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Veto referendum

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See also: List of veto referendum ballot measures
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Veto referendum
Veto referendum is a synonym for citizen referendum, statute referendum and statue remand. It is also sometimes called a popular referendum. In Europe, the term abrogative referendum is in most common use.[1]

The phrase refers to times when:

  • A legislative body such as a state legislature, city council or county commission, enacts a new law;
  • A group that opposes the new law collects enough signatures within the statutory timeframe in that state to place that new law on a ballot for the voters in the relevant political subdivision to either ratify the new law, or reject it.

After a state legislature has passed a bill that may become the target of a veto referendum effort, typically those opposed to the bill have two windows of opportunity. In most states that allow the veto referendum, if citizens collect enough signatures to force the matter onto their state's ballot within a (typically) short amount of time, the targeted law does not then go into effect when it otherwise would have done so. Rather, the law is held in abeyance pending the outcome of the statewide vote. However, there is often a provision that if those who oppose the targeted law collect signatures but on a more extended timeline, that they can still force the issue to a vote but in the meantime, it will have gone into effect.

"Referendums" or "referenda"?

The plural of "veto referendum" is "veto referendums".[2]

According to Lord Norton of Louth, a professor of government at the University of Hulls, "Referendum is one of those rare gerunds for which there is no plural in Latin. I quote from footnote 1 in David Butler and Austin Ranney’s, Referendums Around the World: ‘We speak of referendums, not referenda, on the advice of the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary: 'Referendum is logically preferable as a plural form meaning ballots on one issue (as a Latin gerund referendum has no plural). The Latin plural gerundive referenda, meaning ‘things to be referred’, necessarily connotes a plurality of issues.’ ” So I'll call them referendums."[3]

In 1998, a debate arose in the Parliament of Great Britain as to whether "veto referenda" should be used as the plural form of "veto referendum" in spite of what the Oxford English Dictionary had to say on the subject.[4]

Alan Clark, a member of Parliament representing the United Kingdom's Conservative Party, asked Speaker Betty Boothroyd to rule on which usage was to be preferred in Parliament. Clark encouraged her to "strike a blow for classical revivalism" by ruling in favor of "veferenda", going on to say he had "heard on many occasions colleagues refer to referendums - which is an exceedingly ugly term."[4]

Baroness Boothroyd responded in favor of "referendums", saying, "I do notice on the Public Bill List that the word referendums for Scotland and Wales is used there. The word referendum was first used in English 150 years ago, according to the Oxford English dictionary which I've just been able to refer to. So I imagine after 150 years the House will be quite used to it now."[4]

Meaning of a "yes" vote

Among the states that allow this form of direct democracy, there are two different prevailing standards about what a "yes" vote means.

  • In Alaska and Maine, a "yes" vote signifies that the voter believes that the challenged legislation should be overthrown and a "no" vote means that the voter approves the challenged legislation and wants it to become law. The voter is saying, "Yes, I agree with those who object to this law that it should be overthrown." As a historical note, prior to 1998 in Maine, the reverse was true. See Meaning of a "yes" vote in Maine.
  • In Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington, a "yes" vote signifies that the voter approves of the challenged legislation and wants it to become law. The voter is saying "Yes, I want this to become law."

First such referendum

The first veto referendum to appear on a statewide ballot in the United States was Oregon Ballot Measure 1, Funding for Schools and Prisons (1906).

States that only allow the veto referendum

See states with referendum only

For two states, Maryland and New Mexico, the veto referendum is the only access their citizens have to any form of initiated statewide direct democracy.

States with veto referendum and more

These states allow the veto referendum as well as other forms of citizen-initiated direct democracy.

Examples of veto referendums

Use in states

Alaska

See also: History of Initiative & Referendum in Alaska

Alaskan voters have turned to the veto referendum three times:

Total veto referenda on ballot Legislative acts ratified Legislative acts rejected
3 1 2

Maine

See also: List of People's Veto ballot measures in Maine

In Maine, the veto referendum is known as the "People's Veto." According to the laws governing the initiative & referendum process in Maine, the required number of valid signatures to put a People's Veto on the ballot is set at 10% of the number of votes cast for the office of Governor of Maine in the most recent gubernatorial election.

Of the 29 veto referenda that have qualified for the ballot since the first qualified for the 1910 ballot, Maine voters have rejected 16 acts of the Maine legislature and upheld (or ratified) 13 statutes.

Total veto referenda on ballot Legislative acts ratified Legislative acts rejected
29 13 16

Oklahoma

See also: List of veto referendums in Oklahoma
Total veto referenda on ballot Legislative acts ratified Legislative acts rejected
20 6 14

Washington

See also: List of Washington State veto referendums

72 veto referenda were filed with the Washington Secretary of State from 1914 through 2009. Of these, 36 qualified for the ballot.

Of the 36 that qualified for the ballot, 24 resulted in voters overturning recent acts of the Washington State Legislature, while in 12 cases, voters ratified a recently-enacted law that was undergoing a veto referendum process.

Total veto referenda on ballot Legislative acts ratified Legislative acts rejected
36 12 24

Other types of ballot measures

Other types of ballot measures that appear in multiple states are:

Some related terms:

See also

External links

References