Initiated constitutional amendment
Of the twenty-four American states that have some degree of direct democracy, eighteen (18) of them have a provision for initiated constitutional amendments. In several of these states, including Illinois, Massachusetts and Mississippi, the requirements for placing a proposed amendment before the people through an initiative process are so prohibitively difficult that the process has rarely if ever been used.
Since 2006, additional notable hurdles to a successful completion of the process have been enacted in Florida, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma and Oregon.
States where the process has historically proven to be manageable, and where the rules do not change frequently, include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and South Dakota.
States allowing initiated amendments
Procedures by state
- See also: Amending state constitutions
Article 21 of the Arizona Constitution says that initiated amendments go on the Arizona ballot if an initiative petition is signed by qualified electors equalling 15% of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election.
Section 3 of Article XI of the Florida Constitution, with some limits, grants the people the right to initiate constitutional amendments. To be approved, a proposed amendment must garner a supermajority, which is equal to 60% or more of the vote.
An initiated amendment can be proposed in Illinois but only under conditions which include:
Mississippi technically allows initiated amendments but its requirements are so burdensome that it is virtually impossible to qualify an initiated amendment. Some of the requirements are:
- Signatures equalling 12% of the vote for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election must be collected in a period not to exceed a year.
- A tough distribution requirement such that signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of signatures required to qualify the measure for the ballot.
- Initiated amendments cannot be about altering in any way the Bill of Rights of the Mississippi Constitution.
- They also can't be about the Mississippi Public Employees' Retirement System.
- They can't be about amending or repealing the constitutional guarantee that the right of any person to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or organization.
- They can't modify the initiative process for proposing amendments to the Constitution (for example, to make it easier).
- The state legislature can place a competing measure on the ballot.
- To pass, an initiative must receive a majority of the votes thereon and not less than forty percent (40%) of the total votes cast at the election at which the measure was submitted to be approved.
- No more than five initiatives can appear on any one ballot.
- If an initiative is rejected, it (or a similar measure) can't go on the ballot again for at least two years.
Sections 49, 50, 51 and 53 of Article III of the Missouri Constitution lay out Missouri procedures under which citizens may initiate amendments. The number of signatures required for an amendment to go on the Missouri ballot is based on how many electors voted for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election, with a very complicated distribution requirement superimposed on the basic requirement.
The electors of Montana can qualify an initiated amendment, according to Section 9 of Article XIV. Proposed initiated amendments go on the ballot if petitions are signed by at least ten percent of the qualified electors of the state, including at least ten percent of the qualified electors in each of at least one-half of the counties.
The rules for initiated amendments in Nebraska are set out in Sections 2 and 4 of Article III of the Nebraska Constitution. The rules have changed over time in a way that makes the requirements more difficult; specifically, the number of signatures required to qualify an amendment for the ballot has gone from 10% of those who voted for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election to 10% of the state's registered voters.
- Signatures equalling 10% of the number of voters who voted at the last preceding general election must be collected to qualify an amendment for the ballot, and these signatures are subject to a distribution requirement
- If an initiated amendment wins in one election, it must win again at the next general election in an even-numbered year for it to become part of the constitution.
- Nevada is the only state that requires that a citizen-initiated amendment be voted on twice. The same requirement does not apply to legislatively-referred constitutional amendments in the state.
- Sections 1-9 of the North Dakota Constitution are about how an initiated amendment can alter the state's constitution. These sections define how many signatures are required, who is legally allowed to circulate initiative petitions, and other features of the laws governing the initiative process in North Dakota.
Section 1a of Article II defines the right of citizens to use initiated amendments.
- Signatures equalling 10% of the number voting for governor in the most recent election are required to qualify an initiated amendment for the ballot.
- The constitution says that petitions must have printed on them the words “Amendment to the Constitution Proposed by Initiative Petition to be Submitted Directly to the Electors.”
- Signatures equalling 15% of "legal voters" must sign a petition to put a proposed amendment on the ballot. The number of "legal voters" is defined as based on "the total number of votes cast at the last general election for the State office receiving the highest number of votes at such election."
- Petitions that are circulated for this purpose must include "the full text of the measure so proposed."
Section 1, Article IV says that the people of the state can use the process of initiated amendments.
- An initiated amendment must be proposed "only by a petition signed by a number of qualified voters equal to eight percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for Governor at the election at which a Governor was elected for a term of four years next preceding the filing of the petition."
- The petition must include the full text of the proposed amendment.
- The signatures must be filed "not less than four months before the election at which the proposed...amendment to the Constitution is to be voted upon."
- Article IV contains several restrictions on the process such as Section 1b, which prohibits pay-per-signature.
Article XXIII, South Dakota Constitution says that amendments proposed by petition must be "signed by qualified voters equal in number to at least ten percent of the total votes cast for Governor in the last gubernatorial election." Whether proposed by initiative or by the state legislature, an amendment may amend one or more articles and related subject matter in other articles as necessary to accomplish the objectives of the amendment.
Types of ballot measures
Other types of ballot measures that appear in multiple states are:
Some related terms:
- Forms of direct democracy in the American states
- States with initiative or referendum
- State constitution