State Balloting Process
Once a sponsor has decided to begin an initiative
petition effort, the first step is to deliver, to the Secretary of State’s office, a
copy of the language that they want to see in the statutes or in the
constitution and the object clause for the petition. The object clause is a
brief statement of what the proposal will accomplish. The sponsor also
needs to provide a list of the sponsors of the petition at that time.
From there, the Secretary of State sends the language to the Revisor
of Statutes who reviews the submitted language. The Revisor has 10 days
to review the language and suggest changes to make the language fit
into the constitution or statutes clearly and uniformly. When the suggested
changes are returned to the Secretary of State, the sponsors are informed
and may accept or reject any suggestions made by the Revisor. The
suggested changes are confidential for five days after returned from the
Revisor. The sponsor then provides the final language to the Secretary of
State and he or she places the language and object clause onto a
petition form. The Secretary of State provides 5 camera-ready copies of
the form to the sponsor within 5 days. The form must contain a statement
in red and 16 pt. type that the petition is circulated by either a paid or
volunteer circulator as the case may be.
Once the final form is given to the sponsors the language of the
measure may not be changed or amended. However, if a change in the
language becomes necessary, sponsors may stop collecting signatures on
the petition and begin the process again with revised language.
The procedures for the filing of a referendum petition are very similar
to an initiative. Instead of submitting the proposed initiative language, the
sponsors submit a copy of the recently passed law along with a statement
of the object of the petition. The proposed referendum follows the same
path through the Revisor and Secretary of State as an initiative.
Once the sponsors have received the camera-ready copies of the
form, they may print or copy the form and begin collecting signatures
from registered voters in the state.
The legislature can repeal and amend initiative
statutes by a simple majority. There is also a statutory restriction on the use
of the initiative for issues that interfere with the Legislature’s prerogative to
raise the necessary revenue for the state and its political subdivisions. In
addition, the same measure may not be placed on the ballot more often
than once in three years.
When the petition is submitted for verification, the Secretary of State
will deliver a copy of the measure to the Attorney General. The Attorney
General will write a ballot question or title that summarizes (in 100 words or
less) the purpose of the measure. In addition, the Attorney General will
provide material that explains the effect of a vote for or against the
measure. These items will appear on the ballot.
If anyone believes that the ballot language is not sufficient or fair, they
may file in District Court asking for the language to be changed. This must
be filed within 10 days after the language is delivered to the Secretary of
The final language (either from the Attorney General or the District
Court) is sent by the Secretary of State to each local official for
placement on the ballot. The language on the ballot will indicate that the
voter is to vote either “For” or “Against” an initiative measure and “Repeal”
or “Retain” on a referendum.
Prior to the election, there are three informational mechanisms used
by the Secretary of State.
The first is the publication of a pamphlet that contains the ballot title
and arguments for and against the measure. The pamphlet is available
from local election officials and is available at least six weeks prior to the
election. Proponents and opponents of the measure may submit
suggestions on material to be included in the pamphlet. It should be
noted however that the pamphlet is written and produced by the
Secretary of State and any submitted material may or may not be used at
his or her discretion.
Second, the Secretary of State conducts public hearings on the
measures with a public hearing in each congressional district. These
hearings occur no more than 8 weeks prior to the general election.
Proponents and opponents are encouraged to attend to provide their
views on the measure.
The final information source is the publication of the entire text in all
legal newspapers in the state once each week for the three weeks prior
to the election.
Click here to view a copy of the state constitution.