You have full Initiative & Referendum rights. Citizens can pass laws they write or suspend a statute passed by the Legislature by collecting enough petition signatures to place the statute on the statewide ballot for a decision by the voters. Voters can also initiate constitutional amendments by Initiative.

Coalition for an Open & Accessible Initiative Process:

Citizens for Limited Taxation, MA

Common Cause, MA


Massachusetts Citizens for Liberty


See the results of a poll on support for statewide initiative & referendum here.

Grade: C

Click here to view Massachusett’s individual report in Of the People, By the People, For the People: A 2010 Report Card on Statewide Voter Initiative Rights.

Citizen State Coordinator

For more information about how to get involved in protecting and expanding Massachusetts’s initiative process, contact the Citizens in Charge Foundation Massachusetts Citizen State Coordinator:

Corie Whalen

Phone (617) 816-6124

Email Corie


State Balloting Process

How you can change Massachusetts’s government through ballot initiatives


Massachusetts’ Populist Party adopted a resolution in 1895 calling for
statewide initiative and referendum. In 1900, State Representative Henry
Stirling introduced one of the first I&R proposals; Socialist State
Representative James Carey introduced another in 1901… Read More

Ballot Qualifications & Schedule

Date initiative language can be submitted: September 2, 2009

Signatures are tied to vote of which office: Governor

Next Gubernatorial election: 2010

Votes cast for governor in last election: 2,243,835 (2006)

Net number of signatures required: Massachusetts has an in-direct
initiative process. In order to be placed before the General Court, the
petition (whether a statute or an amendment) must contain certified
signatures at least equal to 3% of the total vote cast for all candidates for
governor (excluding blanks) at the last state election. This means that until
the results of the last state election are certified by the Governor’s
Council, the initiative petition must be signed by a minimum of (67,315)
certified voters. No more than one-quarter of the certified signatures may
come from any one county (16,829).
A) Statutes: If the petition is rejected by the General Court or if the
General Court fails to act by the first Wednesday in May, the
proposed ballot measure, in an infrequently used process, may be
amended by a majority of the ten original signers. Any amendment
proposed pursuant to this infrequently used process must be approved by
the Attorney General as perfecting in nature; that is, the amendment
does not materially change the substance of the measure. The
proponents may force the original or amended petition on the ballot at
the next regular state election by submitting a written request to the
Secretary of State by the appropriate deadline for additional petition
forms and then collecting the required number of additional certified
signatures on these forms. This request should indicate that a majority of
the first ten signers wish to obtain additional petition forms. The request
need not contain the signatures of all ten signers, and an agent may sign
on behalf of a majority of the first ten signers. The signatures of an
additional 1/2 of 1% of the vote cast for governor (excluding blanks) at
the last state election must be filed with the Secretary of the
Commonwealth. This means that, until the Governor’s Council certifies the
results of the last state election, the additional signature requirement is
(11,219) certified signatures. The same provision applies that no more than
1/4 of these signatures may come from one county (2,804).
B) Constitutional Amendments: After signatures have been certified and
petitions filed, the Secretary transmits the amendment petition to the
House clerk for legislative action on the first legislative day of the year.
Initiative amendments are acted upon by joint sessions of the House
and Senate sitting together. The amendment must be “laid before” the
joint session by the second Wednesday of May. The petition may be
amended by a three-fourths affirmative majority vote by the House and
Senate. By a majority vote, the Legislature may formulate a proposal of it
own, to be grouped on the ballot with the initiative amendment as an
alternative choice. The initiative amendment must be placed on the
ballot if, in joint sessions held by two successively elected Legislatures, the
petition wins the support of at least 25% (50) of the 200 legislators (40
senators and 160 representatives). An initiative amendment to the
constitution will not appear on the ballot if, when it comes to a vote in
either joint session, less than 25% of the legislators vote in favor of it or no
vote is taken before the legislative term ends.

Distribution requirement: No more than one-quarter of the certified
signatures may come from any one county (16,829).

Circulation period: 64 days

Do circulators have to be residents of the state: No

Date when signatures are due for certification: The petitions must be
submitted to the Local Registrars of Voters at least 14 days before the first
Wednesday in December for verification, with the exception of
Boston, which will be 10 days earlier. (Once signatures are verified by the
Local Registrars of Voters, proponents have until the first Wednesday in
December to submit them to the Secretary of State.)

Signature verification process: All signatures must be certified by a
majority (at least three) of the local registrars or election commissioners in
the city or town in which the signatures are collected.

Single Subject Restriction: Massachusetts has no single subject

Legislative tampering: Legislature can both repeal and amend initiatives.
(Massachusetts Constitution Article 48, Gen. Prov. Pt. 6)

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