California's Initiative and Referendum Process

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Things you may not know about the California Initiative process:
1) The number of signatures required to place an initiative on the ballot is a percentage of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. It is 8% for constitutional amendments, and 5% for statutes.
2) The 2006 gubernatorial election had 8,679,048 votes cast. Therefore a constitutional amendment currently requires 694,323 signatures, while a statute needs 433,952.
3) All signatures must be collected during the circulation period, which is 150 days.
4) To get a constitutional amendment on the ballot for 2010, the proponents need to gather 4,629 signatures a day. For a statute, that number would be 2,894.
5) For approximately one million dollars, you can hire enough political consultants and professional circulators to get your initiative qualified.
6) There is no limit to the amount a ballot measure committee can spend in support of a proposition.
7) There is no limit to the amount an individual or corporation can contribute to a ballot measure committee.
8) Most other states have a 365-day circulation period.
9) Under a 365-day circulation period, you would need to collect 1,903 signatures per day to qualify an amendment; 1,189 for a statute.
10) California allowed an unlimited circulation period until 1943.
11) An amendment takes precedence over a statute concerning the same law. If both pass, only the amendment takes effect.
12) Once an initiative has qualified for the ballot, it cannot be amended or withdrawn, even if the legislature passes a similar piece of legislation prior to the election.
13) From 1911 to 1939, there was a high of 35 initiatives per decade.
14) In the 1960’s, there was a total of nine.
15) In the 1970’s, 22 qualified.
16) In the 1980’s, 46 qualified.
17) In the 1990’s, 61 qualified.
18) The number of constitutional amendments has increased 30% over the last decade.
19) California’s constitution is eight times longer than the U.S. Constitution.
20) To pass a new tax through any legislative process in California, a proposed law needs a 2/3 majority to pass.
21) To ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, three-fourths of the states must pass it by a majority vote of the state’s legislatures.
22) For the California legislature to pass a constitutional amendment, both houses must pass it with a 2/3 majority.
23) To pass a constitutional amendment as a ballot initiative, 50% of those voting plus one must vote in favor.
24) The Democratic Party’s Initiative Reform Task Force met in November 2008. Their recommendations included requiring constitutional amendments to pass with a 2/3 majority in two consecutive elections.

To find out more:
L.A. Times Editorial

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1 Comment

Very interesting stuff. Thanks for posting this.

Regarding 6 and 7, based on my fading knowledge of the First Amendment as it applies to election law, I believe that the Supreme Court has held that these types of limitations are/would be unconstitutional. They're different from limits on contributions to individual candidates, which carry an inherent risk of quid pro quo. The Court reasoned that this danger doesn't exist with respect to "issue" contributions, such as ballot initiatives, so there was no compelling interest in limiting contributions. Or at least that's how I remember it.

Not saying I agree with it, but that's the way it is.

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