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referral of proposed laws or constitutional amendments to the electorate for final approval. This direct form of legislation, along with the initiativeinitiative,
the originating of a law or constitutional amendment by popular petition. It is intended to allow the electorate to initiate legislation independently of the legislature.
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, was known in Greece and other early democracies. Today, these legislative devices are widely used in certain countries, most notably Switzerland. Their use in the United States reached a peak in the early part of the 20th cent. In the United States there are two main types of referendum—mandatory and optional. The mandatory referendum may be required by state constitutions and city charters for a variety of matters. It usually applies to constitutional amendments and bond issues, which by law have to be placed before the voters for approval. The optional referendum is applied to ordinary legislation. By the usual procedure implementation of a law is postponed for a certain length of time after it has been passed by the legislature; during this time, if a petition is presented containing the requisite number of names, the proposed legislation must be put to a vote at the next election.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in constitutional law, the adoption by an electorate of a final decision on constitutional, legislative, or other questions of domestic and foreign policy. The conditions for holding a referendum and the procedure to be followed are regulated by the constitution and legislation of a country.

Depending on the subject matter, the mode of holding the referendum, and the sphere of application, the following types of referenda are distinguished: constitutional, in which a draft constitution or constitutional draft amendments are submitted for a nationwide vote; legislative, in which the subject of the referendum is a draft law; imperative; and facultative. Under an imperative referendum, the draft of the given act is subject to ratification by the entire electorate. For example, in the USA a draft amendment to the constitution must be approved in all 50 states. The initiative for holding a facultative referendum may come from the electorate, as in Italy, certain cantons of a federation, as in Switzerland, or the central authority, as in France. A referendum is one of the elements of direct democracy, but the degree of actual democratism of the referendum depends primarily on the class essence of the state where the referendum is being held. For example, in bourgeois countries with authoritarian regimes, a referendum is often used by the ruling circles as a means of imposing some reactionary law on the population.

Article 115 of the Constitution of the USSR provides for a referendum (a nationwide vote). The constitutions of Bulgaria, Hungary and the German Democratic Republic also provide for referenda.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. submission of an issue of public importance to the direct vote of the electorate
2. a vote on such a measure
3. a poll of the members of a club, union, or other group to determine their views on some matter
4. a diplomatic official's note to his government requesting instructions
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The Supreme Court has yet to rule on a lawsuit challenging another ballot measure that would impose the strictest term limits in the country on Arkansas' legislators.
Media outlets and nonprofit organizations can easily integrate ballot measure and candidate cards into any webpage, to supplement their coverage of election contests and help voters research their ballots.
By rejecting two ballot measures, Michigan voted to protect wolves from hunters and to maintain voter input on decisions about endangered species.
Voter's Edge API for California will include similar data on local and statewide candidates and ballot measures for more than 50 California cities, with additional data provided by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund's Smart Voter.
But the ballot measures are only symbolic victories for opponents of the 2010 health law.
taxes have been highly unpopular, although ballot measures that seek to
In Colorado, voters resoundingly rejected three ballot measures, Amendments 60, 61 and 101, that would have significantly limited the revenue and debt authority of Colorado local governments.
Voters who educate themselves on the true impact of ballot measures are all that stand between our beloved parks and these scenarios.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent ballot measures focused on the politics of winning or losing and the relative power of the governor and the lobbies opposing it.
The League of Women Voters' DemocracyNet (DNet,, part of Capitol Advantage's Capwiz[TM] Election tool, provided information on over 25,000 candidates, covering 5,800 races, and 167 ballot measures nationwide in 2004.
In a May 26 statement, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury encouraged nonprofits, including charities, education and religious organizations, to check with their attorneys if they are involved with ballot measures.
These ballot measures were generally for the purpose of authorizing funds, amending administrative rules and regulations, and providing advice.