Concept

Initiatives and referendums in the United States

Résumé
In the politics of the United States, the process of initiatives and referendums allow citizens of many U.S. states to place new legislation, or to place legislation that has recently been passed by a legislature on a ballot for a popular vote. Initiatives and referendums, along with recall elections and popular primary elections, are signature reforms of the Progressive Era; they are written into several state constitutions, particularly in the West. It is a form of direct democracy. The technical name of these types of votes used internationally is referendum, but within the United States they are commonly known as ballot measures, propositions or ballot questions. Referendum within the United States normally refer specifically to questions about striking down enacted law, known internationally as the popular referendum. History of direct democracy in the United States The Progressive Era was a period marked by reforms aimed at breaking the concentrated power, or monopoly, of certain corporations and trusts. Many Progressives believed that state legislatures were part of this problem and that they were essentially "in the pocket" of certain wealthy interests. They sought a method to counter this—a way in which average persons could become directly involved in the political process. One of the methods they came up with was the initiative and referendum. Through 2006, 2,231 statewide initiatives were held in the United States, of which 887 were successful. Because US states with direct democracy require each signature to be witnessed and notarized by a circulator, gathering the required signatures usually costs millions of dollars in the larger states, to hire circulators. This means that the process, as with state legislatures described above, is also "in the pocket" of certain wealthy interests. In 2021, in Boulder Colorado, the first official online petition system was used to get an initiative on the ballot, with no circulators involved at petitions.bouldercolorado.gov.
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