for where to find relevant statutes.

State

Citation

Campaign Finance Requirements

Alaska

AS § 15.13.040(b), 15.13.050, 15.13.110

Registration is required before making an expenditure for or against a ballot measure. A group’s name must include the title or common name of the measure if the group intends to direct more than 50% of its contributions or expenditures toward a single measure. Groups must file reports detailing contributions received in excess of $100 in the aggregate and all other contributions and expenditures made by the group. Reports are due 30 days before the election, one week before the election, 105 days after a special election and on February 15 for all contributions and expenditures not already reported.

Arizona

ARS § 19-905(C), 19-925, 19-206, 19-207

Must file statement of organization as a PAC upon receiving contributions or making expenditures in any combination of at least $1,000 in connection with an election. Disclosure of advertisements is required. Reports of contributions and expenditures are due quarterly in calendar years without elections. In calendar quarters with an election, additional reports are due 10 days before the election and 15 days after the election.

Arkansas

ACA § 9-7-402, 7-9-404

A ballot question committee includes any person, located within or outside Arkansas, who receives contributions or makes expenditures for the purpose of expressly advocating the qualification, disqualification, passage or defeat of any ballot measure. A person also qualifies as a ballot measure committee if 2% or more of its annual revenues, operating expenses or funds are used to make contributions to another ballot measure committee which exceed $10,000 in value. Sponsor or group who receives contributions or spends over $500 for the passage or defeat of the referendum must file a statement of organization as a ballot question committee. Must file monthly financial reports with the Ethics Commission.

California

Govt. Code § 82013, 84101, 84107, 84200, 84200.8, 84202.3 and Elec. Code § 107, 18680

A committee must be formed upon the occurrence of any of the following in a calendar year: receiving $2,000 or more in contributions, , making independent expenditures totaling $1,000 or more or making contributions totaling $10,000 or more. A statement of organization is required. Must include the language “a committee for/against Proposition __” in any reference to the committee required by law. Semiannual statements of contributions and expenditures are due July 31 and January 31. Pre-election statements must be filed 40 and 12 days before the election. Additional statements for ballot measure committees are due April 30 and October 31. Allowable uses of funds by ballot measure committees are specified at Elec. Code § 18680. Committee must create a "top funders sheet" that is included as part of the petition.

Colorado

CRS § 1-40-121, 1-40-135(2), 1-45-108

Must obtain a petition entity license before circulating petitions or paying circulators. Must report contributions received if more than$20 and all expenditures quarterly in off-election years, on the first Monday in May and every two weeks thereafter before the primary election, on the first day of each month beginning with the sixth full month before a major election, on the first Monday in September and on each Monday every two weeks thereafter before the major election, and 30 days after the major election. Designated representatives must, within 10 days of filing a completed petition, file a report containing information about paid circulators and any other expenditures made in relation to circulating petitions.

Idaho

IC § 67-6603, 67-6607, 67-6612

A political committee must have a treasurer before receiving contributions or making expenditures. Political committees must file reports of contributions and expenditures. Reports are monthly during election years and annually in nonelection years. Contributions of $1,000 or more must be reported within 48 hours after receipt. Proponents must file reports of payments made to signature gatherers.

Maine

21-A MRSA § 1051 et. seq

Committees in support or opposition to a ballot measure are treated the same as political action committees. Must file quarterly reports. Considered a committee if individual raises or spends more than $5,000. Any contribution of $500 or more in the last 13 days before an election is to be reported within 24 hours. Must report name and address of donors of $50 or more. Also requires full disclosure of campaign staffers.

Maryland

Elec. Law § 13-202, 13-208, 13-309

All campaign finance activity must be conducted through a campaign finance entity. Petition sponsors may not gather signatures without first forming a ballot issue committee. See Elec. Code § 13-208 for statement of organization. Ballot issue committees must file reports of contributions and expenditures on or before the fourth and second Friday immediately preceding a general election and on or before the second Tuesday after a general election. Additional reports are due on the third Wednesday in January of each year the committee continues in existence. A petition's sponsor must file a campaign finance report at the time a petition is filed under § 6-205, and a committee opposing a ballot measure must file a campaign finance report within 10 business days after the petition is filed under § 6-205.

Massachusetts

MGL ch. 55, § 22

Political committee must file a statement of organization. Disclosure reports must be filed 60 days before the election, on the fifth and 20th day of each month until the election, the 20th day of November after the election and the 20th of January each year.

Michigan

MCL § 169.224, MCL § 169.234

A committee must file a statement of organization within 10 days of its organization; must include a brief statement identifying the substance of each ballot question supported or opposed by the committee. Campaign statements must be filed by the 11th day before the election, the 30th day after the election, April 25 and July 25 every year and October 25 in odd-numbered years. A statement must be filed by a ballot issue committee supporting or opposing a measure not more than 35 days after the petition is filed.

Missouri

Mo.Rev.Stat. § 130.021, 130.046

Must file a statement of organization within 20 days of becoming a committee. Reports of contributions and expenditures must be filed no later than the eighth day before the election, the 30th day after an election and the 15th day following the close of each calendar quarter. Ballot measure committees must also provide an initial disclosure report 15 days after the committee begins raising or spending money, with subsequent quarterly reports until the pre-election report is due. A report is also due no later than the 15th day after the deadline for filing the referendum petition.

Montana

MCA § 13-27-112, 13-37-226

A person, committee or political party that pays signature gatherers is required to file the same financial disclosures required under Title 13, Chapter 37. Reports of expenditures and contributions received are required quarterly in nonelection years and monthly, March through November, in election years. Reports of contributions and expenditures of $500 or more must be made within two days between the 25th day of the month before an election and the day of the election.

Nebraska

NRS § 32-1406, 49-1401

There is a principal circulator whose information is publicly available upon request. Persons involved in a statewide initiative or referendum process are subject to the provisions of the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act. Records must be kept of contributions and expenditures. If raising more than $5,000 in a year, the entity must register as a ballot question committee. When formed as a ballot question committee, it must file campaign statements and other forms with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, all on a set timeline.

Nevada

NRS § 294A.220, 294A.230

In order to receive contributions or make expenditures in excess of $1,500 in a calendar year, groups must form a committee for political action and register with the secretary of state. The committee must report on Jan. 15 of an election year all expenditures in excess of $1,000 or cumulative expenditures to one recipient in excess of $1,000 in the previous calendar year. Same must also be reported quarterly on April 15, July 15, Oct. 15 and Jan.15.

New Mexico

NMSA § 1-19-26.1, 1-19-28

Political committees must file a statement of organization. Reports of contributions and expenditures are due by the 15th of every April and October. In election years, instead of biannual reports, reports are due no later than the second Monday in April, May, September and October, and no later than the Thursday before an election. Contributions greater than $3,000 that are received after filing the pre-election report must be reported within 24 hours of receipt. A post-election report is due by Jan. 7.

North Dakota

NDCC 16.1-01-12(1)(j), 16.1-08.1-02, 16.1-08-03

Sponsoring committee must file a statement of renumeration prior to circulating signatures if circulators will be paid. The following contribution and expenditure statements must be electronically filed: drafting statement, filed at the time approval is requested to circulate petition; circulating statement, filed at the time petitions are submitted for signature verification; pre-election statement, filed between the 39th and 31st day prior to the election; and year-end statement, filed by Jan. 31 of the year following the election.

Ohio

ORC § 3517.10

Prior to receiving a contribution or making an expenditure, a campaign must designate a treasurer by filing with the secretary of state. Reports of contributions and expenditures are due on the 12th day before an election, the 38th day after an election and the last business day of January and July of every year.

Oklahoma

Ethics Commission rules 2.79, 2.80, 2.103, 2.109, 2.122

A committee formed to support or oppose a ballot measure must register by filing a statement of organization with the Ethics Commission when its contributions or expenditures exceed $1,000. Reports of contributions and expenditures are due on a quarterly basis. Reports of State Question Communications are required if aggregate expenses for a communication made at least 15 days before the election equal to exceed $5,000. During the 14 days before the election, reports of any communication exceeding $5,000 in the aggregate are due within one business day.

Oregon

ORS § 260.035, 260.057

Within three days of making an expenditure or receiving a contribution, a political committee must file a statement of organization and designate a treasurer. Electronic reports of contributions and expenditures must be filed according to a specified schedule.

South Dakota

SDCL § 12-27-3, 12-27-18.2, 12-27-22

Statement of organization must be filed not later than 15 days after the committee made or received contributions or paid expenses in excess of $500. If such activity occurs within 30 days of an election, a statement must be filed within 48 hours. Contributions from nonresidents of the state, political committees organized outside the state or an entity that is not filed with the secretary of state for four years preceding the contribution are prohibited. Ballot measure committees must file pre-primary, pre-general, year-end and, if applicable, supplemental reports in even-numbered years. In odd-numbered years, year-end reports are required.

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-11-801 and 20A-11-802

Must file a statement of organization as a political issues committee no later than seven days after receiving contributions or making expenditures totaling at least $750, and annually by 5 p.m. on Jan.  10 thereafter, unless it has filed a notice of dissolution. Statements of contributions and expenditures must be filed on Jan. 10, seven days before political party conventions, seven days before the primary, three days before public hearings, on Sept.  30 and seven days before the general election.

Washington

RCW § 42.17A.205, 42.17A.235, 42.17A.250, 42.17A.260, 42.17A.265

Must file a statement of organization as a political committee within two weeks of organizing or within two weeks of the date the first contribution or expenditure is expected. Reports of contributions and expenditures are due on the 21st and seventh days immediately preceding an election and the 10th day of the first full month after an election. Monthly reports are due on the 10th for any preceding month in which total contributions received or total expenditures made exceed $200. Out-of-state committees that make expenditures supporting or opposing ballot propositions in Washington are required to file reports. Sponsors of advertising must file a report within 24 hours of the time the advertisement is published, mailed or otherwise revealed to the public if the advertisement qualifies as an independent expenditure or has a fair market value or actual cost of $1,000 or more. Contributions of $1,000 or more from a single contributor received during the 21 days prior to the election must be reported.

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 22-25-101, 22-25-106

Must file a statement of formation as a political action committee within 10 days of formation. Reports of contributions received and expenditures made must be filed at least seven days before any primary, special or general election.

States decide how the ballot title and summary are created and any requirements for the wording of the measure on the ballot.  

Ballot Title and Summary

State

Citation

Who Titles and Summarizes for Ballot

Alaska

Const. Art. XI, § 5 and AS § 15.45.410

Lieutenant governor

Arizona

A.R.S. § 19-125

The official title of the bill that is subject to the referendum appears on the ballot. The descriptive title, which is printed below the official title on the ballot, is written by the secretary of state with the approval of the attorney general.

Arkansas

A.C.A. § 7-9-111

The same ballot title and popular name that appeared on petitions (drafted by sponsors) is submitted by the secretary of state to the board of canvassers for certification.

California

Elec. Code § 9050

Attorney general

Colorado

C.R.S.A. § 1-40-106

The same title drafted by the title board in the pre-qualification is used on the ballot.

