Different Voting Rules

Different voting schemes are used for legislation versus initiatives. In addition to placing additional qualifications on persons seeking to use the initiative process, several states have also imposed unique voting schemes on initiatives; thereby making it more difficult for the people to successfully enact their proposals.

In Mississippi, constitutional amendments proposed by the legislature become part of the constitution “if it shall appear that a majority of the qualified electors voting directly for or against the same shall have voted for the proposed change, alteration or amendment”. However, for constitutional amendments proposed by the people through the initiative, the initiative or legislative alternative “must receive a majority of the votes thereon and not less than forty percent (40%) of the total votes cast at the election at which the measure was submitted to be approved.”

Wyoming allows passage of an initiative only when “an amount in excess of fifty percent (50%) of those voting in the general election” cast a vote in favor of the proposed measure, not just a majority of those voting on the proposed measure. Thus, if voters choose not to vote on a measure, their non-vote is counted against it.

Massachusetts provides that legislative constitutional amendments, “if approved by a majority of the voters voting thereon,” become part of the constitution. On the other hand, amendments proposed through the initiative or legislative substitutes become part of the constitution if approved “by voters equal in number to at least thirty percent of the total number of ballots cast at such state election and also by a majority of the voters voting on such amendment.”

Utah amended their constitution in 1998 to require a two-thirds vote of the people in order to adopt by initiative a state law allowing, limiting, or prohibiting the taking of wildlife or the season for or method of taking wildlife.

Excerpted from the Initiative & Referendum Almanac by M. Dane Waters.