Article II of the California Constitution sets forth the three forms of direct democracy used in this state – the initiative, referendum, and recall.
The initiative is the power of the electors to propose statutes and amendments to the state Constitution. An initiative may be proposed by presenting to California’s Secretary of State a petition that sets forth the text of the proposed statute or amendment to the Constitution and is certified to have been signed by a number of electors equal to 5% – in the case of a statute – or 8% – in the case of a constitutional amendment – of the number of votes cast for the candidates for governor in the last gubernatorial election.
The referendum is the power of the electorate to approve or reject statutes or parts of statutes. Urgency statutes, statutes calling elections, and statutes providing for tax levies or appropriating funds for the usual and current expenses of the state are exempted from the referendum process. A referendum may be proposed by presenting to the Secretary of State a petition signed by a number of electors equal to 5% of the votes cast for the candidates for governor in the last gubernatorial election. Unlike initiative proposals, a referendum proposal must be presented to the Secretary of State within days of the law being enacted.
An initiative or referendum that is approved by voters takes effect on the fifth day after the Secretary of State files the Statement of the Vote for the election at which the measure was voted on. The measure may provide that it becomes operative after its effective date. If the provisions of two or more measures approved at the same election conflict, then the provisions of the measure receiving the highest number of affirmative votes prevails.
The recall is the power of electors to remove an official from an elected office. Removal of a state elected official is initiated by submitting to the Secretary of State a petition alleging the reason for a recall. The sufficiency of that reason is not reviewable. Proponents of a recall have 160 days to collect signatures, and to qualify the number of signatures must be equal to 12% of the last vote for that office with signatures in five counties equal in number to 5% of the last vote for the office in that county.