Legislators consider initiative and referendum process following increased initiative activity over the last three years

As direct democracy receives more attention so do the processes that govern how measures get on the ballot, the rules for support and opposition campaigns, the requirements for approval, and other details. In 2016 and 2018, citizen-initiatives were more prominent in the political landscape than they had been for several election cycles.
Voters directly decided nearly 150 issues over the last three years through initiative and veto referendum signature petitions. More than 200 other statewide ballot measures were sent to voters in the last three years by state legislatures or automatically referred by state laws.
So far in 2019 legislative sessions, 121 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, legislative referrals, local ballot measures, and recall have been introduced in 30 states. Two initiatives directly related to initiative and referendum laws were also filed in Missouri and South Dakota targeting the 2020 ballot.
  • Laws concerning total signature requirements for initiatives and veto referendums or recalls were introduced in five states; in Missouri and Utah, the bills were designed to increase the total number of signatures required for citizen initiatives.
  • Proposed laws concerning distribution requirements for signature gathering were introduced in Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, and Montana.
  • In Maine and Massachusetts pay-per-signature bans were introduced.
  • In Oregon, a bill to restrict legislative alteration of future initiatives was introduced.
  • Legislation to increase the supermajority requirement or impose additional vote requirements was introduced in Florida, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Washington.
  • In Missouri, a citizen initiative was filed to prevent state residency requirements, pay-per-signature restrictions, and initiative filing fees. It would also require voter approval for any changes to the initiative and referendum process and establish a system for electronic signatures. Two bills designed to enact initiative filing fees, among other provisions, were introduced in Missouri’s 2019 legislative session.
  • In South Dakota, an initiative to roll back some changes made in 2018 was filed.
  • Proposals were introduced in nine states to establish a process for ballot initiatives, veto referendums, recall, or some combination of the three.
  • 26 states have some form of initiative or veto referendum process. The last state to establish a process for initiatives was Mississippi in 1992.

In 2018, Ballotpedia tracked 203 pieces of legislation related to ballot measures and recall in 34 states by the end of the year. Of those 203, 34 were approved, 140 were rejected or abandoned, and nine were carried over to 2019. The most significant proposals were passed in Michigan and South Dakota.