Laws governing local ballot measures in Wisconsin

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Laws Governing Local Ballot Measures

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All Wisconsin cities and villages have an initiative process for local ballot measures.

This article sets out the laws governing local ballot measures in Wisconsin. It explains:

  • Which local units of government make the initiative process available to residents.
  • How and whether local units of government, including school districts, can refer local ballot measures (such as school bond propositions) to the ballot.
  • An overview of laws governing local recall elections.

Types of local government

Local government in Wisconsin consists of 72 counties, 595 cities and villages, and 1255 towns. In addition, there are 761 special districts and 440 independent school districts.[1]

Further classifications:

  • All cities and villages have home rule authority and are able to pass charter ordinances.[2]
  • Milwaukee is the only first-class city and only remaining city with a private act charter. Other cities are classified as second, third, or fourth class.[3]

School districts

See also: School bond and tax elections in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a revenue cap that limits the amount of property tax revenue school districts can bring in. If any school district wants to exceed revenue limits, they are required to have a ballot measure submitted to the people. Wisconsin also requires ballot measures for any school bonding that exceeds one million dollars. However, Wisconsin has generous exemptions to these requirements. For example, school districts are exempt from the voter approval required to issue new bonding if the district is ordered by a state or federal court to remove hazardous substances or to be in compliance with fire standards. Also, school districts are exempt from bond elections if they are purchasing or detaching property from a former consolidated school district.

Ballot Law Portal
Laws Governing Ballot Measures

Local recall rules

The citizens of Wisconsin are granted the authority to perform a recall election by Section 12 of Article XIII of the Wisconsin Constitution. This section was added to the Wisconsin Constitution in 1926; it was amended in April 1981.

§§9.1 0(1) and (3), Wis. Stats. are the statutory expression of how recall campaigns are to be conducted in Wisconsin.

For additional detail, see: Laws governing recall in Wisconsin

Campaign Finance Rules

See also: Campaign finance requirements for North Carolina ballot measures

Initiative process availability

A guide to local ballot initiatives
Local Ballot Initiatives cover.jpg

Cities and villages have a state set initiative process in Wis. Stat. § 9.20 that may be used to propose and vote on regular ordinances or charter ordinances.

However, court decisions have limited the subject matter available for initiative. An ordinance initiated under Wis. Stat. § 9.20: 1) must be legislative as opposed to administrative or executive in nature; 2) cannot repeal (or conflict with) an existing ordinance; 3) may not exceed the legislative powers conferred upon the governing municipal body; and 4) may not modify statutorily prescribed procedures or standards (which includes zoning). The restriction on conflicting with existing ordinances limits the initiative power compared with other states.[4][5]

Authority

Constitution

There are no explicit constitutional provisions for local initiative. However, Wisconsin Constitution, Article XI, Section 3 grants home rule power to cities and villages.

Statutes

  • Wis. Stat. Section 61.342 states that section 9.20 is applicable to villages. DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Wis. Stat. § 61.342
  • Wis. Stat. Section 66.0101(6) states that section 9.20 is available for charter ordinances. DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Wis. Stat. § 66.0101(6)
  • Also see Wis. Stat. § 8.40 (on petition form) and 8.37 (filing deadline). DocumentIcon.jpg See law:§ 8.40 § 8.37

Initiative process features

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Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with
clipboards, conversations, and campaigns

Initiative process in the top 10 most populated cities

List of Most Populated Cities in Wisconsin
City[6] Population City Type Next election
Milwaukee 597,867 Charter N/A
Madison 236,901 General law with Home Rule N/A
Green Bay 105,809 General law with Home Rule N/A
Kenosha 99,738 General law with Home Rule N/A
Racine 78,853 General law with Home Rule N/A
Appleton 73,243 General law with Home Rule N/A
Waukesah 70,867 General law with Home Rule N/A
Eau Claire 66,623 General law with Home Rule N/A
Oshkosh 66,344 General law with Home Rule N/A
Janesville 63,479 General law with Home Rule N/A

The top 10 most populated cities are all subject to the state set initiative process provided above.

References

External links