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1810(1)(b)

Prepared jointly by the secretary of state and attorney general

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. Ch. 11, § 905-A and 906

Secretary of state

Maryland

Const. Art. XVI, § 5(b) and Elec. Law § 7-103(c)

Full text is printed on ballot if it is 200 words or less; if it is more than 200 words, the secretary of state drafts a title. The title may be different from the legislative title, but in all cases the legislative title shall be sufficient.

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. Ch. 54 § 53

Secretary of the commonwealth and attorney general jointly

Michigan

M.C.L.A. § 168.32(2)

Director of elections, with approval of the state board of canvassers, drafts a statement of purpose of not more than 100 words for the ballot.

Missouri

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 116.025

Secretary of state and approved by attorney general

Montana

MCA § 13-27-312

A statement of purpose and implication, not to exceed 135 words, and yes-no statements are drafted by petitioners and reviewed and approved by the attorney general. These serve as the ballot title.

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. St. § 32-1410

Attorney general

Nevada

N.R.S. § 295.045

The title of the statute or resolution that is the subject of the referendum is printed on the ballot.

New Mexico

NMSA § 1-17-9

Proponents submit a suggested popular name, to be approved or disapproved by the secretary of state.

North Dakota

NDCC § 16.1-01-09

Unclear; it seems likely that the same statement drafted by the secretary of state and approved by the attorney general for the petition also appears on the ballot, but this is not specified.

Ohio

O.R.C. § 3519.21

Secretary of state

Oklahoma

34 OK Stat. § 8 and 9

Proponents draft and submit a ballot title in their original filing. The secretary of state submits the title to the attorney general for approval when signed petitions are filed for verification. The attorney general may approve the title or revise as necessary to comply with the law.

Oregon

O.R.S. § 250.065

Attorney general

South Dakota

SDCL § 12-13-25.1

Unclear; the statute describing the titling process by the attorney general specifically mentions initiative measures and constitutional initiatives but does not mention popular referenda.

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-7-308

Lieutenant governor forwards petitions that are qualified for the ballot to the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, which drafts an impartial title of not more than 100 words summarizing the contents of the proposal. The ballot title may be distinct from the title of the law that is the subject of the petition.

Washington

RCWA 29A.72.060

Attorney general

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52(e)

Secretary of state

Wording of Ballot Question and Effect of "Yes" Vote

States vary in the way popular referendum questions are posed. In some states, the question is worded such that a “yes” vote is in favor of the law subject to referendum, while in others, a “yes” vote is in favor of repealing the law that is the subject of the referendum.

State

Citation

Wording of Ballot Question and Effect of “Yes” Vote

Alaska

AS § 15.45.410(b)

A “yes” vote rejects the referred act.

Arizona

A.R.S. § 19-125(D)

A “yes” vote approves the referred act.

Arkansas

No statute found; used Referred Act 1 (Nov. 1994) as a reference

A “yes” vote approves the referred act.

California

No statute found; see www.sos.ca.gov/

elections/ballot-

measures/

referendum

A “yes” vote approves the referred act, and a “no” vote rejects it.

Colorado

No statute found; used Prop. 113 (Nov. 2020) as a reference

A “yes” vote approves the referred act.

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1810(1)(b)

The ballot must include a clear and concise statement as to the effect of a “yes” or “no” vote.

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. Ch. 11, § 906(6)(B)

The secretary of state must write the question in a clear, concise and direct manner that describes the subject matter of the people’s veto or direct initiative as simply as is possible (MRS tit. 21-A, ch. 11 § 906(6)(B)).

Maryland

Const. Art. XVI, § 5(b)

Upon each of the ballots, following the ballot title or text, the words “For the referred law” and “Against the referred law,” must appear.

Massachusetts

Const. Art. XLVII, Pt. VI

This wording must be used: “Shall a law (here insert description, and state, in distinctive type, whether approved or disapproved by the general court and by what vote thereon) be approved?”

Michigan

No statute found; see Michigan Manual 2009-2010, p. IX-2

A “yes” vote approves the referred act.

Missouri

Mo.Rev. Stat. § 116.025

Secretary of state drafts ballot language that fairly and accurately explains what a vote for and what a vote against the measure represent; approved by attorney general.

Montana

No statute found; used IR 124 (Nov. 2012) as a reference

A “yes” vote approves the referred act.

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. St. § 32-1410(2)

The ballot title must be worded so that those in favor of retaining the measure shall vote “retain,” and those opposing the measure shall vote “repeal.”

Nevada

N.R.S. § 295.045

The question printed on the ballot must be: “Shall the statute (setting out its title) be approved?”

New Mexico

1950 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 50-5315

The ballot for voting on a referred act should bear the following instructions at the top: “Instructions to voters. If you desire to vote for the retention of the act, mark X in square opposite the words 'FOR APPROVAL OF THE ACT.' If you desire to vote against the retention of the act, mark X in the square opposite the words 'FOR REJECTION OF THE ACT.'”

North Dakota

No statute found; used Referendum Measure 4 (2012 primary) as a reference

A “yes” vote approves the referred act.

Ohio

No statute found; used Issue 2 (Nov. 2011) as a reference

A “yes” vote approves the referred act.

Oklahoma

34 OK Stat § 1

Ballot language reads as follows: “Shall the following bill of the legislature ... be approved?”

Oregon

No statute found; used Measure 101 (Nov. 2018) as a reference

A “yes” vote approves the referred act.

South Dakota

No statute found; used Referred Laws 19 and 20 (Nov. 2016) as reference

A “yes” vote approves the referred act.

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-7-309

A voter desiring to vote in favor of the law that is the subject of the referendum shall mark the square adjacent to the word "For" (Utah Code § 20A-7-309).

Washington

RCW § 29A.72.050(5)

The wording on the ballot must read: The legislature passed . . . Bill No. . . . concerning (statement of subject) and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill. This bill would (concise description). Should this bill be: Approved . . . Rejected . . . ”

Wyoming

No statute found; used Term Limits Referendum (Nov. 1996) as a reference.

A “yes” vote rejects the referred act.

The requirements for an election with statewide ballot measures vary by state. States also decide which election a ballot measure will be voted on and any time restrictions before a measure is placed on a ballot. In some states, the legislature or governor may order a special election for a measure.

Which Election and Time Restrictions (if any)

In all states, a qualified popular referendum may be placed on the ballot in a statewide general election. Nine states (Arkansas, California, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and Washington) also allow referenda on special election ballots. Six states (California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio and Wyoming) require a certain number of days, ranging from 30 to 180, to pass between the date the petition qualifies and the election.

State

Citation

Election

Alaska

Const. Art. XI, § 5

The first statewide election held more than 180 days after adjournment of the session during which the act was passed

Arizona

Const. Art. IV, § 1(10)

Next regular general election

Arkansas

Const. Art. V § 1

Regular election (state, congressional or municipal) or a special election called by proper official or when 15% of voters petition for one

California

Const. Art. II, § 9(c)

Next general election at least 31 days after the measure qualifies or at a special statewide election held prior to that general election; the governor may call a special statewide election for the measure.

Colorado

Const. Art. V, § 1(4)(a)

Biennial regular general election

Idaho

I. C. § 34-1803

Biennial regular election

Maine

Const. Art. IV, Pt. 3, § 17(3)

Next statewide or general election, whichever comes first that is not less than 60 days after the petition is submitted

Maryland

Const. Art. XVI, § 2

At the next ensuing election held throughout the state for members of the U.S. House of Representatives

Massachusetts

Const. Art. LXXXI, § 4

Next state election, if 60 days intervene between the date when such petition is filed and the date for holding such state election; if that is less than 60 days, then the law must be submitted to the people at the next state election, unless it is repealed before then.

Michigan

Const. Art. II, § 9

Next general election

Missouri

Const. Art. III, § 52(b)

General election, or at a special election ordered by the general assembly

Montana

Const. Art. III, § 6

General election unless the legislature orders a special election.

Nebraska

Const. Art. III, § 3, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1411

First general election to be held not less than 30 days after the filing of the petition.

Nevada

Const. Art. 19, § 1

Next succeeding election at which the question may be voted upon by the voters of the entire state.

New Mexico

Const. Art. IV, § 1

Next general election

North Dakota

Const. Art. III, § 5

Statewide election or a special election called by the governor

Ohio

Const. Art. II, § 1c

Next regular or general election that occurs 125 days after filing

Oklahoma

Const. Art. V, § 3 and OK Stat. Tit. 34, § 25

Next statewide election unless a special election is called by the legislature or the governor for the express purpose of considering a referendum

Oregon

Const. Art. IV, § 1(4)

Regular election unless otherwise ordered by the legislative assembly

South Dakota

SDCL § 2-1-17

General election

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-7-301(1)

Next regular general election or a special election called by the lieutenant governor

Washington

Const. Art. II, § 1(d) and RCW § 29A.72.030

Next succeeding general election, unless the legislature orders a special election

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52(e) and Wyo. Stat. § 22-24-416

First statewide election held more than 180 days after adjournment of the legislative session

Passage Requirements

All 23 popular referendum states require a simple majority to pass a popular referendum. Five states impose an additional threshold. These states require that in addition to receiving a majority of the votes cast on the measure, those votes must be equal to or more than a specified percentage of the total votes cast in the election. This ensures that measures are not passed by a small minority of voters, either because of a low turnout election or ballot-drop off (where voters only vote partway through a ballot). The details for those states are below:

  • Massachusetts: at least 30% (Const. Art. LXXXI, § 4).
  • Nebraska: not less than 35% (Const. Art. III, § 4).
  • New Mexico: at least 40% (Const. Art. IV, § 1).
  • Washington: equal to one-third (Const. Art. II, § 1(d)).
  • Wyoming: in excess of 50% (Const. Art. 3, § 52(f)).

Repeal or Change Restrictions

Five states limit the legislature’s ability to amend or repeal a law after it has been approved by voters. Michigan’s constitution explicitly grants the legislature the power to amend laws approved by the people by referendum at any time (Const. Art. II, § 9).

State

Citation

Repeal and Amendment Restrictions

Arizona

A.R.S. Const. Art. 4 § 1, Part 1(6B), (6C) and (6D)

The legislature shall not have the power to repeal a referendum measure passed by a majority of the voters. Amending or diverting funds from a referendum measure requires a three-fourths vote of the members of each house of the legislature, and the amendment must further the purposes of the measure.

Arkansas

Arkansas Const. Art. 5 § 1

Two-thirds vote to amend or repeal

Nevada

NV Secretary of State

Can only be changed by a vote of the people

North Dakota

NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 8

Two-thirds vote (or majority after seven years)

Washington

Const. Art. 2, § 1

Two-thirds vote (or majority after two years)

Select a State with Citizen Initiatives to Learn More

Specific Types

States with citizen initiatives (24): Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

States may have the direct initiative, the indirect initiative or the choice of either.

In the indirect initiative process, a proposed initiative is referred to the legislature after proponents have gathered the required number of signatures. The legislature has the option to enact, defeat or amend the measure. Depending on the legislature's action, the proponents may continue to pursue placement on the ballot for a popular vote. In three states (Massachusetts, Ohio and Utah), proponents must gather additional signatures to place the measure on the ballot; in the others, it automatically goes to the ballot.

