Initiative and Referendum
Empower New Yorkers Through "Direct Democracy"

"I believe in the Initiative and Referendum, which should be used not to destroy representative government, but to correct it whenever it becomes misrepresentative." President Teddy Roosevelt,“Charter of Democracy” speech to the 1912 Ohio constitutional convention.

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In the United States, "Referendum" often refers to a process by which a predetermined number of signatures can be collected in order to place on the ballot a question of whether to repeal an act of the legislature while "Initiative" often refers to a similar process for the purpose of originating or amending a new law or constitutional amendment.

At present, the New York State Constitution does not provide for Initiative or Referendum.  Instead only the right to petition is guaranteed by the New York State Constitution's Bill of Rights in Article I Section 9 with the actual power to originate and amend laws or the constitution reserved for the legislature by Article III Section 12 and Article XIX Section 1 (with the exception of a constitutional convention which comes to a vote of the people every 20 years).

In order to allow for Initiative or Referendum the power to originate and amend the law or the Constitution would likely need to be expanded by amending the New York State Bill of Rights in Article I, as well as Article III on the Legislature and Article XIX on Constitution Change or simply adding a new article.

27 states currently have some form of Initiative and Referendum (constitutionally, statutorily or both) while New York does not.  Empowering New York voters through direct democracy via Initiative and Referendum could foster increased participation in New York's civic affairs and state government, as well as providing an outlet for issues that have long been stalled in the legislative process.        

More than half the states in the union presently have some form of an Initiative and Referendum process which has proven successful in providing an alternate means of addressing public opinion. Enactment of Initiative and Referendum in New York State would help ensure that voters are able to voice their opinions in a more direct way and, in so doing, make their government more responsive to the needs and desires of citizens.
M. J. Lee
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Organizers behind the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker collected 1 million signatures to be submitted to the state’s Government Accountability Board on Tuesday, dwarfing the required number of names and virtually ensuring...
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New York Times
Tuesday, September 8, 1987
"Ironically, because the voters in New York State have no power of initiative, no matter how many signatures We the People collects - and so far the total is about 30,000 - petitions alone will never put any issue to a public vote.  The only...
This news article appeared in the New York Times back in 1987 and provides a linear perspective as to the decades of effort by certain grassroots citizen activists who have attempted -- and thus far been unsuccessful -- to get initiative and referendum enacted into law in New York State.
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New York Post
Michael R. Long
Monday, January 1, 2007
"Another, very different change would be to bring initiative, referendum and recall to this state. Many other states adopted these reforms early last century; it's time for New York to catch up.  As you know, initiative and referendum allow...
The following is a 2007 guest editorial opinion offered in the New York Post from the the Honorable Mike Long, Chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, making a strong case as to how initiative and referendum, if enacted in New York, would empower citizens to make an end-run around powerful special interests that dominate the state legislature and have continually held-up real reform.
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Albany Times Union
Howard Healy
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
"Unfortunately, initiative and referendum can come to New York state only if the legislative leaders agree to set the process in motion. It would require a constitutional amendment, which means two separately elected legislatures must vote to put it...
This 2004 editorial from the Times Union demonstrates the challenges to initiative and referendum becoming a reality in New York State -- and how these "direct democracy" resources could be beneficial to the Empire State.
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A selection of relevant solutions from other states.

27 states currently have some form of Initiative and Referendum (constitutionally, statutorily or both) while New York does not.



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