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Process of Direct Democracy - General Overview

THE 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: http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections/elections_j.htm or contact the Elections Division at the Office of the Secretary of State at (916) 657-2166.

STAGES OF GETTING MEASURES TO THE CALIFORNIA BALLOT

1) Writing 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.

2) Request 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.

3) Circulation: 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:

• maximum of 150 days to circulate petitions and gather signatures;

• initiative measure must qualify for ballot at least 131 days prior to the next statewide election; and

• petitions 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.

4) Circulation 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.

5) Filing: 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.

• If 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 qualify.

• If 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.

What is the next stage in the process? The CAMPAIGN STAGE

*Information for this section was compiled by Deborah Quam, Sonoma State University. The primary source used was the California Secretary of State: 2004 Initiative Handbook.

 

 

 


SONOMA STATE UNIVERSITYCALIFORNIA INITIATIVE PROJECT
DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
Stevenson Hall 2070 • 1801 East Cotati Ave • Rohnert Park, CA 94928
(707) 664-2179 Phone • (707) 664-2110 Fax

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