For direct initiatives, proponents collect signatures and place the measure directly on the ballot once it’s certified and verified.

States with direct initiatives (19): Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington

States with indirect initiatives (10): Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

States with popular referendums (23): Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington Wyoming.

Year Established:
Citizen Initiative

Alaska: 1956
Arizona: 1911
Arkansas: 1910
California: 1911
Colorado: 1912
Florida: 1972
Idaho: 1912
Illinois: 1970
Maine: 1908
Massachusetts: 1918
Michigan: 1908
Mississippi: 1914
Missouri: 1908
Montana: 1904
Nebraska: 1912
Nevada: 1905
North Dakota: 1914
Ohio: 1912
Oklahoma: 1907
Oregon: 1902
South Dakota: 1898
Utah: 1900
Washington 1912
Wyoming: 1968

Subject Matter Restrictions and Repeating a Measure

States may limit the subject matter of ballot measures. States may apply a single-subject rule or other restrictions. States sometimes limit how soon a measure can be re-attempted.

Single-Subject Rule

Fifteen states follow a single-subject rule:

  • Alaska (AS § 15.45.040)
  • Arizona (for constitutional amendments, not statutes) (A.R.S. Const. Art. 21 § 1; CV–16–0314-SA)
  • California (Cal.Const. Art. 2, § 8)
  • Colorado (C.R.S.A. Const. Art. 5, § 1)
  • Florida (C.R.S.A. Const. Art. 5, § 1)
  • Missouri (V.A.M.S. Const. Art. 3, § 50)
  • Montana (MT CONST Art. 5, § 11; Art. 5, § 11; MACo v. The State of Montana, MT 267 [2017])
  • Nebraska (Ne.Rev.St. CONST. Art. III, § 2)
  • Nevada (N.R.S. 295.009)
  • Ohio (O.R.C. § 3519.01)
  • Oklahoma (OK Const. Art. 5, § 57; Art. 24, § 1)
  • Oregon (OR CONST Art. IV, § 1)
  • Utah (U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-202; U.C.A. 1953, Const. Art. 6, § 22)
  • Washington (RCWA Const. Art. 2, § 19; Amalgamated Transit Union Local 597 v. State of Washington, 11 P.3d 762 [2000])
  • Wyoming (Const. Art. 3, § 24)

Nine states do not have a single-subject rule:

Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Additional Subject Restrictions

Aside from single-subject rules, seven states have no additional subject restrictions on what can be in initiatives: Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

Other states vary when it comes to restrictions, ranging from specific vote thresholds on certain topics to disallowing certain issues. Some states limit the number of sections of code or the constitution that may be altered. Seventeen states have subject matter limitations other than the single-subject rule:

State Citation Content

Alaska

AS § 15.45.010

Dedicate revenue, repeal appropriations, create courts, define court rules or jurisdictions, or enact local or special legislation.

Arizona

A.R.S. Const. Art. 9 § 23

If includes expenditures, must also include sufficient increased revenue sources that cannot come from general fund.

California

Cal.Const. Art. 2, § 8, § 12

Measure provisions cannot be dependent upon meeting certain vote percentage. And no measure that names an individual to hold office or names private corporation to perform any function.

Florida

F.S.A. Const. Art. 11 § 3

Amendments that propose a tax or fee not in place in November 1994 require a two-thirds vote to pass.

Illinois

ILCS Const. Art. 14, § 3 and see Coalition for Political Honesty v. State Board of Elections (1976)

May only amend structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV.

Maine

M.R.S.A. Const. Art. 4, Pt. 3, § 19

If there are insufficient state funds and the measure does not provide a source, it is effective 45 days after next regular legislative session.

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. Const. Amend. Art. 48, Init., Pt. 2, § 2; M.G.L.A. Const. Amend. Art. 74

Must contain only subjects that are related or mutually dependent. Cannot relate to: religion, the judiciary, specific appropriations, local or special legislation, the 18th amendment of the constitution, anything inconsistent with the Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Michigan

M.C.L.A. Const. Art. 2, § 9

The initiative power extends only to laws which the legislature may enact.

Mississippi

MS Const. Art. 15, § 273

May not repeal/modify the state's Bill of Rights, amend/repeal provisions relating to the state's public employees' retirement system, amend/repeal right-to-work provision or modify the initiative process, and special rules if includes expenditures.

Missouri

V.A.M.S. Const. Art. 3, § 50, 51

No appropriations or other new revenues not provided for in the measure.

Montana

MT CONST Art. 3, § 4; Art. 5, § 11; Art. 14, § 11

No amendment may change more than one section, no appropriations, and no local or special laws.

Nebraska

Nebraska Const. Art. 3, Sec. 2; Neb. Rev. St. § 32-1408

Limited to matters that can be enacted by legislation, and no measures that interfere with the legislature’s ability to direct taxation of necessary revenues.

Nevada

N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 3; Art. 16, § 6; N.R.S. 295.009

Cannot require an expenditure of money unless a sufficient tax is provided.

North Dakota

NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 5

Cannot stop emergency laws passed by the legislature or appropriations to support state departments or institutions.

Ohio

OH Const. Art. II, § 1e

Cannot "pass a law authorizing any classification of property for the purpose of levying different rates of taxation thereon or of authorizing the levy of any single tax on land or land values or land sites at a higher rate or by a different rule than is or may be applied to improvements thereon or to personal property."

South Dakota

Const. Art. 3, § 23

No private or special laws.

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52

Cannot dedicate revenues, make or repeal appropriations, create courts, define the jurisdiction of courts, prescribe court rules, enact local or special legislation, or enact legislation prohibited y the Wyoming constitution.

Repeating a Measure

Seventeen states do not provide for any limitation on attempting to repeat a specific measure: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington.

Of course, in some of the above states, timelines concerning filing, signature gathering and deadlines for signatures and the indirect initiative process may impose limits not otherwise spelled out in statute.

Seven states impose explicit limits for how much time must pass before a measure is re-attempted, ranging from 12 months to five years:

State Citation Content

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. Const. Amend. Art. 48, Init., Pt. 2, § 3

Cannot be same as a measure at either of the two preceding biennial state elections.

Mississippi

MS Const. Art. 15, § 273; Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-43

Two years.

Nebraska

Ne.Rev.St. CONST. Art. III, § 2

May only be attempted once every three years.

North Dakota

NDCC, 16.1-01-11

More than two elections on the “same general matter” cannot be held within 12 months.

Oklahoma

OK Const. Art. 5, § 6; 34 Okl.St.Ann. § 21

For three years, measures can only be proposed again by signatures totaling 25%of total votes cast for governor last election, and special rule for competing measures.

Utah

U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-202

Two years.

Wyoming

W.S.1977 § 22-24-301

Five years on any measure that is "substantially the same as that defeated by" the previous measure.

Most states require proponents of a proposed law to follow guidelines. These guidelines may include an application process, registering a certain number of sponsors, submitting the full text and an explanation of the measure, affidavits, the office or offices to file with, registering a proponent or opposition organization, campaign finance issues and the process for withdrawing an initiative.

Application and Filing Requirements

Seven states require filing an initial number of signatures or registering of sponsors as part of an application to fully circulate an initiative:

State Citation Number of Signatures to File

Alaska

AS § 15.45.020; 15.45.030

100

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1804, § 34-1809

20

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. § 901

5

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. Const. Amend. Art. 48, Init., Pt. 2, § 3

10

North Dakota

NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 2

25

Ohio

O.R.C. § 3519.01; 3519.02; 3513.10

1,000

Oregon

O.R.S. § 250.045; 250.052

1,000–2,000

Four states require a filing fee in statute:

State Citation Fee Amount

Alaska

AS § 15.45.020; 15.45.030

$100

Ohio

O.R.C. § 3519.01; 3519.02; 3513.10

Unspecified amount

Washington

RCWA 29A.72.010; 43.07.120; 29A.72.020; 29A.72.040

Unspecified amount

Wyoming

W.S.1977 § 22-24-302; § 22-24-303

$500

Eighteen states require proponents to file application materials with the state’s secretary of state:

  • Arizona (A.R.S. § 19-111)
  • Arkansas (AR Const. Art. 5, § 1; A.C.A. § 7-9-104)
  • California (Cal.Elec.Code § 9001, 9004; Cal.Const. Art. 2, § 8)
  • Colorado (C.R.S.A. § 1-40-105)
  • Idaho (§ 34-1804)
  • Maine (M.R.S.A. Const. Art. 4, Pt. 3, § 18 and 21-A M.R.S.A. § 901)
  • Massachusetts (M.G.L.A. Const. Amend. Art. 48, Init., Pt. 2, § 3)
  • Michigan (M.C.L.A. 168.471 and M.C.L.A. 168.472)
  • Mississippi (Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-1)
  • Missouri (V.A.M.S. 116.332)
  • Montana (MCA 13-27-202)
  • Nebraska (Neb. Rev. St. § 32-1405)
  • Nevada (N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 1)
  • North Dakota (NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 2)
  • Oklahoma (OK Const. Art. 5, § 3; 34 Okl.St.Ann. § 8)
  • Oregon (OR CONST Art. IV, § 1)
  • South Dakota (SDCL § 12-13-25.1; 12-13-26; 2-1-1-1; 2-1-1-2)
  • Wyoming (W.S.1977 § 22-24-302)

Two states require proponents to file application materials with the lieutenant governor:

  • Alaska (AS § 15.45.020)
  • Utah (U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-202)

Five states require proponents to file application materials with the attorney general:

  • California (Cal.Elec.Code § 9001, 9004; Cal.Const. Art. 2, § 8)
  • Idaho (I.C. § 34-1804, § 34-1809)
  • Massachusetts (M.G.L.A. Const. Amend. Art. 48, Init., Pt. 2, § 3)
  • Ohio (O.R.C. § 3519.01)
  • South Dakota (SDCL § 12-13-25.1; 12-13-26)

Four states require filing with another entity:

State Citation Filing with Other

Colorado

C.R.S.A. § 1-40-105

Legislative council

Florida

F.S.A. § 106.03

Division of Elections

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/28-9

None listed, but must register organization with board of elections.

