Ballotpedia:WikiProject Law/Writing guidelines

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Ballotpedia:WikiProject Law

This page goes over some basic guidelines for writing ballot measure law-related articles. These are the types of articles you might be writing:

Overview articles

Laws governing the initiative process:

Articles of the type Laws governing the initiative process in Idaho should include:

  • A section, with as many subsections as are needed, for the features of the law
  • A section about proposed changes

Changes in (Year) to laws governing ballot measures:

This is a set of overview articles that come in this form:

State statutes

See also: State statutes governing ballot measures and {{Statute infobox}}

Somewhere between 100-150 statutes are introduced in state legislatures every year that would change some feature of the laws governing ballot measures in the states. Several dozen of these laws are enacted every year. Each enacted law should have an article. It is also good to have an article about statutes that do not get enacted (or which might, but haven't yet been), or which illustrate legislative opinion (albeit minority) or which attract a fair amount of controversy and discussion.


Naming convention:

The title of the article should:

  • Begin with the name of the state where it was introduced.
  • Then, provide the nomenclature in use in that state that indicates the chamber where it was introduced and its identifying number.
  • End with the year of introduction in parentheses.


Colorado House Bill 1326 (2009)
800px-Flag of Colorado.svg.png
Legislature:Colorado General Assembly
Text:HB 1326
Sponsor(s):Carroll, Shaffer, et al
Legislative History
Introduced:March 24, 2009
State house:Approved April 15, 2009
State senate:Approved May 1, 2009
Governor:Bill Ritter
Signed:May 29, 2009
Legal Environment
State law:Laws governing the initiative
process in Colorado
Code:Elections code

An infobox is available for use in illustrating articles about state statutes. There's an example of what that infobox looks like to the right. The data fields that can be used in this infobox are:

{{Statute infobox
| Title                    = <Name of legislation>
| Flag                     = < State flag file>
| Legislature              = <name of state legislature>
| Text                     = <link to bill text>
| Sponsor(s)               = <names of sponsors>
| Introduced               = <date of initial introduction> 
| Awaiting vote            = <status as to whether it is awaiting a vote> 
| Committee                = <assigned to which committee and when>
| State house              = <date enacted in lower house>
| Vote lower house         = <number of yes and no votes>
| State senate             = <date enacted in upper house>
| Vote upper house         = <number of yes and no votes>
| Signed                   = <date signed by governor>
| Vetoed                   = <date vetoed by governor>
| Governor                 = <names of signing or vetoing governor>
| State law                = <wiki-link to BP article about type of law, using a line break if necessary>
| Code                     = <Name of the code; for example, "Elections">
| Section                  = <List sections of the code>
| CICF                     = <CICF's ranking; {{tl|cicfred}}, {{tl|cicfgreen}} or {{tl|cicfgray}}>

You can fill out as many or as few of the fields as you have the information for. To install the infobox, copy the text immediately above, and paste it as the first code in an article about a statute. Leave fields blank when you don't know what goes in them.

Templates used in infobox:

Introductory sentence(s):

The introductory sentence(s) should:

  • Begin with the title of the statute in bold.
  • Briefly describe what the statute is, and what its status is; for example, "is a statute that has been introduced", "was signed into law", "was enacted by the Name of State Legislature but was then vetoed", "was enacted by the Name of State Legislature in Year and was later overturned by the Name of Court in Year on the grounds that it...".
  • Name the statute's legislative sponsors.
  • Briefly describe what the statute accomplishes, or will accomplish, if it is enacted

Body of the article:

The body of the article should include sections that:

  • Describe in detail what the statute does, and indicates how this is a change from the status quo before the statute was passed.
  • Describe the statute's legislative history
  • Describe notable opinion about the statute and why it is either desirable, not desirable, etc., in the opinion of notable people in the state.
  • Describe any lawsuits that have been or were filed against the statute.
  • Describe anticipated impact.

Navigational templates:

Depending on the nature of the statute, one or more of these navigational templates could be added to the end of the article:


Articles about state statutes should be categorized in at least three categories:

Links and references:

There should be an external link to the state legislature's tracking page about the bill, and footnote references to newspaper articles that were used as a source for the article.


San Francisco Forty-Niners v. Nishioka
Seal of California.svg.png
Court:California Courts of Appeal
Text:Text of decision
A ballot initiative can be removed from the ballot before an election if the petition that was circulated to qualify the initiative contained false or misleading information.
Case history
Filed:June 9, 1998
Trial court:Superior Court of San Francisco
Trial court judge:Raymond D. Williamson, Jr.
Appellate court:California Courts of Appeal
Author:James Marchiano
Appellate decision:October 6, 1999
See also: Category:Ballot measure lawsuits


Introductory sentence(s):

The introductory sentence(s) should:

  • Begin with the title of the lawsuit in bold italics.
  • Briefly describe what the lawsuit is or was all about, and what its status is; for example, "is a lawsuit that has been filed", "was decided by the [Name of Court] on [Day/Month/Year]"
  • Name the court where the lawsuit was filed and the court where it was appealed, if it was or has been appealed.
  • Briefly describe the implications of the decision on the lawsuit.

Body of the article:

The body of the article should include sections that:

  • Give the background of the lawsuit. What gave rise to it being filed?
  • Tells the reader about the plaintiffs and their motivations.
  • Tells the reader about the defendants.
  • Give a timeline, if multiple significant events in the life of the lawsuit have occurred.
  • Elaborate on any significant or notable features of the lawsuit.
  • Explain the impact of the decision, if it has a broader impact.

Infobox template:

  • Ballotpedia has a defined format for an infobox about ballot measure lawsuits.

The parameters you'll want to fill in appear here; it is fine to leave some blank:

{{Court case infobox
| Title                      = 
| Seal                       = 
| Court                      = 
| Text                       = 
| Holding                    = 
| Filed                      = 
| Hearing                    = 
| Trial court                = 
| Trial court judge          = 
| Trial court decision       = 
| Appellate court            = 
| Appellate court judge      = 
| Appellate court decision   = 
| Appellate court 2          = 
| Appellate court judge 2    = 
| Appellate court decision 2 = 


Any article about a ballot measure lawsuit should go in at least 3 categories:

  • One category for the state. These categories all come in the form: Category:Ballot measure lawsuits, California
  • One category for the year. These categories all come in the form: Category:Ballot measure lawsuits, 1999. You can put more than one of these on the article. You can have one year category for the year the lawsuit was filed and another for the year the lawsuit was decided. If it was decided in more than one court and in more than one year, you can have more than one such category. The purpose of adding multiple year categories is because some readers will search by the year category, and you want to have the article come up for them in any year when the lawsuit was relevant...i.e., in the year category for when it was filed, and again for one or more decision years.
  • One category for the ballot measure law-related topic covered in the lawsuit. You can search for one or more appropriate topic-related categories at Category:Ballot measure lawsuits, by topic.