The Initiative Process
The process varies from state to state, but in general a petition for a proposed law or constitutional amendment is submitted to the secretary of state, once the petition has been approved for circulation, signatures are gathered on petitions. If the required number of signatures are gathered by a certain date, the proposal is placed on the ballot. If approved by voters, the proposal becomes law, or a state’s constitution is amended, as proposed.
Initiative petitions are considerably more powerful than ordinary petitions.
The right to petition our government is enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution and petitions have long been a popular means of communicating the will of the people to our elected representatives.
The internet has made on-line petitions especially popular and common. They are relatively easy to circulate and sign. The downside is these petitions rarely have much effect on the members of Congress or state legislatures who unfortunately tend to listen more closely to political action committees and wealthy benefactors who write the big checks that help them get elected and re-elected.
Initiative petitions are fundamentally different. If the required number of signatures is obtained on an initiative petition, the proposed law or amendment must be placed on the ballot. If the proposed law or amendment wins at the polls, it becomes law.
The status quo is well-defended. Our constitution was designed to make reform difficult. The initiative gives citizens the power to begin the reform process at the state level. Getting proportional representation, ranked-choice voting, and public financing options for voters and candidates on the ballot and passed into law will give us an opportunity to demonstrate the awesome power of genuine democracy. These reforms will be contagious.
Campaigns for ballot proposals are inherently non-partisan.
They are focused on specific issues and reforms that typically have broad cross-partisan support. They provide an opportunity for concerned citizens to work together across party lines to pass needed reforms and legislation.
If enough citizens are willing to do the necessary work – circulating petitions and promoting proposals to voters – we can make the governments in states with the initiative shining examples of genuine democracy and good government. We believe that will eventually lead to demands for reforms (including the initiative) and pro-active legislation in other states and at the federal level.