South Dakota

SDCL § 12-13-25.1; 12-13-26

Legislative Research Council

Campaign Finance

All 24 citizen initiative states require political organizations supporting or opposing a ballot measure—almost always considered political action committees—to follow state campaign finance laws. These include filing reports and designating organization officers. The following is not a legal, comprehensive list of every campaign finance law governing the initiative process in each state, but rather provides a starting guide of where to find relevant statutes:

  • Alaska: AS § 15.13.040; § 15.13.050; § 15.13.065; § 15.13.110
  • Arizona: A.R.S. § 16-906, § 16-926
  • Arkansas: A.C.A. § 7-9-404; 405; 406; 407; 408; 409
  • California: Cal.Gov.Code § 82013, 84200, 84202.3, 85309, 84511, 84101, Cal.Elec.Code § 18680; Form 460
  • Colorado: C.R.S.A. § 1-45-103, § 1-45-108.3, § 1-45-111.5§ 1-45-117
  • Florida: F.S.A. § 106.08, § 106.19
  • Idaho: I.C. § 67-6602, § 67-6607
  • Illinois: 10 ILCS 5/9-15
  • Maine: 21-A M.R.S.A. § 1051, 1052, 1052-A, 1053-B, 1054, 1054-A, 1055, 1055-A, 1056, 1056-A, 1056-B, 1057, 1058, 1059, 1060, 1062-A, 1062-B
  • Massachusetts: M.G.L.A. 55 § 1, § 6B, § 7A, § 18C, § 18
  • Michigan: M.C.L.A. 169.234; 169.247
  • Mississippi: Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-47; § 23-17-49; § 23-17-51; § 23-17-53
  • Missouri: V.A.M.S. 130.110; 130.120; 130.029; 130.046; 130.041
  • Montana: MCA 13-27-112; 13-27-113
  • Nebraska: Neb.Rev.St. § 49-1401
  • Nevada: N.R.S. Const. Art. 2, § 10; N.R.S. 295.009; 294A.150; 294A.220
  • North Dakota: NDCC, 16.1-08.1-02.4; 16.1-08.1-03.1; 16.1-08.1-03.2
  • Ohio: O.R.C. § 3517.01, .08, .10, .11, 12, .13, .20, .092, .093, .102, .105; O.H.R. § 3599.03
  • Oklahoma: 34 Okl.St.Ann. § 2; 21 Okl.St.Ann. § 187; Okl.St.Ann. Rule 2.36; Okl.St.Ann. Rule 2.79; Oklahoma Ethics Commission's Guide for Political Action Committees
  • Oregon: O.R.S. § 250.045; § 260.035; § 260.054
  • South Dakota: SDCL § 12-27-22; SDCL § 12-27-3
  • Utah: U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-11-101; § 20A-11-801; § 20A-11-802; § 20A-11-803
  • Washington: RCWA 42.17A.005; 42.17A; 42.17A.205
  • Wyoming: W.S.1977 § 22-1-102; § 22-24-201; § 22-24-306

Withdrawing an Initiative

Nine states have an explicit process for withdrawal of an initiative from circulation:

State Citation Petition Withdrawal Process

California

Cal.Elec.Code § 9033, 9604

Proponents may any time before measure qualifies for the ballot, 131 days before the general statewide election.

Colorado

C.R.S.A. § 1-40-134

File a letter with secretary of state, signed by designated representatives, no later than 60 days prior to the election.

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/28-3

Only before submissions.

Missouri

V.A.M.S. 116.115

The sponsor may file a written notice to withdraw the initiative with the secretary of state.

Nebraska

N.R.S. AB 45; 30

One of three authorized people must submit a notice of withdrawal with the secretary of state.

Ohio

O.R.C. § 3519.08

Any time more than 70 days before the election, a majority of the committee members may withdraw the petition by writing to the secretary of state.

Oklahoma

34 Okl.St.Ann. § 8

Any time before the final submission of signatures, the delegated proponents may write to the secretary of state to withdraw.

Oregon

O.R.S. § 250.029

The chief petitioners may withdraw at any time before submitting the total number of signatures for verification. All of the chief petitioners must sign the form to withdraw.

South Dakota

SDCL § 2-1-2.3

May remove no later than 120 days prior to the next general election.

Fourteen states do not have any process for withdrawal: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

In every state, petitions must follow guidelines, which vary by state. Petitions always include a title and/or summary of the proposed measure, although who writes this information varies. Several states require two officials to write or review the title and/or summary, given their importance to a ballot measure.

Petition sheets also always include space for signatures. Other requirements may include a legal warning, a statement that the petition circulator is paid, a summary of the proposed measure, the full text of the measure, the county or district where the signature was collected and more.

Who Writes the Title and Summary of Proposed Measures

Seventeen states have at least one government official draft or review the petition title and/or summary, while proponents draft this language in nine states. Details on who or which offices write the title and summary are listed below:

State Citation Who Drafts Title and/or Summary

Alaska

AS § 15.45.090

Lieutenant governor

Arizona

A.R.S. § 19-102; § 19-111

Proponents

Arkansas

A.C.A. § 7-9-107

Proponents

California

Cal.Const. Art. 2, § 10; Cal.Elec.Code § 9004

Attorney general

Colorado

C.R.S.A. § 1-40-106, § 1-40-124.5

Title board, comprised of secretary of state, attorney general and director of the office of legislative legal services

Florida

F.S.A. § 101.161

Prepared by sponsor, approved by secretary of state. Attorney general writes title and summary if original is challenged in court.

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1809

Attorney general

Illinois

ILCS Const. Art. 14, § 3

Proponents, no explicit statute

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. § 901 and 1 M.R.S.A. § 353

Secretary of state, revisor of statutes and attorney general

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. Const. Amend. Art. 48, Init., Pt. 2, § 3; M.G.L.A. 54 § 53

Attorney general certifies submitted title and measure and summary by secretary of state, with attorney general oversight.

Michigan

M.C.L.A. Const. Art. 12, § 2

None specified for title, and summary "prepared by the person authorized by law."

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-7; § 23-17-9; § 23-17-15

Attorney general

Missouri

V.A.M.S. 116.180; V.A.M.S. 116.334

Secretary of state and approved by attorney general

Montana

MCA 13-27-312

Proponents, approved or rewritten by attorney general

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. St. § 32-1405

Proponents

Nevada

N.R.S. 295.015; 295.009

Proponent, with possibility of being amended by statute

North Dakota

NDCC, 16.1-01-07

Secretary of state and approved by the attorney general

Ohio

O.R.C. § 3519.21; 3519.01; 3519.03

Secretary of state, official committee that filed and approved by attorney general.

Oklahoma

34 Okl.St.Ann. § 3; § 8

Proponents; a simple “statement of the gist” of the measure is included on the petition.

Oregon

O.R.S. § 250.045; § 250.067; § 250.035; § 250.036; § 250.075

Attorney general drafts ballot titles and certifies statements.

South Dakota

SDCL § 12-13-25.1

Attorney general, after receiving written comments from the Legislative Research Council

Utah

U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-202; 20A-7-203

Proponents

Washington

RCWA 29A.72.060

Attorney general

Wyoming

W.S.1977 § 22-24-310

Secretary of state

Statutes on Petition Contents

States include a range of requirements for petition contents including legal warnings, serial numbers provided by officials, notarization, date of the election the measure is to be voted upon, the measure’s full text, summary, the district or county where the signature was gathered, if the circulator is paid, fiscal statement abstract, affidavit of circulator, circulator information, rights of the potential signer, names of proponents or proponent organization, statement of the proponent organization and deadline for signatures. Statutes for petition contents for each state:

  • Alaska: AS § 15.45.090
  • Arizona: A.R.S. § 19-102
  • Arkansas: A.C.A. § 7-9-108
  • California: Cal.Elec.Code § 9008, 9009, 9012
  • Colorado: CRS § 1-40-110, § 1-40-105.5
  • Florida: F.S.A. § 106.19, § 100.371, § 120.54
  • Idaho: I.C. § 34-1801a, § 34-1804, § 34-1809
  • Illinois: ILCS Const. Art. 14, § 3, 10 ILCS 5/28-2
  • Maine: 21-A MRSA § 901, 903
  • Massachusetts: M.G.L.A. 53 § 22A; M.G.L.A. Const. Amend. Art. 48, Init., Pt. 2, § 3
  • Michigan: M.C.L.A. Const. Art. 12, § 2; M.C.L.A. 168.482; 168.544c
  • Mississippi: Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-17; § 23-17-19
  • Missouri: V.A.M.S. 116.050; 116.050
  • Montana: MCA 13-27-201; 13-27-202; 13-27-204; 13-27-207
  • Nebraska: Neb.Rev.St. § 32-1401; § 32-1405; § 32-628; § 32-1403
  • Nevada: N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 3; N.R.S. 295.055; 295.009
  • North Dakota: NDCC, 16.1-01-07; 16.1-01-09
  • Ohio: OH Const. Art. II, § 1g; O.R.C. § 3501.38; 3519.05
  • Oklahoma: OK Const. Art. 5, § 2; 34 Okl.St.Ann. § 2
  • Oregon: O.R.S. § 250.015; § 250.052; § 250.045
  • South Dakota: SDCL § 2-1-1.1; § 2-1-1.2; South Dakota Administrative Rules 5:02:08:07
  • Utah: U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-203
  • Washington: RCWA 29A.72.120; 29A.72.110
  • Wyoming: W.S.1977 § 22-24-304; § 22-24-310; § 22-24-311

Individuals who physically gather signatures are referred to as circulators.

General Requirements

Every state includes requirements for circulators operating in the state. The most common requirements: that they be at least 18 years old, a citizen, a registered voter and/or a resident of the state.

State 18 years old Citizen Legal Qualified Voter State Resident Register Not Allowed

Alaska

     

Arizona

       

County recorder or justice of the peace. Cannot have had a civil or criminal penalty for a violation of election code in the last five years; been convicted of treason or a felony and not restored civil rights; been convicted of any criminal offense involving fraud, forgery or identity theft.

Arkansas

      Criminal background check done for paid circulators with additional restrictions.

California

         

Colorado

   

✓*

 

Florida

           

Idaho

       

Illinois

       

Maine

       

Massachusetts

           

Michigan

       

Mississippi

     

✓**

 

Individuals who cannot vote

Missouri

     

Cannot be a person once convicted of, or who has pled guilty to crimes involving forgery

Montana

         

Nebraska

         

Nevada

         

North Dakota

       

Ohio

       

Oklahoma

   

Criminal background check done for paid circulators with additional restrictions

Oregon

         

Cannot in last five years have been convicted of a crime involving fraud, forgery, or identification theft or subject to a civil penalty due to an election offense

South Dakota

       

Utah

       

Washington

         

Wyoming

       

For citation information, please contact the NCSL Elections and Redistricting team.

*While the Colorado residency requirement for circulators was struck down in Independence Institute v. Gessler, the court upheld the requirement that a circulator present to the notary a specific type of identification.
**Residency requirement was struck down by Term Limits Leadership Council v. Clark (1997).

Two states require circulators to attend a training:

  • Colorado (C.R.S. § 1-40-112; § 1-40-135)
  • Oregon (OR Rev. Stat. § 250.048)

Affidavits or Sworn Oaths

Twenty-two states require circulators or proponents to sign affidavits or other sworn statements as to the accuracy or authenticity of the petitions:

  • Alaska (AS § 15.45.130)
  • Arizona (A.R.S. § 19-118; § 19-121)
  • Arkansas (Arkansas Const. Art. 5  § 1)
  • California (Elections Code §§ 104, 9022)
  • Colorado (C.R.S. § 1-40-111)
  • Florida (FLA. STAT. 3 § 100.371)
  • Idaho (I.C. § 34-1807)
  • Illinois (10 ILCS 5/28-3)
  • Maine (M.R.S.A. Const. Art. 4, Pt. 3, § 19; 21-A MRSA §903-A, sub-§§4)
  • Michigan (M.C.L.A. 168.482, 168.544c)
  • Missouri (V.A.M.S. § 116.080)
  • Montana (MCA § 13-27-302)
  • Nebraska (Neb. Rev. St. § 32-628; § 32-1546)
  • Nevada (N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 3; Nev. Rev. Stat. § 295.0575)
  • North Dakota (NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 3; NDCC, 16.1-01-09)
  • Ohio (O.R.C. § 3501.38)
  • Oklahoma (34 Okl.St.Ann. § 6)
  • Oregon (O.R.S. § 250.045)
  • South Dakota (DCL § 2-1-1.2)
  • Utah (U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-203)
  • Washington (RCWA 29A.72.010; 29A.72.120)
  • Wyoming (W.S.1977 § 22-24-314)

Several of these states require such information to be included on the signature petition sheets.  

