referendum

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referendum,

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Referendum

 

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.

referendum

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 ?
as one acting in support of, or in opposition to, the qualification, passage, or defeat of a ballot question but that does not receive contributions or make expenditures or contributions for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence the action of the voters for or against the nomination or election of a candidate (MCFA, PA 388 of 1976, 169.202).
Ringwood Cares, a group of residents who wrote the ballot question, said it would appeal Caposela's decision--a move that would have to be done quickly because Passaic County prints Election Day ballots on Sept.
The ballot question does not have the force of law but would require the state legislature to enact a law to implement the initiative.
San Francisco was the first city to do so, also by ballot question in 2006, and Washington, D.C., became the second last year when the city council did it on its own.
Potentially controversial ballot questions pose unique dilemmas and opportunities for municipal officials, due to sharp divisions on the council/commission or within the community.
This ballot question would create a new article of the Nevada Constitution requiring a 20% rollback of casualty insurance premiums charged on Dec.
"Should this court determine that the 2000 ballot question, like the 1999 ballot question, does not sufficiently inform the voters to permit them to intelligently cast their votes, the legislature is certainly prepared to further modify the question," the House said.
"It would be a ballot question, as it has been in every other state which made the determination.
One further consideration on the road to a statewide referendum is the role of third-party candidate Evan Falchuk, who has vowed to pursue a ballot question of his own to ban taxpayer funds for a bid.
He has submitted his own ballot question and summary to Lane County Circuit Court to be used instead of the city's proposed wording.
3 to bar a proposed ballot question that seeks to outlaw same-sex marriages.