North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, regional Popular or citizens initiative [PCI] - Volksbegehren

General Typology

Popular or citizens initiative [PCI]
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Political level
Local Name:
Normative Level:
Legally Binding:
Legally Defined:
Article 2

The people shall express their will at the ballot box, by citizens' initiative and referendum.

Article 68

(1) Citizens' initiatives can be directed at promulgating, amending or repealing laws. A citizens' initiative must be based on a well-prepared and reasoned bill. A citizens' initiative shall

only be admissible in areas that are governed by the legislative authority of the Land. A citizens' initiative concerning financial matters, tax laws and salary scales shall not be

admissible. The State Government shall decide on the admissibility of a citizens' initiative. An appeal to the constitutional court against the decision is admissible. A citizens' initiative shall only be effective if it is filed by at least 8 per cent of voters.

(2) Citizens' initiatives must be immediately submitted by the State Government to the State Parliament together with a definition of its position. Should the State Parliament not accede to the initiative, a referendum shall be held within ten weeks. Should the State Parliament accede to the initiative, a referendum shall not be held.

(3) The State Government also has the right to put to referendum a bill it has introduced but which has been rejected by the State Parliament. If the bill is adopted in the referendum, the

State Government can dissolve the State Parliament. If the bill is rejected in the referendum, the State Government must stand down.

(4) The vote can only be positive or negative. The decision shall be taken by a majority of the votes cast, provided this majority is at least 15 per cent of voters.

(5) The provisions of article 31(1) to (3) on the right of election and electoral procedure shall apply accordingly to the right to vote and the voting procedure. The details shall be regulated by legislation.

Article 69

(3) (..)The constitution can also be amended by a referendum on the basis of a citizens' initiative pursuant to article 68. The bill shall be passed if at least half of voters take part in the referendum and at least two-thirds of the votes are in favour of the bill.

References: Constitution of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, 1950 (2011)

§ 6

(1) Voters (article 1 of the State election law), wanting to submit a citizens' initiative under article 68 of the Constitution of the State, have to subscribe in lists, that are displayed by the municipal authorities, after the display is approved.

(2) In addition to registration in officially displayed lists pursuant to paragraph 1, the implementation of a signature collection by the applicants can be admitted (free signature collection).

(3) § 1, paragraph 1 shall apply mutatis mutandis.

§ 7

(1) The application for authorisation of the official display of the lists and, if necessary, the parallel implementation of a free signature collection in writing is to address to the Ministry, responsible for the Interior Affairs. It requires the signature of at least 3,000 voters. § 1 para 3 No. 2 set 2 and article 13, paragraph 4, sentence 2 and 3, para 3 sentence 3 shall apply accordingly. The voting rights of each signatory shall be demonstrated through a confirmation of the municipality.

(2) In the application a representative and a deputy shall be named, who are authorized to represent the applicants in all transactions related to the citizens' initiative. If the naming is missing the person who has signed the first is considered as representative and the one who has signed as a second, as deputy.

(3) If more than half of the signatories according (1) explain with a written request that the representative or the deputy shall be replaced by another person, so the one will take the position as soon as the notice is received by the Ministry responsible for the Interior.

§ 8

The request shall contain the elaborated and reasoned bill, stating the costs expected to incur. Approval shall be refused if within the last two years a factual same request has been submitted or if the draft law concerning an area of legislation, which does not belong to the legislative powers of the State according to the provisions of the Federal Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany. About financial matters, tax laws and salary shemes a citizens' initiative is not allowed.

§ 9

The approval decision can be suspended up to six months after receipt of the request by decision of the State Government, if within one month from receipt of the proposed bill is introduced in Parliament.

§ 11

(1) If the request is granted, the Ministry responsible for Internal affairs will immediately report the admission of the display of lists, where appropriate, parallel implementation of free signature collection, including the information about the content of the subject of the citizens' initiative and notification of the name and the address of the representatives in the Ministerial Gazette for the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

(2) The representatives can withdraw the application together until its publication by a handwritten signed declaration towards the Ministry of the Interior.

(3) According paragraph 1 a valid permissible withdrawal is considered as well the written withdrawal of so many signatures, that the initiative falls short on the number of the remaining signatures below the minimum number of § 7 para 1.

(4) For the official display of signature lists §§ 12 to 18 shall apply, § 18a applies to the free signature collection.

§ 20

(1) The State Government publishes the result of the audit no later than three weeks after the conclusion of the citizens' initiative in the Ministerial Gazette for the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. The State Electoral Officer delivers it to the representatives.

(2) If the State Government declares the concluded citizens' initiative as not legally valid, the representatives are entitled to appeal at the Constitutional Court within one month since the delivery. The application can be based only on the fact that the prescribed number of signatures is achieved, or that irregularities that could influence the result had occurred in the preparation or the implementation of the citizens' initiative. The Constitutional Court decides after an oral hearing by judgment.

§ 21

If the citizens' initiative is successful, the State Government has immediately to submit it to the Parliament and demonstration its position.

III. Referendum

§ 22

(1) A referendum takes place,

1. if the Parliament does not comply with a legally valid a citizens' initiative,(..)

(2) The State Legislature has to vote within two months after the submission about to adopt the bill of the citizens' initiative unchanged (No. 1). If Parliament takes no decision within the prescribed period it shall imply as a rejection.

§ 24

(1) The object of the referendum is

1. In case of a citizens' initiative according Art. 68 paragraph 1 of the State Constitution, the coveted law and if the Parliament on the occasion of initiative decided a deviant act, the question will be whether the suggested act shall replace the adopted law,


(2) If several citizens' initiatives have been deliberated by the Parliament pursuant to article 68 of the State Constitution on the same subject-matter and one of the initiatives is accepted by the Parliament, the question for each of the other desired bills is to ask in the referendum, whether it should replace the adopted law by the Parliament.

References: Gesetz über das Verfahren bei Volksinitiative, Volksbegehren und Volksentscheid; 2004, (2014)

Subject Matter:

To call a referendum on promulgating, amending or repealing laws or constitutional amendment


Decision maker:


Number Of Signatures:
Initial: 3000; Conclusion: 8% of the electorate
Available Time:
12 months
Turnout Quorum:
Approval Quorum:
Majority of the votes cast, provided this majority is at least 15 per cent of the electorate
Geographical Quorum:
Excluded Issues:

Financial matters, tax laws and salary scales

Other Formal Requirements:

Procedural Elements

Collection Mode:
Specify Collection Mode:
§ 12

(1) The procurement of registration lists, as well as the supplementary lists and their dispatch is the responsibility of those who apply for the citizens' initiative. The form of registration and supplementary lists is governed by implementing rules.

(2) The municipalities are obliged,

1. to accept proper registration lists within four weeks after the publication of the approval decision in the Ministerial Gazette for the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and

2. to display the registration lists during the fifth to twenty-second week after the publication of the registration. Registration lists, which the communities do not receive within the aforementioned period of four weeks, will not be displayed.

(3) The registration is to provide within normal office hours or to other aministration times in agreement with the applicants or their representatives at any time of day and on sundays during particularly determined hours.

(4) The display places of the registration lists have to be in municipalities up to 100,000 inhabitants at least at one place, over 100,000 inhabitants at least in two places possible for the registration.

(5) The registration lists are displayed under the provision of the Ministry of the Interior to no more than four of the Sundays, falling within the registration period, in a continuous period of at least four hours.

(6) The beginning and end of the registration period referred to in paragraph 2 sentence 1 No. 2 determines the Ministry responsible for internal affairs. In some cases, it can extend the time limits of in paragraph 2. Beginning and end of the registration period, as well as the Sundays of the official display of the list are published in the Ministerial Gazette for the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

§ 18a

(1) If the request for approval of implementation of free signature collection has been granted, the applicants have to send the signature lists to the State Electoral Officer after implementing together with the confirmation voting rights provided by the municipal authorities according to § 18 paragraph 1, within twelve months since announcing the approval of free signature collection. § 1 paragraph 3 number 2 sentences 2 and 3 and number 4, paragraphs 4 to 6, and paragraph 7 sentence 1 shall apply accordingly.