Paying Circulators

Several states have or had statutory bans on paying circulators either per signature or in general. Most of these bans have been overturned by the courts.

Furthermore, statutes allowing or requiring paying per signature have been overturned by the courts. There has been one exception: The case Initiative and Referendum Institute v. Jaeger (2001) in North Dakota upheld the ban on paying per signature.

South Dakota has a unique statute regarding pay: may pay based on hourly wage or salary, express or implied minimum signature requirements for the circulator to meet, may terminate someone's employment if they do not meet "certain productivity requirements," and may pay “discretionary bonuses based on reliability, longevity, and productivity.” (SDCL § 12-13-28)

All citizen initiatives require the collection of a certain number of signatures, although states vary in the number of signatures and the baseline used to determine that number. Some states also include signatures to be gathered from across the state, although some of these requirements have been found to be unconstitutional. Every state also includes requirements as to how the authenticity of signatures are verified, and constitutional amendments often require more signatures than statutory changes.

Some states have what's called an indirect initiative process. In these states, sponsors gather a smaller number of signatures to reach the first stage of qualification and, once enough valid signatures are gathered to meet this threshold, the initiative goes before the state legislature. If the legislature enacts the proposal, no further petition takes place and the proposal becomes law. If the legislature fails to enact the proposal as written, sponsors then go through a second stage of signature gathering. Massachusetts, Ohio and Utah use this sort of process.

Missouri and Nebraska have unique signature requirements. In Missouri, signature requirements are based entirely on congressional districts. The requirement states that a petition must garner valid signatures from six of the state's nine congressional districts that equal 5 % (for a statutory proposal) or 8% (for a constitutional proposal) of the votes cast for governor in that district in the last election. That means the total number of signatures required for ballot access will vary depending upon which congressional districts sponsors put together to reach the total of six .

In Nebraska, the total number of signatures is based upon the total number of registered voters in the state. Since the total number of registered voters is constantly changing, with new voters being added and ineligible voters being removed, that presents a dilemma for the state. The state must essentially pick a point in time at which to capture a snapshot of the total number of registered voters.

Number of Signatures Required

State Citation Signatures Required

Alaska

AS § 15.45.140

Ten% of total votes cast in previous general election with geographic requirement

Arizona

A.R.S. Const. Art. 21 § 1

Ten% of votes cast for all candidates for governor in previous election for statutes; 15% for amendments

Arkansas

Ark. Const. Art. 5, § 1

Eight% of the total number of legal voters for statutes; 10% for amendments

California

Cal.Const. Art. 2, § 8

Five% of votes cast for governor in last election for statutes or ;  8% for amendments

Colorado

C.R.S.A. Const. Art. 5, § 1

Five% of votes cast for secretary of state in last election

Florida

F.S.A. Const. Art. 11 § 3

Eight% of total votes cast statewide in last presidential election

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1805

Six% of qualified electors at the time of the last general election

Illinois

ILCS Const. Art. 14, § 3

Eight% of votes cast for governor in last gubernatorial election

Maine

M.R.S.A. Const. Art. 4, Pt. 3, § 18

Ten% of total votes cast for governor in last gubernatorial election

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. Constitution 48, Init., Pt. 4, § 2; Constitution 48, Init., Pt. 5, § 1

Three% of votes cast for governor at preceding biennial state election to submit to the legislature. If the legislature does not enact the statute, another round of signatures is required equaling 0.5% of votes for governor.

Michigan

M.C.L.A. Const. Art. 2, § 9; Const. Art. 12, § 2

For statute, 8% of total votes cast for governor in last general election. For amendments, 10% of total votes cast for governor.

Mississippi

MS Const. Art. 15, § 273

Twelve% of total votes cast in last gubernatorial race for governor

Missouri

V.A.M.S. Const. Art. 3, § 50; Art. 3, § 53

For statutory, 5% of total vote for governor in last election in each of two-thirds of the state's congressional districts. For constitutional amendments, 8% of total vote for governor in last election in each of two-thirds of the state's congressional districts.

Montana

MT CONST Art. 3, § 4; Art. 14, § 9; Art. 14, § 10

For statutes, 5% of total qualified electors of the state, determined by the number of votes cast for governor in the preceding general election. For amendments, 10% of total qualified electors of the state.

Nebraska

Ne.Rev.St. CONST. Art. III, § 2; § 4

For statutory initiatives, 7% of votes cast for governor in last election. For constitutional amendments, 10% of votes cast for governor in last election.

Nevada

N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 2

Ten% of votes cast in last general election

North Dakota

NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 4; Art. 3, § 9*

For statutory initiatives, 2% of residential population according to the last federal decennial census. For constitutional amendment initiatives, 4% of resident population.

Ohio

OH Const. Art. II, § 1b and 1g; O.R.C. § 3519.22

For constitutional amendments, 10% of votes cast for governor in last election. For indirect statutory initiatives, 3% of votes cast for governor in last election to submit to the legislator. Another 3% is required to qualify for the ballot if not enacted by the legislature after four months.

Oklahoma

OK Const. Art. V, § 2

For statutory initiatives, 8 % of legal voters who cast ballots for governor in last election. For constitutional amendments, 15% of legal voters.

Oregon

OR CONST Art. IV, § 1

For statutory initiatives, 6% of total votes cast for all candidates for governor in last general election. For constitutional amendments, 8% of total votes cast for all candidates for governor in last general election.

South Dakota

Const. Art. 3, § 1 and SDCL § 2-1-5

Not more than 5% of qualified electors, based on total number of votes cast for governor at last preceding gubernatorial elections.

Utah

U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-201; § 20A-7-208

For indirect initiatives submitted to the legislature, 4% of the number of active voters in the state on Jan. 1 immediately following the last regular general election. For direct initiatives, 8% of the number of active voters in the state on Jan. 1 immediately following the last regular general election. If the legislature does not enact the proposition, then proponents may collect the additional 5% signatures required to get the measure onto the ballot.

Washington

RCWA 29A.72.150

Eight% of votes cast for the office of governor at last regular gubernatorial election prior to submission of the signatures for verification.

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52

Fifteen% of total ballots cast in previous general election.

* See also: 2011 N.D. Op.Atty.Gen. No. L-04, 2011 WL 1130010 (July 5, 2011)

Geographic Requirements

To make it more difficult to place initiatives on the ballot and to ensure initiatives do not represent just the interests of heavily populated areas, some states have created a requirement that signatures be gathered from across the state. The criteria for these requirements vary wildly. Some have been found to be unconstitutional, largely on “one person, one vote” grounds. States with geographic requirements using entities that are unequal in population, such as counties or even state legislative districts, are more likely to have the requirement challenged in court (for example, see Montana). Geographic entities based on U.S. House districts, which are required to be highly equal in population, have been ruled to be constitutional (for example, see Nevada). Ten states do not have a geographic requirement; 14 states do.

State Citation Geographic Requirement

Alaska

AS § 15.45.140

From three-fourths of house districts of the state with signatures from each district equaling at least 7% of the total votes from preceding general election.

Arkansas

Ark. Const. Art. V, § 1

From 15 different counties, with each county’s petition having signatures of at least half of the designated percentage of electors of the county.

Colorado

C.R.S.A. Const. Art. 5, § 1

For constitutional amendments, signatures must be gathered from at least 2% of the total registered electors in each state senate district.*

Florida

F.S.A. Const. Art. 11 § 3

Signatures in each of one-half of the 27 congressional districts of the state.

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1805

Six % of the qualified electors at the time of the last general election in each of at least 18 legislative districts, out of 35 total districts. In 2021, Idaho passed SB 1110, which would have required signatures from 6% of the qualified electors at the time of the last general election in all 35 legislative districts, but in August 2021, the Idaho Supreme Court blocked implementation of that law.

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. Const. Amend. Art. 48, Gen. Prov., Pt. 2

No more than one-quarter of signatures may come from a single county.

Mississippi

MS Const. Art. 15, § 273

The maximum number of signatures counted from any individual congressional district is one-fifth of the total number required.

Missouri

V.A.M.S. Const. Art. 3, § 50; V.A.M.S. 116.060

In each of two-thirds of the congressional districts, and each petition page must only contain signatures from a singular county.

Montana

MT CONST Art. 14, § 9.

MT CONST Art. 3, § 4.

For constitutional amendments, signatures must be gathered from 10% of qualified electors in each of two-fifths (40) of the state's 100 legislative districts. For initiated state statutes or veto referendums, signatures must be gathered from 5% of qualified electors in each of one-third (34) of the state's 100 legislative districts.

Nebraska

Neb. Const. Art. III, § 2; Bernbeck v. Gale, 59 F.Supp.3d 949 (2014); 829 F.3d 643, United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

A requirement for 5% of the registered voters in two-fifths of the counties each was held unconstitutional, but that case was vacated because of an issue of standing.

Nevada

N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 2; American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada v. Loma (2006); N.R.S. 295.012; 293.069; 304.060; 304.120; Angle v. Miller, 2010, 722 F.Supp.2d 1206.

Original geographical requirement found unconstitutional. Revised statutes now require that signatures be equally collected among all the petition districts (congressional districts). This was held to be constitutional.

Ohio

OH Const. Art. II, § 1

For indirect statutory initiatives, signatures must be collected from at least 44 of 88 counties, equaling 1.5% of the votes cast for governor in each county in the previous election. For constitutional amendments, from 44 of 88 counties, signatures from 5% of the votes cast for governor in each county in the previous election.

Utah

U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-201

From each of at least 26 Utah state Senate districts, legal signatures equal to 4% for indirect or 8% for direct initiatives of the number of active voters in that district on Jan. 1 immediately following the last regular general election.

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52

Fifteen% of those residing in at least two-thirds of the counties of the state, as determined by those who voted in the preceding general election in that county.

* Under court challenge.

Verification

States vary a great deal in how they verify collected signatures. States such as Alaska (AS § 15.45.150); Idaho (I.C. § 34-1813); and Maine (21-A M.R.S.A. § 902) concisely require the counting and verification of signatures, without detailed guidance.

Most state statutes include some type of sampling, such as in the cases of Arizona (A.R.S. § 19-121.01); California (Elections Code § 9030); and Colorado (C.R.S. § 1-40-116).

