Tag Archives: referendum

Two Years Later Wyoming Supreme Court Rules For Petitioners

The Casper clerk rejected signatures that should have counted.

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Filed under Ballot Question, Petition Drive, referendum

Gaining The Initiative

Citizens in Sammamish, WA are expected to gain the ability to initiate legislation this fall.

Earlier this year activists circulated petitions to call for an advisory vote to gauge local support of the initiative process. Voters approved the advisory measure 55% to 45%.

The Sammamish City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to move forward with a resolution that states its intent to adopt citizen-enacted initiative and referendum powers, with Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay and Councilmember Tom Odell voting against.

The limited powers allow residents to create or repeal laws within the city by way of petition. The council decided to put the matter up to the public in the April special election. That nonbinding advisory vote passed with 55 percent approval with a 24 percent voter turnout.

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Filed under Ballot Question, Initiative, referendum

Online Petitions, Advisory Petitions, Plebiscite Petitions, and Initiative Petitions

Online petitions, advisory petitions, plebiscite petitions, and initiative petitions, each involve you signing your name in support of an issue. How are they different?

Online petitions are becoming more and more common. It’s easy to make an online petition. Google “petition” or “online petition” and you’ll get links to many places that will let you set up and account, link to your social media accounts, and ask your friends to sign your petition. Change.org, ipetition, and We The People are all petition sites where you can use social media to build awareness for your issue. People use these sites to put pressure on politicians, companies, individuals or organizations to change laws, policies, or behaviors. There are many success stories. These petitions are not legally binding. Online petitions are effective in the same manner a boycott or rally can be effective, by drawing attention to a problem and putting pressure on people who have the power to take action. They’re also very effective for building lists.

Advisory petitions are a less common form of legal petitions. An advisory petition typically allows citizens to call a non-binding vote on a particular issue. The results of that election are intended to show public support or opposition to an issue with the hope politicians will take action to change the law.

A plebiscite petition is similar to an online petition but it’s not done online. Circulators carry petition forms and ask people to sign in support of a specific issue. Like online petitions they are used to put pressure on decision makes. They are also used to build lists.

Initiative petitions are different, they are a legal document people sign to force government officials to call a vote on a specific piece of legislation written on the petition. When you sign an initiative petition or gather signatures on an initiative petition you are working to allow voters a choice on that piece of legislation. Initiative petitions lead to a binding vote and are governed by very specific laws. These laws require the petition to comply with many specific details, details that are different in every state. When sponsors of an initiative petition have gathered enough signatures and submit the petition, the governing body is compelled to let voters decide the issue. When voters go to the ballot box the legislation is presented as a ballot question and people vote to approve or reject the initiated legislation. If voters approve the legislation it become law in that political subdivision.

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, Initiative, Petition Drive, politicians, referendum

Alabama Needs The Initiative

Alabama could be the next state to get the initiative. Frank Dillman at letbamavote.org has been pushing this issue for several years. Perhaps this is the year it happens. HB-78 has been introduced, it will allow citizens to propose constitutional amendments by petition. It also allows the legislature to propose a competing amendment to share the ballot. Let’s hope it passes and citizens in Alabama can finally propose legislation directly. Read more here.

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, Initiative

Crony Streetcars

The municipal initiative and referendum processes are two of the best tools available to push back against crony capitalism. Votes on controversial city spending should be common practice. Unfortunately citizens often need to organize and spend big money to defend against city councils working with developers and construction companies getting special taxpayer funded projects. Voters deserve a say when their city council attempts to put them on hook for millions by bonding projects like streetcars and trolleys.

Last summer voters shut down a city attempt establish a new streetcar taxing district in Kansas City, Missouri. While not an example of referendum this is a great case for allowing citizens to vote on the funding plans for these projects. We can see who spends money to support streetcar expansion:

 'A town with money is a little like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it."


‘A town with money is a little like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it.”

“The pro-streetcar campaign, called Connect KC, raised more than $387,000, with large contributions from the downtown Marriott, Burns & McDonnell and other major construction and engineering firms, law firms and development boosters.” Now citizens are petitioning to prevent the city from spending tax money to expand the streetcar system.

In San Antonio, Texas citizens have taken a proactive approach and petitioned to amend the city charter prohibiting the city from starting a streetcar project without voter approval.

Currently citizens in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are petitioning so voters can have the final say on a city trolley project. 

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Filed under Ballot measures