Ballot measures or ballot propositions are proposals to enact new laws or constitutional amendments that are placed on the ballot for approval or rejection by the electorate. There are several different kinds of ballot measures.1
An initiative is a proposal of a new law or constitutional amendment that is placed on the ballot by petition, that is, by collecting signatures of a certain number of citizens. Twenty-four states have the initiative process with 21 allowing initiatives to propose statutes or changes and 18 allowing initiatives to propose constitutional amendments.
A referendum is a proposal to repeal a law that was previously enacted by the legislature, and that is placed on the ballot by citizen petition. Most of the 24 states that permit referendums also permit initiatives.
Graph by Initiative & Referendum Institute
To see a chart of state by state requirements for initiative petitions, click here .2
In South Dakota, the Secretary of State website describes 2012 ballot question petition signature requirements3 as follows:
- Initiated Measure: This is a petition to add to, amend, or repeal existing state statutes. Initiative petitions must be filed in the office of the Secretary of State by the first Tuesday in November of the year prior to a general election year (SDCL 2-1-2). The petition must have signatures of registered voters equal to five percent (15,855) of the total vote for governor in the last gubernatorial election obtained within one year following the filing of the full text of the petition. No signatures may be obtained more than 19 months preceding the election date designated on the petition.
- Referred Law: This is a petition to prevent a measure passed by the Legislature from becoming effective. It must have signatures of registered voters equal to five percent (15,855) of the total vote for governor in the last gubernatorial election and must be filed within 90 days of adjournment of the legislative session in which the measure was passed (SDCL 2-1-4 ). Measures which may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions are not subject to referendum (SD Const., Art. III, Sec. 1 ).
- Initiated Constitutional Amendment: This is a petition proposing to amend, repeal, or add to provisions in the South Dakota state constitution. The petition must have signatures of registered voters equal to ten percent (31,709) of the total vote for governor in the last gubernatorial election and must be filed in the Secretary of State’s office one year before the general election (SD Const., Art. XXIII, Sec. 1 ). No signatures may be obtained more than 24 months preceding the election date designated on the petition.
If initiated measures or referred laws are passed, they change South Dakota state statute, and can subsequently be amended or repealed by future legislatures.
1Initiative and Referendum Institute at teh University of Southern California, http://www.iandrinstitute.org/Quick%20Fact%20-%20What%20is%20I&R.htm