Withdrawal of a Signature

Nine states do not include a process in statute for an individual to withdraw his or her signature. Most states only allow an individual to withdraw a signature before the official filing of the petitions. There are exceptions, such as in Mississippi, where someone can withdraw a signature if it was signed as a result of fraud, coercion, or being intentional mislead as to the substance or effect of the petition (Miss. Code § 23-17-60). Formal processes vary greatly, such as the requirement of a formal sworn statement in Missouri (V.A.M.S. § 116.110) to the simple crossing out of one’s name in Idaho (I.C. § 34-1803B).

Indirect initiatives can require two rounds of signature gathering, so timelines and deadlines for these are more complex. In three states (Massachusetts, Ohio and Utah), proponents must gather additional signatures to place the measure on the ballot after the first round. In the others, the measure goes directly to the ballot after it is submitted to the legislature. Each state has a unique way of handling the timeline and deadline for signature gathering.

Timeline and Submission Deadlines for Collecting Signatures

State Citation Timeline

Alaska

AS § 15.45.140

Filed within one year of receiving notice that petitions are ready.

Arizona

A.R.S. Const. Art. 21 § 1; A.R.S. § 19-121

Not more than 24 months for collection with a deadline of four months before the election, and by 5 p.m. on the final day.

Arkansas

Ark. Const. Art. 5, § 1; A.C.A. § 7-9-111

Unlimited, but if number of filed signatures is deemed insufficient, sponsors have 30 days to collect more. And must be filed four months before election.

California

Cal.Elec.Code § 9014; § 9016; Cal.Const. Art. 2, § 8

From official summary date by attorney general, 180 days to collect and must be filed at least 131 days prior to the next general election the measure is to be voted on.

Colorado

C.R.S.A. § 1-40-106; § 1-40-107; § 1-40-108

Six months to turn in signatures once petitions have been titled and certified for circulation, and filed no later than three months and three weeks before the election and made by 3 p.m. on the day of filing.

Florida

F.S.A. § 100.371

Signatures are valid for two years, but a petition can circulate indefinitely, and filed at least 30 days before Feb. 1 of the year of the general election that the measure is to be voted upon.

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1802

Eighteen months or until April 30 of the year of the next general election, whichever is earlier, for collection, and a deadline of May 1 in the year of the election that the initiative will appear on, or 18 months from the date the petitioner receives the official ballot title from the secretary of state, whichever is earlier. Must also file with the secretary of state not less than four months before the election at which initiatives are to be voted on.

Illinois

ILCS Const. Art. 14, § 3

Eighteen months, but cannot start collecting more than two years before the election, and a deadline of six months before the general election.

Maine

M.R.S.A. Const. Art. 4, Pt. 3, § 18, 20

One year for collection and must address written petition to the legislature. Signatures must be filed with the secretary of state by the 50th day of the first regular session or by the 25th day of the second regular session. Signatures must be submitted no later than 18 months after the petition form was furnished by the secretary of state, and each signature is only valid for one year. Must also be submitted to the appropriate officials of cities, towns or plantations, or state election officials as authorized by law, 10 days before it's due with the secretary of state.

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. Constitution 48, Pt. 2, Sec. 3; Const. Amend. Art. 48, Init., Pt. 5, § 1; M.G.L.A. 53 § 7

First 10 signatures must be turned in by the “first Wednesday of the September before the assembling of the general court . . . and the remainder of the required signatures shall be filed not later than the first Wednesday of the following December.” After review by legislature, the second 0.5 percent of signatures are to be collected between mid-May and July and must be submitted to the local registrars two weeks before submission to the secretary of state.

Michigan

M.C.L.A. 168.471; 168.472; 168.473b

Deadline of 120 days before election for amendments; 160 days before election and not less than 10 days before legislative session for statutes; and 180 days to collect. And no signature "collected prior to a November general election at which a governor is elected shall not be filed after the date of that November general election.”

Mississippi

MS Const. Art. 15, § 273; Miss. Code § 23-17-3

Petitions are valid for one year, and deadline of 90 days before the first day of the legislative session.

Missouri

V.A.M.S. § 116.334

Eighteen months for collection, and then sponsors must submit signatures no later than six months before the election and can only start collecting the day after the previous general election.

Montana

MCA 13-27-301; 13-27-202; MT CONST Art. 3, § 4

One year, but proponents must submit to the county officials no sooner than nine months and no later than four weeks prior to the final deadline. For statute initiatives, no later than three months prior to the election the measure is to be voted upon, and must submit to the county officials no sooner than nine months and no later than four weeks prior to the final deadline.

Nebraska

Neb.Rev.St. § 32-1407

Two years for collection, and deadline of four months prior to the general election.

Nevada

N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 2; N.R.S. 295.056

For direct constitutional amendments, it is nine months and three weeks. For indirect statutory initiatives, it is roughly 11 months and two weeks. For direct constitutional amendments, a timeline beginning on Sept. 1 before the general election it is to be voted upon and ends on the third Tuesday of June of an even-numbered year. For indirect statutory initiatives, the timeline begins on Jan. 1 of the year preceding year in which a regular session of the legislature is held and then filed by the second Tuesday of November in an even-numbered year, or the next day.

North Dakota

NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 5; NDCC, 16.1-01-09

One year after the petition is approved by the secretary of state for collection, and deadline of 120 days before the election it is to be voted upon.

Ohio

OH Const. Art. II, § 1g; Art. II, § 1b; O.R.C. § 3519.16

No collection timeline except when collecting the second 3 percent of signatures of votes in last election for governor, the deadline is 90 days, and deadline of 110 days before the election generally. For indirect statutory initiatives, after turning in original 3 percent of signatures, proponents must return next batch of signatures (another 3 percent) within 90 days of the legislature not enacting or amending a measure. If the petition is insufficient, the sponsors have 10 extra days to collect more signatures.

Oklahoma

34 Okl.St.Ann. § 8

Ninety days from the date marking the beginning circulation for collection, as set by the secretary of state after public posting and chance for protest, and a deadline of 90 days from the official set date from the secretary of state.

Oregon

OR CONST Art. IV, § 1; O.R.S. § 250.105

For collection, if the petitions were filed at least 165 days before the election and the signatures are deemed insufficient, they may collect more, and deadline of four months prior to the general election.

South Dakota

SDCL § 2-1-1.2

Twelve months for collection, and no signatures may be obtained prior to 24 months before the general elections that it is to be voted upon. Signatures must be filed one year prior to the election.

Utah

U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-206

Collectors must file signatures within 316 days after the day on which the application is filed, within 30 days after the day on which the first individual signs the inititative packet or the April 15 immediately before the next regular general election immediately after the application is filed.

Washington

RCWA 29A.72.030

For direct initiatives, six months to collect (submit proposed measure within 10 months with deadline to submit four months out from the general election). For indirect initiatives, about nine months (proposed measure submitted within 10 months of the session it is to be submitted at with a deadline of 10 days before the session).

Wyoming

W.S.1977 § 22-24-315

Eighteen months for collection.

Some states offer no assistance or advice to initiative proponents on the draft of their proposed law. And, in some states, the review is purely technical; the proposal is reviewed to ensure it meets the legal requirements for format and style and adheres to drafting conventions. However, in about half of the 24 initiative states, proponents can get drafting assistance to improve the quality and consistency of initiative proposals. In these states, sponsors may take a draft, or even just an idea, to a legislative office for assistance with the form and content of the initiative before submitting the proposal to the appropriate state official.

States also have varying processes for reviewing petitions. Fiscal statements are the most common type of review, giving estimates and analysis on the likely fiscal impact the proposed measure will have on the state. Other types of review might include recommendations on wording. And many states include some type of public review or notice of proposed measures, as well.

For indirect initiative states, this review process involves the legislature and can be quite extensive.

Fiscal Analysis and General Reviews

Eighteen states require or provide for fiscal statements:

State Citation Fiscal statement details

Alaska

AS § 15.45.090

Lieutenant governor provides a statement of costs.

Arizona

A.R.S. § 19-123

Prepared by joint legislative budget committee staff.

California

Cal.Elec.Code § 9005; Cal.Gov.Code § 12172

Prepared by attorney general, department of finance and the legislative analyst office.

Colorado

CRS § 1-40-105.5

Prepared by legislative council.

Florida

F.S.A. § 100.371

Prepared by the Financial Impact Estimating Conference.

Maine

1 M.R.S.A. § 353

Prepared by the Office of Fiscal and Program Review.

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. 54 § 53

A statement of 100 words or less by secretary of administration and finance regarding fiscal consequences of the measure.

Mississippi

MS Const. Art. 15, § 273

Prepared by chief legislative budget officer.

Missouri

V.A.M.S. 116.17

Prepared by state auditor, and proponents may submit proposed review.

Montana

MCA § 13-27-312

If fiscal in nature, the attorney general orders the budget director to prepare.

Nevada

N.R.S. 295.015; 293.250

Prepared by the secretary of state, upon consultation with the Fiscal Analysis Division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

North Dakota

NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 2; NDCC, 16.1-01-17

The legislative council determines the estimated fiscal impact at least 90 days before the measure is to be voted on.

Ohio

O.R.C. § 3519.04

Prepared by the office of budget and management and the tax commissioner if involves taxes or expenditures.

Oregon

O.R.S. § 250.125

The financial estimate committee will estimate costs and consult with the legislative revenue officer.

South Dakota

SDLC § 2-9-30; § 2-9-31; § 2-9-34

Director of the Legislative Research Council prepares a fiscal note as requested.

Utah

U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-202.5

Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst conducts an estimate and description of funding sources.

Washington

RCWA 29A.72.025

Prepared by the office of financial management, in consultation with the secretary of state, the attorney general, and any other appropriate state or local agency.

Wyoming

W.S.1977 § 22-24-309

Yes.

