Laws governing the initiative process in Massachusetts
Ten qualified voters draw up and sign the original petition putting forward the full text of the law they want enacted. Each of the ten original signers must then obtain certificates of voter registration from the board of registrars or election commission in the city or town where they are registered voters. The certificate of voter registration must be signed by at least three registrars.These certificates and the original petition must then be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General. The deadline is the first Wednesday of the September previous to the year of the next Gubernatorial election.
The Attorney General certifies that the measure and the title of the petition are in proper form for submission to the people; that the measure is not, either affirmatively or negatively, substantially the same as any other measure which has been qualified for submission or submitted to the people at either of the two preceding biennial state elections. Also, it must contain only subjects not excluded from the popular initiative. The Constitution excludes subjects that relate to religion, judges, the courts, particular localities, specific appropriations, and certain provisions of the state constitution’s Declaration of Rights from the initiative.
Once the petition is found acceptable, the Attorney general will prepare a summary and return it and the petition to the petitioners, who must file the petition and summary with the Massachusetts Secretary of State. The initiative can be filed with the Secretary of State sometime after the first Wednesday in September of the year previous to the next Gubernatorial election. The Attorney General almost always reviews the measure and writes the summary by the first Wednesday of September, but is not required by statute to do so. After the proponents submit the final language to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State will prepare the initiative petition forms with the summary thereon printed for voters to sign within fourteen days after receiving the papers from the original petitioners.
Initiative language can be submitted at any time, and the circulation time is unlimited.
Massachusetts has a distribution requirement, which mandates that no more than one-quarter of the certified signatures may come from any one county.
Residency of circulators
Massachusetts does not have a residency requirement. However, it does require that circulators be at least 18 years old.
Signed petitions must be submitted to the Local Registrars of Voters at least 14 days before the first Wednesday in December 2001 for verification, with the exception of Boston, which will be 10 days earlier. All signatures must be certified by a majority (at least three) of the local registrars or election commissioners in the city or town in which the signatures are collected.
See also: Massachusetts signature requirements.
Single Subject Restriction
Massachusetts does not have a single-subject rule.
The legislature can both repeal and amend initiatives. (Massachusetts Constitution Article 48, Gen. Prov. Pt. 6)
- Massachusetts statewide ballot measures: an overview
- How to place a question on the state election ballot Official Massachusetts guidelines
- Massachusetts Constitution and Statutory Provisions provided by the Initiative & Referendum Institute
- Legislative research in Massachusetts. See section 1.2.6 on Voter-Mandated Legislation
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