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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.



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.


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
References in periodicals archive ?
Plebiscites and referenda express a decision made once and for all, yet their results are no less conclusive or arbitrary than those of any other methods.
Like Manning, Day also favours referenda to decide morally divisive issues.
This article looks at arguments for and against the use of referenda as a way of keeping governments accountable.
Hawaii and Alaska voters endured expensive and divisive referenda battles over a ban on same-sex marriages, and both passed easily.
The virtues of a general enabling statute are strongly urged in a report on the conduct of referenda published by a commission jointly appointed by the Electoral Reform Society and the Constitution Unit established at University College London.
And if those referenda don't occur quite quickly enough for you, move to Colorado, where Gov.
With less than 70 days to go until voting is due to begin the Rift Valley Institute (RVI)report concludes that 'brinkmanship, delay and broken agreements -- old traditions of Sudanese politics -- threaten to turn the political and technical challenges of the referenda into a national disaster.
As noted in "School Referenda in Indiana", the contributing factors to school referenda outcomes are often subject to the individual communities; while a referendum with a high requested tax rate increase might fail in one community, the same referendum might pass in another.
As you have learned from the Quebec situation, referenda may be democratic in theory, but they are demagogic in reality when questions are abused.
Uma October 15, 2010 (JUBA) The Government of National Unity (GoNU) and its southern counterpart should release funds set aside for the normal operations of Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and its bureau, Benjamin Mkapa, the Chairperson of the UN Secretary-General's panel on Sudan's referenda has urged.
This Research Brief reports on local experience with referenda; findings include: (1) There have been 421 total referenda in Southeastern Wisconsin school districts, 61 percent to take on debt and 35.