Six states do not require fiscal statements: Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Every state requires or offers some type of review in addition to fiscal statements. Details:

  • Alaska: Lieutenant governor reviews within 60 days of receiving (AS § 15.45.150).
  • Arizona: Proponents may submit proposed bill to the director of the legislative council for review. After chance for comment by all legislators, the legislative council prepares an impartial analysis with description, background information and likely effects (A.R.S. § 19-111; § 19-124).
  • Arkansas: Exact petition copy filed with secretary of state (A.C.A. § 7-9-104; § A.C.A. § 7-9-107).
  • California: Proponents may request review by secretary of state and from the Office of Legislative Council. Legislature may hold public hearings and must hold a committee hearing once 25 percent of signatures are collected (Cal.Gov.Code § 12172; 10243; 12172; Cal.Elec.Code § 9007; 9034).
  • Colorado: Upon request, any agency in the executive department shall assist in reviewing and preparing comments on the petition. Nonpartisan staff of general assembly prepare summary, analysis and fiscal review (C.R.S.A. Const. Art. 5, § 1; C.R.S.A. § 1-40-105).
  • Florida: Attorney general can request advisory opinion on the constitutionality of a measure from the state supreme court. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference members of one person from the governor’s office, the coordinator of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, one professional senate staffer and one professional house staffer (F.S.A. § 100.371; § 16.061).
  • Idaho: Within 20 days after initial petition filing, attorney general reviews and recommends revisions in an advisory capacity.
  • Illinois: For accuracy and fairness, the attorney general may rewrite arguments for or against prepared by legislature. General assembly members opposing the amendment may prepare or designate others to prepare a brief argument against such amendment, submitted to attorney general (5 ILCS 20/2).
  • Maine: Secretary of state, along with revisor of statutes, may reject petition application if it does not conform to drafting conventions for statutes. Attorney general aids summary. A petition for direct initiative that is approved by the secretary of state and submitted to the legislature must be afforded a public hearing conducted by the joint standing committee that has jurisdiction over the subject matter. The requirement may be waived by a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature. (21-A M.R.S.A. § 901 and 1 M.R.S.A. § 353, 354).
  • Massachusetts: Proponents may alter the measure in small ways after legislature reviews it. Pamphlet contains one-sentence statements describing the effect of a yes or no vote prepared jointly by the attorney general and the state secretary. Legislature reviews the measure as submitted to it by the proponents. The measure can be amended by a three-fourths vote in a joint session. An amendment requires at least one-fourth of members’ support to get onto the ballot. The legislature may submit a competing measure to the ballot (M.G.L.A. Constitution 48, Init., Pt. 2, § 3; Const. 48, Init., Pt. 5, § 2; Constitution 48, Init., Pt. 4, § 3; Constitution 48, Init., Pt. 2, § 4, Pt. 3, § 1; Constitution 48, Init., Pt. 4, § 5; M.G.L.A. 54 § 53).
  • Michigan: The director of elections, with the approval of the board of canvassers, prepares a statement of designation for the ballot. For indirect statute petitions, the legislature has 40 session days to pass or reject the unchanged or unamended measure. They may also submit their own alternative ballot measure to the people if it is different but under the same subject area. If passed by legislature, it is subject to the referendum (M.C.L.A. Const. Art. 2, § 9; M.C.L.A. 168.32).
  • Mississippi: Attorney general may confer with proponents and may recommend revisions. Since the process is an indirect initiative, the legislature has four months to adopt the unchanged constitutional initiative by a majority in each house before the secretary of state submits it to the people. Otherwise, they may submit an alternative measure. Either way, the measure is put before the people (MS Const. Art. 15, § 273; Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-5).
  • Missouri: The secretary of State will furnish ballot statements explaining the effects of a no or yes vote for the measure, which will include whether it will increase, decrease or maintain taxes. After certification for the ballot, the joint committee on legislative research holds a public hearing in Jefferson City to take public comments regarding the measure (V.A.M.S. 116.153; 116.025).
  • Montana: Reviews done by attorney general and legislative services division. There must also be a five-person committee of those who favor rejection, comprised of individuals appointed by the governor, attorney general, president of the senate and speaker of the house—the fifth member is appointed by the four previous members. And attorney general reviews legality (MCA 13-27-202; 13-27-312; 13-27-402).
  • Nebraska: The revisor of statutes reviews and recommends revisions with respect to form and draftsmanship. These may be accepted or rejected. The secretary of state writes arguments for and against the measure with information provided by proponents and opponents (Neb.Rev.St. § 32-1405.01; § 32-1405).
  • Nevada: The secretary of state will appoint two, three-person committees, one for and one against the measure. The committees select a chair and may prepare arguments and rebuttals, which will be reviewed by the secretary of state for the ballot. The secretary of state consults with the legislative counsel for any technical suggestions, which will be posted to the secretary's website. The legislature has 40 days to pass the unchanged initiative. If the legislature rejects the measure, the legislature may propose an alternative measure (with the approval of the governor), and it will appear on the ballot along with the original initiative. A legislature committee also reviews the measure by a deadline (N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 2; N.R.S. 218D.810; 293.267; 295.015; 293.252).
  • North Dakota: The secretary of state reviews and if the office deems it insufficient, the committee of petitioners has 20 days to correct it. An estimated fiscal impact statement must be printed with any constitutional amendment or initiated or referred measure on the ballot. (NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 6; NDCC 16.1-06-09; and NDCC 16.1-01-17).
  • Ohio: Reviewed by attorney general and Ohio ballot board, which also writes pro or con statements if not supplied. Legislature reviews the indirect statutory initiatives. The legislature has four months to pass the bill in amended or unchanged form. If amended, expired or rejected, it goes onto the ballot. Additional signatures are needed then. If legislature amends, it does not go into effect until the original is rejected by the voters. The president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives have authority to designate groups of members to prepare arguments for and against amendments to the Ohio Constitution proposed by the General Assembly, a person or persons to prepare an argument for any law, section, or item submitted to the electors by referendum petition, and a person or persons to prepare an argument against any constitutional amendment proposed by initiative petition. (OH Const. Art. II, § 1b; Art. II, § 1g; O.R.C. § 3519.03; 3519.01; 3519.062; 3505.063).
  • Oklahoma: Secretary of state reviews and processes the petition, along with the attorney general and the supreme court. The public may protest as to the constitutionality of the measure. The attorney general reviews the ballot title after signed petitions are turned in (34 Okl.St.Ann. § 8).
  • Oregon: The Citizens' Initiative Review Commission reviews measures and may create a citizen panel to review specific items. The attorney general submits a draft ballot title and the public may submit written comments in regard to it, which the attorney general may use to revise the title (O.R.S. § 250.137; § 250.139; § 250.125; § 250.067; § 250.127).
  • South Dakota: The Legislative Research Council provides written comments to the attorney general (SDCL § 12-13-25; § 12-13-25.1).
  • Utah: For indirect initiatives, the legislature may make technical changes only, and prepare a legislative review note and a legislative fiscal note on the law proposed by the initiative petition. Then, the legislature rejects or accepts the proposition unchanged. After the hearings, the proponents and Governor's Office of Management and Budget may revise (U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-204.1; § 20A-7-208; § 20A-7-702).
  • Washington: Code reviser or assistant code reviser reviews the proposal of the initial petition and recommends revisions or alterations in an advisory capacity only. Attorney general prepares explanatory statements. Arguments for and against are prepared by committees with members appointed first by the secretary of state, the senate's presiding office, and the house's presiding officer. Code reviser issues certificate of review (RCWA 29A.72.020; 29A.32.040; 29A.32.060).
  • Wyoming: Upon request, the legislative service office or any agency in the executive department shall render assistance in reviewing and preparing comments on the proposed bill. The attorney general may determine an act of the legislature is the same as a proposed law and will remove it from appearing on the ballot (W.S.1977 § 22-24-304; § 22-24-319).

Public Review and Notices

Every initiative state requires some form of public notice.

Thirteen states require a voter pamphlet or booklet, usually mailed to every voter or household: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Washington.

Thirteen states require publication in a newspaper: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah.

These requirements vary widely, most often including newspaper publication, other public displays such as posting on the internet, or public comment periods.

Public notice requirements are found in the following statutes. Only one state does not require this type of action:

  • Alaska: AS § 15.45.195; § 15.45.200
  • Arizona: A.R.S. § 19-123 and A.R.S. Const. Art. 21 § 1
  • Arkansas: Ark. Const. Art. 5, § 1
  • California: Cal.Elec.Code § 9002
  • Colorado: C.R.S.A. Const. Art. 5, § 1; C.R.S.A. §1-40-102, § 1-40-105, § 1-40-106
  • Florida: F.S.A. § 100.371, § 101.161; F.S.A. Const. Art. 11 § 5
  • Idaho: I.C. § 34-1812a, § 34-1812b, I.C. § 34-1812c
  • Illinois: 5 ILCS 20/2
  • Maine: 21-A M.R.S.A. 905 and 1 M.R.S.A. § 354
  • Massachusetts: M.G.L.A. 54 § 53
  • Michigan: M.C.L.A. Const. Art. 12, § 2; M.C.L.A. 168.22e; 168.476; 168.477; 168.480
  • Mississippi: Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-45
  • Missouri: V.A.M.S. 116.334; 116.260
  • Montana: MCA 13-27-401; 13-27-402; 13-27-410; 13-27-311
  • Nebraska: Neb. Rev. St. § 32-1405.01; § 32-1405.02; § 32-1413
  • Nevada: N.R.S. 295.015
  • North Dakota: NDCC, § 16.1-01-07
  • Ohio: OH Const. Art. II, § 1g; Art. XVI, § 1; O.R.C. § 3519.07
  • Oklahoma: 34 Okl.St.Ann. § 8; § 17
  • Oregon: O.R.S. § 250.125; § 250.067; § 250.127
  • South Dakota: SDCL § 12-13-23
  • Utah: U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-702; § 20A-7-204.1; § 20A-7-701-706
  • Washington: RCWA 29A.32.010; 29A.32.031; 29A.32.040; 29A.32.070; 29A.32.080
  • Wyoming: None

Before a measure is placed on a ballot, states decide which election it will appear on, how the ballot title and summary are created and any time restrictions involved. In some states, the legislature or governor may order a special election for a measure.

Which Election and Time Restrictions (If Any)

State Citation Election

Alaska

AS § 15.45.190

The first statewide general, special, special runoff, or primary election after the petition has been filed, a legislative session has convened and adjourned, and a period of 120 days has expired since the adjournment of the legislative session.

Arizona

A.R.S. Const. Art. 21 § 1 and A.R.S. § 19-121

Next general election after filing.

Arkansas

Ark. Const. Art. 5, § 1

Only regular state, congressional and municipal elections, and filed at least four months before election.

California

Cal.Const. Art. 2, § 8; Cal.Elec.Code § 9016

Next general election held at least 131 days after signatures are certified. Governor may call a special statewide election for the measure.

Colorado

C.R.S.A. Const. Art. 5, § 1; C.R.S.A. § 1-40-108

Biennial regular general election, with submission deadline three months and three weeks prior to election.

Florida

F.S.A. § 100.371

General election, and signatures must be verified no later than Feb. 1 of the year of the general election.

Idaho

I. C. § 34-1801a; § 34-1802

General election, and must file by the May before the election the measure is to be voted on.

Illinois

ILCS Const. Art. 14, § 3

General election, and filed at least six months before the election with the secretary of state.

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. § 905-A; M.R.S.A. Const. Art. 4, Pt. 3, § 18, 20

Next statewide or special election after the legislative session concludes sine die, and signatures submitted to appropriate state officials at least 10 days before submitted to secretary of state, which is the 50th day of the first regular session or the 25th day of the second regular session.

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. Const. Art. 48, Pt. 2, § 3; Amend. Art. 48, Init., Pt. 5, § 1; Amend. Art. 48, Init., Pt. 4; Art. 48, Pt. 5, § 5; M.G.L.A. 53 § 7

Next state election, and depending on type, must be submitted by September, then December, and then possibly July (see deadlines and timelines topic).

Michigan

M.C.L.A. Const. Art. 2, § 9; M.C.L.A. 168.471; 168.472

For statutes: If not passed by the legislature within 40 days, it is placed on the next general election's ballot. Same if an alternate measure is proposed. A statewide special election may be called for amendments. Restrictions included 120 days before election for amendments, and 160 days before an election and not less than 10 days before legislative session for statutes.

Mississippi

MS Const. Art. 15, § 273; Miss. Code § 23-17-3

Statewide general election, and 90 days before the first day of the legislative session and the first five measures make it on the ballot.

