Massachusetts, USA, regional Popular or citizen-initiated referendum [PCR] - Referendum

General Typology

Instrument
Popular or citizen-initiated referendum [PCR]
Location
Massachusetts, USA
Political level
regional
Local Name:
Referendum
Normative Level:
constitutional
Legally Binding:
yes
Legally Defined:

Massachusetts Constitution
Article XLVIII, Part III, Section 1
Contents. - A referendum petition may ask for a referendum to the people upon any law enacted by the general court which is not herein expressly excluded.

Article LXXXI, Section 4
[...] If such petition is completed by filing with the secretary of the commonwealth not later than ninety days after the law which is the subject of the petition has become law a number of signatures of qualified voters equal in number to not less than two per cent of the entire vote cast for governor at the preceding biennial state election, then the operation of such law shall be suspended, and the secretary of the commonwealth shall submit such law to the people at the next state election, if sixty days intervene between the date when such petition is filed with the secretary of the commonwealth and the date for holding such state election; if sixty days do not so intervene, then such law shall be submitted to the people at the next following state election, unless in the meantime it shall have been repealed; and if it shall be approved by a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon, such law shall, subject to the provisions of the constitution, take effect in thirty days after such election, or at such time after such election as may be provided in such law; if not so approved such law shall be null and void; but no such law shall be held to be disapproved if the negative vote is less than thirty per cent of the total number of ballots cast at such state election.

Source: Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (accessed 22 June 2017)

Subject Matter:

Referring a law to the electorate via popular referendum

Actors

Author:
Citizen : Requires 10 signatures to file petition before collecting signatures. (Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Part III, Section 3).
Initiator:
Electorate : 2% of the number of votes for governor at the last gubernatorial election to render it inactive until the vote. 1.5% to simply bring it to a vote. (Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXXI, Sections 4 & 5).
Decision maker:
Electorate : Must be approved by 30% of the total number of votes at the election as well as a majority of votes on the measure (Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXXI, Section 4).

Requirements

Number Of Signatures:
Requires 10 signatures to file petition before collecting signatures. Then 1.5% of the number of votes for governor at the last gubernatorial election (Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Part III, Section 3; Article LXXXI, Section 5)
Available Time:
90 days (30 days for emergency laws)
Turnout Quorum:
The referendum must receive affirmative votes from 30% of the total number of voters at the election. (Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXXI, Section 4)
Approval Quorum:
A majority of the voters voting on the question must approve the measure. It must also receive affirmative votes from 30% of the total number of voters at the election. (Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXXI, Section 4)
Geographical Quorum:
Legal source does not mention geographical quorum for passing. No more than 25% of the signatures may come from any one county (Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, "General Provisions")
Excluded Issues:

Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Part III, Section 2
Excluded Matters. No law that relates to religion, religious practices or religious institutions; or to the appointment, qualification, tenure, removal or compensation of judges; or to the powers, creation or abolition of courts; or the operation of which is restricted to a particular town, city or other political division or to particular districts or localities of the commonwealth; or that appropriates money for the current or ordinary expenses of the commonwealth or for any of its departments, boards, commissions or institutions shall be the subject of a referendum petition.

Source: Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (accessed 22 June 2017)

Other Formal Requirements:

Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Part III, Section 3
Mode of Petitioning for the Suspension of a Law and a Referendum Thereon. - A petition asking for a referendum on a law, and requesting that the operation of such law be suspended, shall first be signed by ten qualified voters and shall then be filed with the secretary of the commonwealth not later than thirty days after the law that is the subject of the petition has become law. [...]

Source: Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (accessed 22 June 2017)

Procedural Elements

Collection Mode:
free
Specify Collection Mode:

Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXIV, Section 3
[...] The secretary of the commonwealth shall provide blanks for the use of subsequent signers, and shall print at the top of each blank a fair, concise summary of the proposed law as such summary will appear on the ballot together with the names and residences of the first ten signers. [...]

Wording Of Ballot Question:

Massachusetts Constitution, Article XLVIII, Part VI
The general court, by resolution passed as hereinbefore set forth, may provide for grouping and designating upon the ballot as conflicting measures or as alternative measures, only one of which is to be adopted, any two or more proposed constitutional amendments or laws which have been or may be passed or qualified for submission to the people at any one election: provided, that a proposed constitutional amendment and a proposed law shall not be so grouped, and that the ballot shall afford an opportunity to the voter to vote for each of the measures or for only one of the measures, as may be provided in said resolution, or against each of the measures so grouped as conflicting or as alternative.

Article LXXIV, Section 4
[...] A fair, concise summary, as determined by the attorney general, subject to such provision as may be made by law, of each proposed amendment to the constitution, and each law submitted to the people, shall be printed on the ballot, and the secretary of the commonwealth shall give each question a number and cause such question, except as otherwise authorized herein, to be printed on the ballot in the following form:--
[...]
In the case of a law: Do you approve of a law summarized below, (here state, in distinctive type, whether approved or disapproved by the general court, and by what vote thereon)?
[Set forth summary here]
[...]

General Laws, Part I, Chapter VIII, Chapter 54, Section 53
[...] Any fifty voters may petition the supreme judicial court for Suffolk county to require that any such title or statement [given to the proposed measure] be amended; provided, however, that such petition must be filed within twenty days after the publication of said title and statement. [...]

Source: Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts(accessed 22 June 2017) and Massachusetts General Laws (accessed 22 June 2017)

Interaction With Authorities:
Supervision And Support:

General Laws, Part I, Chapter VIII, Chapter 54, Section 53
[...] The secretary shall cause to be printed and sent to all residential addresses and to each voter residing in group residential quarters, with copies of the measures to which they refer, a summary prepared by the attorney general, a ballot question title prepared jointly by the attorney general and state secretary, fair and neutral one sentence statements describing the effect of a yes or no vote prepared jointly by the attorney general and state secretary, and, as provided in section fifty-four, arguments for and against measures to be submitted to the voters under Article XLVIII of the Amendments to the Constitution. [...]

Section 54
The state secretary shall cause to be printed and sent, in the manner provided in section fifty-three, arguments for and against every measure to be submitted to the voters of the commonwealth. No argument shall contain more than one hundred and fifty words. The secretary shall seek such arguments from the principal proponents and opponents of each initiative or referendum petition [...]

Source: Massachusetts General Laws (accessed 22 June 2017)

Transparency And Finance:

Practice

Archive:
Remarks: