Where did the initiative process originate?
The initiative is a direct democracy idea from Switzerland. In
the 1800ís, the initiative process became a movement adopted by
American Populist and Progressive political groups to challenge
special interest groups. Today both special interest and grass
roots groups use initiatives.
What is a direct democracy?
A direct democracy is a form of government in which political
decisions are made directly by the citizens. Another form of government
is representative democracy. This is a common form of government
in which citizens exercise their right to make political decisions
through an elected representative. An example of representative
democracy is outlined in the US Constitution. For more information
on our system of representative democracy and those who represent
us, click on: Who Represents Your
Interests in Government?
How many states allow the initiative process?
24 states in the nation allow the initiative process. Many of
these states are in the west.
What is Oregonís general history with the use of the initiative
In 1902 Oregon was one of the first states to allow the use of
the initiative process. And Oregon was the first state to place
a statewide initiative on its ballot, in 1904. Nationwide, the
initiative process was seldom used until recently. In the early
1970ís there were fewer than 20 initiatives nationwide. By the
late 1970ís the initiative process became more popular. In 1996
there was a total of 22 initiatives on Oregonís election ballot
alone. And for the 1998 election cycle there were more than 200
different petitions circulated to sponsor an initiative. Many
of these petitions failed.
What can an initiative change?
Initiatives can be proposed to change both Oregon statutes and
the Oregon Constitution.
What is the general process of getting an initiative on an
Once an idea for an Oregon Constitutional or statutory amendment
has been formulated and is in writing, then the petitioners must
receive written permission from the Oregon Secretary of State
to circulate it. Then the petitioners must receive a certain number
of valid signatures from Oregon registered voters before it may
be placed on an election ballot. Each election year the required
number of signatures varies. For the November 7, 2000 election,
an initiative to amend the Oregon Constitution requires 89,048
signatures, and an initiative to amend an Oregon statute requires
What is the difference between a Ballot Measure and an Initiative?
A Ballot Measure is an initiative that has received the required
number of signatures and passed all other procedural requirements.
The initiative will then be assigned a Ballot Measure number and
be placed on an election ballot.
Who is an initiative chief petitioner?
A chief petitioner is the person who sponsors the initiative.
There can be as many as three chief petitioners for each initiative.
Are all signature gatherers paid?
No. Some signature gatherers are volunteers who are interested
in passing the particular initiative. Other signature gatherers
are paid to collect signatures. They are usually paid by the signature.
In 1935, Oregon prohibited the use of paid signature gatherers.
However, in 1983 this prohibition was repealed. Oregon began to
require, in 1992, that each signature page carried by a paid signature
gatherer must state that the signature gatherer is being paid.
Signature gatherers are also called "circulators."
Expenditure on ballot measure campaigns.
According to the Portland City Club, the cost of ballot measures
has risen greatly over the past two decades in Oregon, Washington,
California and Colorado. Total expenditures for the average Oregon
ballot measure increased from less than $50,000 per measure in
1970 to more than $900,000 per measure in 1990 (in 1988 constant
dollars). In the same period, the average per voter expenditure
for ballot measures increased much more sharply in Oregon than
If you would like more detailed information about the initiative
process and details about how to get an initiative on an election
ballot, contact the Oregon Secretary of State Office.
Oregon Secretary of State Office, Election Division
141 State Capitol
Salem, Oregon 97310