Missouri

V.A.M.S. Const. Art. 3, § 50; § 52

At general elections except when a special election is ordered by the legislature, and must be filed at least six months before the election it is to be voted on.

Montana

MT CONST Art. 3, § 6

General election unless the legislature orders a special election.

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. St. § 32-1407; § 32-401

Next general election at least four months after filing the signatures.

Nevada

N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 2; Art. 19, § 3; N.R.S. 295.056

General election, while petitions cannot be filed more than 65 days before the deadline. For amendments, must be submitted for verification by the third Tuesday in June of the general election year. For statutory initiatives, must be submitted to be verified before appearing before the legislature on the second Tuesday in November in even-numbered years, or the next day.

North Dakota

NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 5

A referred measure may be voted upon at a statewide election or at a special election called by the governor.

Ohio

OH Const. Art. II, § 1b

The next regular or general election occurring subsequent to the 125 days after filing signatures.

Oklahoma

OK Const. Art. V, § 3; 34 Okl.St.Ann. § 12; § 25

The next statewide election unless the legislature or governor convenes a special election for it or the governor designates a vote at the primary election.

Oregon

OR CONST Art. IV, § 1

Regular election unless otherwise ordered by Legislative Assembly, and restrictions of four months prior to the general election.

South Dakota

SDCL § 2-1-17; § 2-1-1.2

General election, and signatures must be filed one year prior to the election.

Utah

U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-1-201; § 20A-1-203; § 20A-6-106; § 20A-7-206

General election, but governor and legislature may call special elections, and certified ballot title is due at least 65 days before the election. For direct initiatives, signatures must be submitted by Feb. 15 immediately before the next general election.

Washington

RCWA Const. Art. 2, § 1

On the next general election or a special election if ordered by the legislature.

Wyoming

W.S.1977 § 22-24-319

The next general election after signature petitions filed, a legislative session has convened and adjourned, and 120 days after the legislative session adjournment.

Ballot Title and Summary

State Citation Who Titles and Summarizes for Ballot

Alaska

AS § 15.45.180

Lieutenant governor with assistance from attorney general

Arizona

A.R.S. § 19-125

Secretary of state, approved by attorney general

Arkansas

Ark. Const. Art. 5, § 1; A.C.A. § 7-9-114

Board of Election commissioners and then certified to the secretary of state. Attorney general prepares abstract to be posted at polling places.

California

Cal.Elec.Code § 9004

Attorney general

Colorado

C.R.S.A. § 1-40-106

Title board

Florida

F.S.A. § 101.161

Sponsor, approved by secretary of state, reviewed by attorney general

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1809

Attorney general

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/28-5; 10 ILCS 5/16-6; 5 ILCS 20/2

Proponents, but certified by state board of elections and reviewed by attorney general.

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. § 901, 906; 1 M.R.S.A. § 353

Secretary of state and attorney general

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. 54 § 42A, § 53; M.G.L.A. Const. Art. 48, Pt. 6, Gen. Prov., § 3

Secretary of state and attorney general jointly make a more descriptive ballot question summary to be sent to voters. Proponents write title.

Michigan

M.C.L.A. 168.474a; 168.486; 168.477; 168.3

Board of state canvassers

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-9

Attorney general

Missouri

V.A.M.S. 116.160; 116.180; 115.245; 116.210; 116.220

Secretary of state, approved by attorney general

Montana

MCA § 13-27-312

Proponent and approved by the attorney general, is the title for both the petition and ballot. If attorney general does not approve the statement, he or she prepares one.

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. St. § 32-1410

Attorney general

Nevada

N.R.S. 293.250

Secretary of state, in consultation with attorney general

North Dakota

 

 

Ohio

OH Const. Art. XVI, § 1; Art. II, § 1g; O.R.C. § 3519.21

Ohio ballot board; proponents may suggest title.

Oklahoma

34 Okl.St.Ann. § 8; § 9

Proponents submit descriptive ballot title reviewed by attorney general.

Oregon

O.R.S. § 250.065

Attorney general

South Dakota

SDCL § 12-13-25.1

Attorney general after receiving written comments from Legislative Research Council

Utah

U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-207; § 20A-7-209; § 20A-6-107

Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel numbers propositions and proposes a descriptive title summarizing the contents of the measure. Evaluations done by lieutenant governor and Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

Washington

RCWA 29A.72.050

Attorney general

Wyoming

W.S.1977 § 22-24-317

Secretary of the state and attorney general

The requirements for an election with statewide ballot measures vary greatly by state. States have statutes covering conflicting or competing measures, the percent of the vote needed to pass a measure, and repeal or change restrictions.

Conflicting or Competing Measures

Seventeen states have a statute in place noting that if two or more conflicting measures are on the same ballot, the measure receiving the most votes passes. Additional stipulations:

  • Arizona (A.R.S. § 19-126)
  • Arkansas (Arkansas Const. Art. 5  § 1; § 7-9-122)
  • California (Cal.Const. Art. 2, § 10)
  • Colorado (C.R.S.A. § 1-40-123)
  • Idaho (I.C. § 34-1811, § 34-1813)
  • Maine (M.R.S.A. Const. Art. 4, Pt. 3, § 18)
  • Massachusetts (M.G.L.A. Constitution 48, Init., Pt. 4)
  • Michigan (M.C.L.A. Const. Art. 2, § 9; Const. Art. 12, § 2)
  • Mississippi (MS Const. Art. 15, § 273; Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-29)
  • Missouri (V.A.M.S. Const. Art. 3, § 51; V.A.M.S. 116.320)
  • Nebraska (Neb. Rev. St. § 32-1416)
  • Nevada (N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 2)
  • North Dakota (NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 8)
  • Ohio (OH Const. Art. II, § 1b)
  • Oklahoma (34 Okl.St.Ann. § 21)
  • Utah (U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-211)
  • Washington (RCWA Const. Art. 2, § 1)

In Idaho and Nebraska, the law states that the entire measure might not be superseded and that only conflicting parts of the measure may supersede one another. 

In Maine, Oklahoma and Utah, the law includes additional requirements to those governing conflicting measures:

  • Maine: If neither receives a majority, the one receiving the most votes, if it receives more than one-third of the votes given for or against both, will appear at the next statewide election to be held not less than 60 days after the vote (M.R.S.A. Const. Art. 4, Pt. 3, § 18).
  • Oklahoma: If neither receives a majority, the one receiving more votes will be resubmitted to the next general election by itself if it received at least one-third of the total votes cast for or against the two measures. If both are approved, the one receiving the greatest number of affirmative votes prevails (34 Okl.St.Ann. § 21).
  • Utah: The governor must decide that two measures are in conflict (U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-211).

In Alaska, if the lieutenant governor and the attorney general determine an act of the legislature is the same as the proposed measure, then the citizen initiative is voided (AS § 15.45.210).

Six states do not have a law governing conflicting measures: Florida, Illinois, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Majority to Pass?

Thirteen states require a simple majority to pass statewide ballot measures: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota.  

Special rules apply to 11 states:

Colorado and Nevada require a simple majority for statutory measures only.

Colorado and Florida require a supermajority to pass a constitutional amendment: 55 percent of voters in Colorado (C.R.S.A. Const. Art. 5, § 1), and 60 percent of voters in Florida (F.S.A. Const. Art. 11 § 5).

In Nevada, a constitutional amendment needs only a majority but must be approved in two consecutive elections (N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 2).

Illinois requires either 60 percent of those voting on the amendment itself or a majority of those voting in the election as a whole (ILCS Const. Art. 14, § 3).

Oregon requires the election as a whole to have had at least 50 percent voter turnout, but only requires a majority to pass (OR Rev. Stat. § 250.036; OR CONST Art. XVII, § 1; Art. IV, § 1).

Two states require supermajorities for laws that seek to alter specific topics.

  • Utah requires 60 percent approval for laws that alter hunting and fishing (See Utah Const. Art. 6, Sec. 1, Part 2).
  • Washington requires 60 percent approval for laws authorizing gambling or lotteries (Washington Const. Art. 2, Sec. 24).

Four states require measures to pass with a majority of voters, but the measures must also have been voted upon by a certain percentage of the total number of voters who voted in that election. This ensures that measures will not be passed by a small minority of voters, either because of a low turnout or ballot-drop off (where voters only vote partway through a ballot).

  • Thirty percent in Massachusetts (Massachusetts Constitution 48, Init., Pt. 4, § 5)
  • Forty percent in Mississippi (MS Const. Art. 15, § 273 and Miss. Code § 23-17-37)
  • Thirty-five percent in Nebraska (Ne.Rev.St. CONST. Art. III, § 4)
  • Fifty percent in Wyoming (W.S.1977 § 22-2-117).

Repeal or Change Restrictions

States have rules in place to govern what legislatures or governors can do to citizen initiatives once they pass. In every state, a constitutional amendment requires a vote of approval. Therefore, rules restricting the ability to change or repeal measures apply to statutory measures, which are available in 21 states.

Ten states allow the legislature to alter or change measures without any time limits or supermajority requirements:

  • Colorado (C.R.S.A. Const. Art. 5, § 1)
  • Idaho (I.C. § 34-18)
  • Maine (M.R.S.A. Const. Art. 4, Pt. 3)
  • Massachusetts (M.G.L.A. Const. Amend. Art. 48)
  • Missouri (V.A.M.S. Const. Art. 3, § 52)
  • Montana (MT CONST Art. 4, § 8)
  • Ohio (OH Const. Art. II, § 1g)
  • Oklahoma (OK Const. Art. 5, § 7)
  • South Dakota (Const. Art. 3, § 1; Art. 13, § 1)
  • Utah (U.C.A. 1953 § 20A-7-212)

Seven states have supermajority requirements for changing a measure (the other states require only a regular majority, although some enforce a time period).

State Citation Supermajority Requirement

Arizona

A.R.S. Const. Art. 21 § 1, Part 6

May amend the initiative with three-fourths vote, but may only amend to “further the purpose” of the measure.

Arkansas

Arkansas Const. Art. 5 § 1

Two-thirds vote to amend or repeal.

Michigan

MI Const. Art. 2, § 9

May be amended or repealed only by three-fourths of each house or by a vote of the electors.

Nebraska

Ne.Rev.St. CONST. Art. III, § 2

Two-thirds vote to amend or repeal.

North Dakota

NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 8

Two-thirds vote (or majority after seven years).

Oregon

OR CONST Art.II, § 23; Art. IV, § 1

Supermajority vote only to change vote requirement.

Washington

RCWA Const. Art. 2, § 1

Two-thirds vote (or majority after two years).

Five states have time limits on the repeal or alteration of measures.

State

Citation

Alteration time limit

Alaska

AK Const. Art. 11, § 6

Two years

Nevada

N.R.S. Const. Art. 19, § 2

Three years

North Dakota

NDCC Const. Art. 3, § 8

Seven years (or two-thirds vote prior to seven years)

Washington

RCWA Const. Art. 2, § 1

Two years (or two-thirds vote prior to two years)

Wyoming

Const. Art. 3, § 52

Two years

In California (Cal.Const. Art. 2, § 10), the legislature cannot change or alter measures on its own and must resubmit changes to the people unless the original measure passed by voters waived this requirement.

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