of Direct Democracy - General Overview
PROCESS OF DIRECT DEMOCRACY IN CALIFORNIA
There is a five
- step process to qualifying an initiative measure for the ballot
as outlined by the California Secretary of State (CA SoS). The following
is a summary of the initiative process. For the most up to date
and detailed information related to process issues and initiative
measures that are currently in circulation or have qualified for
the ballot, please refer to the following link:
or contact the Elections Division at the Office of the Secretary
of State at (916) 657-2166.
OF GETTING MEASURES TO THE CALIFORNIA BALLOT
the Text of the Proposed Law: Assistance is often used
by retaining private legal counsel by many proponents, but some
ballot measure activists continue proposed ballot measures (aka,
“ballot language”) themselves. On some occassions, proponents
may present the text of the proposed law to the Legislative Counsel
office and obtain assistance in drafting the measure. Legislative
Counsel then drafts the proposed law if it is determined there is
a reasonable probability the initiative will qualify for the ballot.
for Title and Summary: Proponents are required to submit
the draft of the proposed measure to California’s Attorney
General with a written request for “Title and Summary”
of the chief purpose and points of the proposed ballot measure.
A $200 fee is assessed at this time. Proponents must also sign and
execute a sworn statement verifying specific conditions related
to signature gathering procedures. If a fiscal estimate is required
by the Attorney General, the proposed initiative must be analyzed
by the Department of Finance. When “Title and Summary”
is complete the Attorney General sends the proposed initiative to
the proponents, the Senate and Assembly, and the Secretary of State.
The Legislature may then conduct public hearings; however, the Legislature
may not amend the proposal. The official summary date is set and
petitions are then allowed for circulation by proponents for the
purpose of securing signatures to place the measure on the ballot.
There are specific time limits that must be met by these government
bodies and agencies.
The Secretary of State (CA SoS) prepares a calendar of
filing deadlines and sends copies to proponents based on the summary
date. There are specific requirements related to the language and
type set of the heading, title and summary, and text of the initiative
measure. The following deadlines apply to the initiative process:
of 150 days to circulate petitions and gather signatures;
measure must qualify for ballot at least 131 days prior to the
next statewide election; and
must be signed by registered voters with the number equal to at
least 5 percent of the total votes cast for the Governor during
the last gubernatorial election. If the initiative is a proposed
constitutional amendment then the number of required signatures
rises to 8 percent.
and Signing: Sections of the petition must have a declaration
signed and dated by the proponents who circulate petitions. There
are specific requirements related to sworn statements and acknowledgements,
instructions for circulation, petition signatures, withdrawal of
signatures, and criminal penalties for abuse of process.
Once the statutorily required number of signatures is collected,
these signatures are filed with appropriate county elections officials.
County elections officials then verify the raw count of signatures
and report to the Secretary of State.
If the raw count
equals 100 percent or more of the total number
of signatures needed to qualify the initiative, county elections
officials then perform a random sample (500 or 3 percent of the
number of signatures filed in the county) to verify the validity
of the signatures filed on the petitions. After completing the random
sample, the county officials certify to the Secretary of State the
number of valid signatures appearing on petitions in their counties.
The Secretary of State then applies a formula to determine the statewide
total of valid signatures.
the total number of valid signatures is greater than 110
percent of the required number of signatures, the initiative
is therefore qualified without further verification. If less than
95 percent are valid, then the initiative will fail to
between 95 to 110 percent are valid, county election
officials must verify every signature on the petition. This process
is called a full check. If the initiative qualifies for the ballot,
the Secretary of State then transmits a certificate to the proponents,
each county elections official, and each house of the state legislature.
is the next stage in the process? The CAMPAIGN STAGE
for this section was compiled by Deborah Quam, Sonoma State University.
The primary source used was the California Secretary of State: 2004