(2) If the signatures with the confirmation of the voting rights, as well as those provided by the municipal authorities according to § 18 paragraph 1, are send before the expiry of twelve months since announcing the approval of the signature collection to the State Electoral Officer, the representatives have to do this by a statement signed by a hand when sending the signatures to assure that the signature collection is completed.

(3) Signatures placed later than defined in paragraph 1 and 2 or as well confirmations of the voting rights are irrelevant for the determination according to § 19 para 1.

§ 17

(1) Registrations are not valid if

1 not done by own hand,

2. the identity or the will of the person cannot be indicated without doubt,

3 originated from persons who are not entitled to register.

4. at the registration place not made in proper registration lists,

5. contain a supplementary or reservation

6. be done several times or

7. are not done in time.

(2) Registrations with registration certificates are void if

1. the registration certificate is invalid,

2. the registrations are not corresponding with paragraph 1 No. 1 to 3 and 5 to 7 or

3. the declaration of in support of the citizens' initiative or the insurance in lieu of oath on the registration certificate is not signed.

References: Gesetz über das Verfahren bei Volksinitiative, Volksbegehren und Volksentscheid; 1. Oktober 2004, (2014)

Wording Of Ballot Question:
§ 26

The vote is just about a “yes” or “no”answer.

References: Gesetz über das Verfahren bei Volksinitiative, Volksbegehren und Volksentscheid; 1. Oktober 2004, (2014)
Interaction With Authorities:
Supervision And Support:
Transparency And Finance:
§ 31

(1) The cost of production of the signature lists for the official display of the lists and their dispatch to the municipal authorities and, where appropriate, the cost of production of the signature lists for the parallel free signature collection, as well as the cost of shipping of the registration- and if necessary, free signature lists to the State Electoral Officer are the burden of the applicants. These cost are to be refunded to the applicants, if the Parliament or by referendum decided for the legally valid citizens' initiative.

(2) The provisions of § 40 State Electoral Code apply for the remaining cost of the official registration procedure and the cost of the voting procedure.

§ 31a

(1) Applicants or representatives, in connection with a citizens' initiative shall not accept cash or in-kind donations by

1. parliamentary groups, municipal representations, and district representations,

2. companies wholly or in part owned by public authorities or managed by them or be operated, as long as the direct participation of the public sector exceeds 25 per cent.

(2) Donations have to be managed by the representatives on a separate account stating the donor and the donated amount. In-kind donations are noted in a written protocol, disclosing the donors, the subject-matter of the gift and the market value.

(3) Cash or in-kind donations in connection with an agenda initiative, a citizens' initiative or a referendum, which exceeds the amount of EUR 5 000 in their total value, are 3. to be displayed fifteen days before the date of a referendum vote (§ 25 paragraph 1 sentence 1) to the Ministry responsible for the Interior immediately by the respective representatives, stating the name and address of the donor and the total amount of donations.

The standard market price is decisive for in-kind donations. The Ministry of the Interior can arrange if there is actual evidence of an incomplete notice, that the representatives submit documents about donations and empower the financial institution of the account to provide information about the individual donations and the name and address of donors to the Ministry of the Interior. The order can be enforced by way of administrative enforcement.

(4) The information according paragraph 3 sentence 1 and 2 shall be published immediately on the Internet by the representatives. On the notice to the Ministry of the Interior in accordance with paragraph 3, sentence 1 is to specify the site of the internet publication.

(5) In lieu of oath the representatives assure that they fully and properly complied with the notification obligation referred to in paragraph 3 and the disclosure requirements in accordance with paragraph 4.

The affidavit is to be submitted:

1. with the request of a people's initiative in the Parliament (article 1 paragraph 2) to the President of the State Parliament.

2. at the time of the submission of signatures calling for a citizens' initiative, as well as the registration lists (§ 18 a of paragraph 1 sentence 1 and paragraph 2) to the Ministry of the Interior.

References: Gesetz über das Verfahren bei Volksinitiative, Volksbegehren und Volksentscheid; 1. Oktober 2004, (2014)


The English language version here is provided as a courtesy. The German language text is the official version.