Want Something on the Ballot in 2020?
Did you come across a state law that you feel should be changed, but you don't know what you can do about it? Well, you can mobilize voters and change the law through what is called a ballot initiative.
Through a ballot initiative, the fate of a legislation is determined by ordinary citizens, whose lives are most likely to be affected.
A Little Background on Ballot Initiatives
A ballot initiative is a way a registered voter can collect a number of signatures to place measures on a ballot for a public vote. The procedure varies depending on which state you are in. But, in general, states follow two types of ballot initiatives:
- Direct: In these states, if your proposal qualifies, it will go directly to the ballot. California, Colorado, and Oregon are some of the states that allow you to directly vote on a qualifying proposal.
- Indirect: Unlike direct initiatives, here, the proposal first goes to the legislature, which is given some time to act on the proposal. If the legislature fails to act within the given time, the proposal will go to the ballot. Maine, Massachusetts, and Ohio are among the states that use this method.
Residents in Washington and Utah can choose either method.
How Does It Work Exactly?
Every state has its own laws and procedures when it comes to ballot initiatives. If you are planning to bring an issue to the ballot, you must do your research on the specific requirements in your state.
That being said, states generally outline these steps for individuals who would like to put an initiative on a ballot:
- You need to first file your proposed petition with the state official
- The designated official will review the petition to see if it is in line with the legal requirements
- The ballot title and its summary will be prepared
- You will then try to get the required number of signatures to get your petition on the ballot
- When you get the required votes, you will submit the petition to the state official, who will verify the number of votes collected
- If the state follows the direct ballot initiative process, the petition will go to the ballot. If the state pursues an indirect ballot initiative process, the petition will go to the legislature for consideration.
Examples of Ballot Initiatives
Ballot initiatives date back as far back as 1777. They have been used in 27 states and the District of Columbia by concerned citizens to pass laws that reflect their beliefs and values.
Some of the most prominent initiatives passed recently include:
- Voters in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington backed legislation that would make recreational marijuana legal.
- Voters in Nebraska, Utah, and Idaho backed an initiative that expands Medicaid eligibility, which is expected to cover around 325,000 low-income citizens.
- The Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, which initiated a constitutional amendment, was approved in the state of Florida through a ballot initiative.
Ballot Initiatives: The Challenges
Across the country, many voters are considering change through the ballot initiative. But that doesn't come without challenges.
Not all states have ballot initiatives. Also, some states have complex laws and compliance procedures that make it very difficult to pass ballot initiatives.
- Protecting Your Right to Vote (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Initiative Process 101 (National Conference of State Legislatures)
- What Is Election Campaign and Political Law? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
Thinking of Putting Something on the Ballot? An Attorney Can Help
States follow different rules and procedures on ballot initiatives. Navigating these laws and compliance procedures is complicated and time consuming.
Get a head start by speaking to an attorney familiar with election and campaign laws.