State Ballot initiatives: Limits Under the Constitution
Can the people of one state repeal Constitutional text?
No. Only Article V amendment can do this. The people of the several states ratified Article V, the required procedures to change or repeal any text in the Constitution. We also ratified Article VI, which makes the Constitution the supreme law over state laws and constitutions, however they are made, including by ballot initiative.
If states could repeal clauses by statute, many states would have repealed clauses by now. What if individual states could repeal Amendment XVI (the income tax)? And the Constitution delegates districting to Congress (see What's Wrong with this Bill?). For Congress to redelegate it to the states was unconstitutional in the first place. Reredelegating it would be just as unconstitutional even if it was to another part of government, rather than the private sector.
Can state ballot initiatives do anything other state laws can't do?
No. They can't repeal treaties or federal law, or do anything the state's constitution prohibits.
Ballot initiatives are entitled to the same protections as other voting rights. Some state legislatures have been placing limits on them. This amendment would expressly place ballot initiatives under the Constitution's protection (see Ballot Initiatives).
Because the public’s political power has eroded, it’s hard to get legislation even
introduced in Congress without professional lobbying.
But 26 states have established ballot initiatives enabling the public to directly (by petition) or indirectly (by appealing to the legislature) make state policy. And state resolutions can ask Congress to draft or pass a bill. Passage is still up to Congress, but they must attend to resolutions as assertions of the public’s will. It’s no substitute for the public’s Constitutional role, but it can help us repair, restore and safeguard that role by
requiring Congressional attention.
If your state uses initiatives, put one of our stand-alone bills on one!
The initiative process varies among states.
Your state legislature’s website will detail the process. But the general steps are:
1. proposal to a designated state officer
2. (in some states) their review of the proposal’s technical format for compliance, and sometimes the content’s quality
3. if not already done, drafting a final title and summary
4. petition circulation
5. signature verification
6. direct initiative:goes on the ballot
indirect initiative: goes to the state legislature which may approve it, reject it, alter it or propose an alternative. In some states, if the legislature rejects an indirect initiative you may then use the direct process.
States with indirect ballot initiatives to propose bills that allow direct initiatives if the legislature rejects a bill are:
States with only indirect processes for bills:
Alaska Florida Illinois Maine
Tips on effective use of these processes
can be found at www.iandrinstitute.org,
as well as the histories of states' initiatives
and other information. For more tips,