Cover Story
It’s on you
When it's time to take matters into your own hands

Citizens often can become frustrated by the actions, or inaction, of their elected officials. Understandably, from time to time this can put a damper on any enthusiasm to be a part of the election process. But it shouldn’t. There are options available for people to get local, state or regional issues before voters.

When elected officials are not doing enough to address important issues, citizens typically can pursue ballot measures to get issues before voters. There are three types of ballot measures: initiatives, referendums and recalls.

Initiatives are a tool for registered voters to offer proposals to change or create laws. They require the collection of a predetermined number of signatures on a petition to get questions on the ballot. The initiative process is available in 24 states.

Using the initiative process, citizens can elicit a public vote on proposed statutes or amendments to a state constitution. The process is also used to ask advisory questions and propose memorials.

Referendums come in two forms. The first kind is a popular referendum. Similar to initiatives, it requires registered voters in 24 states to collect a predetermined number of signatures to qualify for the ballot a question on whether to repeal a law enacted by state legislators.

The second form is a legislative referendum. Allowed in all states, this process is used by state officials or other government agencies to put before voters propositions that typically create statutes, amend the state constitution or refer bond questions.

Recalls are initiated by citizens to remove an elected official from office before his or her term expires. A predetermined number of signatures are required for a recall election.

If your state does not offer an initiative or referenda process, there is no reason for that to deter your involvement. Residents have every right to put pressure on elected officials to make the necessary changes in statutes to allow citizens greater control over their local and state rules.