Popular referendum

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A popular referendum (also known, depending on jurisdiction, as citizens' veto, people's veto, veto referendum, citizen referendum, abrogative referendum, rejective referendum, suspensive referendum or statute referendum)[1][2][3] is a type of a referendum that provides a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote (plebiscite) on an existing statute, constitutional amendment, charter amendment or ordinance, or, in its minimal form, to simply oblige the executive or legislative bodies to consider the subject by submitting it to the order of the day.[4][5] It is a form of direct democracy.[6]

Unlike an initiative or legislative referendum that allows voters to suggest new legislation, a popular referendum allows them to suggest repealing existing legislation.[4][5]

As with an initiative, a popular referendum is held after a given number of signatures supporting it have been submitted to the authorities; in some cases such a referendum may also be initiated by regional authorities.[3][6] Depending on local legislation, the popular referendum may be implemented only in a short window of time after the legislation has been passed; in others it may be used to defeat any existing legislation.[3][7][8] Specific details on the applicable procedure (such as the number of signatures, whether there is a time limit and its duration on when the popular referendum may be passed, and the body to which they must be submitted) vary from country to country (and in the United States, from state to state).

Supporters of the popular referendum point out that it is a safeguard against special interests taking over, and protects the rights of minorities.[2][6] Critics point out that direct democracy votes are dominated by people who have strong feelings about the issue at hand, and as such, it empowers special interests.[6][7]

Worldwide implementation

In Europe, where the popular referendum (commonly known as abrogative referendum) was first introduced in Switzerland in St. Gallen canton in 1831;[9] it now exists in Albania,[10][11] Denmark (since 1953),[2] Italy (since 1970),[2][10][11] Malta,[10][11] Russia[10][11] and Switzerland (since 1874).[2] CoE, Venice Commission, Referendums in Europe – an analysis of the legal rules in the european states [12]

In Latin America, the popular referendum exists in Colombia, Uruguay and Venezuela.[13]

In the United States, such a process exists, as of May 2009, in 23 states and one territory: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and the U.S. Virgin Islands.[4][14][15] The popular referendum was first introduced in the United States by South Dakota in 1898,[16] and first used in the United States in 1906, in Oregon, two years after the initiative was used (in 1904, also in Oregon).[17]

See also


  1. Initiative Process, ballot.org
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Setälä, Maija (December 1999). "Referendums in Western Europe – a wave of direct democracy?". Scandinavian Political Studies. Wiley. 22 (4): 327–340. doi:10.1111/1467-9477.00022.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Full text.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Maija Setälä, Referendum, Agenda-Setting and Models of Democracy: Majority Rule in Different Models of Democracy
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Initiative, Referendum and Recall, NCSL.org
  5. 5.0 5.1 National new era, No.18, Volume XX, The New Era Co., May 1, 1903, p.3 Google Print, full view
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Veto, Sun Journal - Oct 23, 1999
  7. 7.0 7.1 Referendums, ACE Encyclopedia, Electoral Knowledge Network
  8. David Butler, Austin Ranney, Referendums around the world: the growing use of direct democracy, American Enterprise Institute, 1994, ISBN 0-8447-3853-0, Google Print, p.63
  9. (Polish) Demokracja bezpośrednia i semibezpośrednia
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Pierre Garrone , Referenda in Europe, Council of Europe
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Study on Referendum, European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission)
  12. Venice Commission (20 October 2005). Referendums in Europe - an analysis of the legal rules in European States. European Commission for Democracy through Law. CDL–AD(2005)034.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Report adopted by the Council for Democratic Elections at its 14th meeting.
  13. J. C. Madroñal, The direct democracy in Latin America, 2004
  14. States that allow for the Ballot Initiative Process, ballot.org
  15. Initiative and Referendum States
  16. Arthur N. Holcombe, State Government in the United States, Read Books, 2007, ISBN 1-4067-7154-6, Google Print, p.141
  17. Arthur N. Holcombe, State Government in the United States, Read Books, 2007, ISBN 1-4067-7154-6, Google Print, p.529