Single-subject rule

From Ballotpedia
Revision as of 09:17, 23 August 2013 by JaimeB (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
Ballot law
BallotLaw final.png
State laws
Initiative law
Recall law
Statutory changes
Ballot Law Update
Current edition
Court cases
Lawsuit news
Ballot access rulings
Recent court cases
Petitioner access
Ballot title challenges
Superseding initiatives
Signature challenges
Local ballot measure laws

Single-subject rules require that an initiative contain only one issue or subject. The initiative can only address one question.

These states have a single-subject rule in their I&R laws:

Arguments in favor

Supporters of imposing a single-subject requirement on initiatives see its advantages as:

  • Initiatives that address only one subject are easier for voters to understand.
  • It allows voters to express a clear intent on a single issue.
  • It prevents a situation arising where a single initiative is placed on the ballot that includes a provision that is very popular with voters along with an unrelated provision that an initiative proponent cares about, but about which voters care little, are neutral or opposed.

For example, in 1984, the Florida Supreme Court wrote:

"This (single subject) requirement avoids voters having to accept part of an initiative proposal, which they oppose in order to obtain a change in the

constitution, which they support. An initiative proposal with multiple subjects, in which the public has had no representative interest in drafting, places voters with different views on the subjects contained in the proposal in the position of having to choose which subject they feel most strongly about."[1]

Arguments against

Those who criticize single-subject rules see its disadvantages as being:

  • The rule can be so strictly enforced that only the narrowest of subjects can make it on the ballot.
  • Activists may have to submit several different petitions to change one section of law, substantially increasing the cost of petitioning government.
  • The existence of a single-subject rule can lead to frivolous or blocking lawsuits against initiatives, thus making the process of qualifying initiatives for the ballot more cumbersome and expensive.

Relevant court cases

  • Campbell v. Buckley. An unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Colorado's single-subject rule.


See also: 2010 ballot measure litigation
  • A Siskiyou County Measure A (November), the "City of Mt. Shasta Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance", was removed from the ballot by Siskiyou County Clerk Colleen Setzer on August 12. She said she was removing it "due to alleged procedural errors and violations of elections code, including a changing of initiative language and improper filing of documents and fees." In addition to a procedural dispute about who the appropriate election official was with whom to file the initiative language before circulation, Siskiyou County claimed in its court filings that Measure A violated the single-subject rule.[3]
  • A group of unions filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court in August to try to keep the San Francisco Pension Reform Measure, Proposition B off the November ballot. The lawsuit asserted a variety of different reasons to keep Proposition B off the ballot, including the claim that Proposition B violates the single-subject rule.[4]

External links