Writing:Initiative and referendum law

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Initiative and referendum is one of the most powerful political tools at a citizen's disposal. It's also one of the few that allows people a direct say in how their state will be run. Here is how you can help writes articles about the laws governing the initiative process.

Finding the right content

In most states that have I&R laws, one or more of the government agencies in that state gives some information about what the law is in that state. Look at State ballot measure websites to find the most likely agency in the state you're interested in. Typically, you will find a website with information about current initiatives, a website or webpage that describes the law in that state, and a different website or page that includes historical election results. At the Ballotpedia article Campaign finance websites, you can find information on state law governing campaign finance disclosures, as well as the laws governing how to report and when to report expenditures and contributions to ballot measure campaigns.

It is always a good idea to include a link in your article to these laws as they tend to be "moving targets" changing year to year. Some elections websites are more helpful than others. For example: Arizona's website has a link to the Initiative application. If these are posted feel free to link to them as well.

  • KEEP posting these laws even if they are already available at a statewide level. I&R law exists on a county, township, city wide level as well. Help citizens get involved and post your law no matter how "local" the level.

Other links that would be useful to readers are the links to the Campaign Finance Regulations, the Campaign Disclosure Project, WikiFOIA as these are tools that will undoubtedly be useful during a ballot drive.

Making I&R laws user friendly

Most I&R laws are written in 'legalese,' which in turn makes it unreadable to all but those with a law degree.

The I&R Institute created a Basic Procedure guide to I&R law in your state. Our friends at the I&R Institute have allowed us to re-post much of this information on Ballotpedia. However, constant updates are needed as these laws have a habit of changing every election cycle--not to mention guides to local initiative and referendum laws.

Some suggested sections to break the law into:

  • Basic Procedures
  • Date Initiative language can be submitted to state
  • Signatures are tied to vote of which office
    • Next Gubernatorial election
    • Votes cast for that office in last election
    • Net number of signatures required
      • For statute?
      • For constitutional amendment?
  • Distribution Requirement
  • Circulation period
    • Do circulators have to be residents
  • Date when signatures are due for certification
    • Are there other deadlines during the initiative process? Be sure to include them as well.
    • Signature verification process
  • Single-subject restriction
  • Legislative tampering
  • General Comments

What's new?

Remember that initiative and referendum is constantly being changed. Keep updating your pages! If the Ballotpedia catches them before you do, I'd suggesting adding your states I&R law page to your watch list. This will allow you to see updates as the community adds to it.

  • Add to your watch list by clicking on the watch button in the top right panel.

Formating your page

If you are at loss for how to write in "wiki" please check out our new page and editing articles.

Also remember to categorize your page and to cite your sources.