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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 commission has since ruled out a Yes/No question in the Brexit referendum, instead recommending a Remain/Leave question.
"This Bill provides the necessary legislative framework to govern the conduct of this referendum."
From a historical point of view, from the beginning of the British membership in the European Economic Community in January 1973 and the accession to the European Union in 1993, opponents of the issue of British membership in the European Union have always challenged it and tried to withdraw from the European Union, finally They have focused on debating a referendum in late 2015.
'According to media reports, Ipoh City Council is backing the referendum. My question is who is paying for the exercise, from the ballot papers to the council personnel manning the referendum,' he said.
Lee Chin-yung, chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), said the CEC will respect and follow the revised act, which requires the CEC to establish a secure digital platform for referendum petitions as soon as possible.
The BBI exercise, which is widely expected to recommend changes that would lead to a referendum, was first given one year to submit its proposals.
His comments come after two senior Labour front-benchers threw their weight behind calls for a second referendum. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer warned it was "impossible" to see how an agreement between the Conservatives and his party could clear the Commons unless it guaranteed the deal would be put back to the public for a "confirmatory vote".
Don't make this referendum look like it's about political leaders sharing positions," said the ANC leader.BUILDING BRIDGESSpeaking after attending Sunday service at Citam Kisumu Church, Mr Mudavadi said contrary to demands by politicians, the message that is coming from the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has nothing to do with a referendum.
The idea of a new referendum was among several Brexit alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May's deal that were put to lawmakers in the last month but which all fell short of a majority in parliament.Hammond said May's government was sticking to its opposition to any new referendum.
Referendum 2020 Convention in New York was attended by thousands of Sikh activists who vowed to support the campaign for Khalistan.
They may at some time in the future decide to hold another referendum but the point that Mr Thompson is not taking into account is that until the next referendum, Scotland is abiding by the result of the 2014 referendum and staying part of the UK.