Helping Our Peninsula's Environment


Initiatives & Referendums

For the Greater Monterey Peninsula

(c) Copyright 1995 - 2015 David Dilworth

Only 24 States have an initiative process - where the public can put a law on the ballot. California allows most laws to be created or overturned by the voters; laws whether at the state level or locally.

There are a very few types of laws where the Courts refuse to allow voter control. A prominent example is the initiative to ban gay marriage that passed, but the courts refused it.

In any case, this is an overview of how it works for us here on the Monterey Peninsula.


Though the words initiative and referendum are often used interchangeably, as I use them here - an Initiative creates or replaces City or County laws or charters. They can also create state law or Constitutional amendments.

A referendum overturns a County ordinance or decision such as zoning.

Initiative = Creates laws by citizen vote.

Referendum = Overturns politician-created law.

What makes California law uinque, is that when a law is created by a public vote it cannot be overturned or ignored by elected officials. When a law is overturned by a public vote it cannot be raised by elected officials for some period of time - often two years.


How can you qualify an Initiative or a Referendum for the County (or Water District or City) Ballot?

1) You need to write the Initiative or Referendum.

2) It must be checked for constitutionality and integration with other laws.

3) You need to inform the public by publicly publishing a notice about it.

4) You need to get a minimum number of valid Registered Voter Signatures.

5) You need to get the signatures in by a deadline.

6) It costs about $200 to file the ballot wording.


In General - (for specifics check the current law)

Referendum signatures have to be in 30 days after the decision.

Initiative signatures have to be in 133 days before an election which is held every 3 months.

You can collect Initiative signatures for 180 days prior to turning them in.

The County Elections Department has 30 days to verify signatures.

There are several geographic areas where you can run initiatives and referendums: Countywide, Special Districts (i.e. Peninsula Water District) and Cities.

To create a County law you will need signatures of 10% of the voters in the last Governors election (93,623 in 1994) for our County. That means you need at least 9326 valid signatures.

For example, a Peninsula Water District ballot needs 10% of the registered voters. That's 57,000 voters. That means you need 5700 valid signatures.

Each Charter City (Pacific Grove, Monterey & Salinas, Marina, Sand City) allows Initiatives and Referendums, but the details are different for each and can be significantly more difficult to meet.

For more details of the process call Monterey County Election Department - 647 7621 or try the California Secretary of State's Website -

Search HOPE's Website:

powered by FreeFind

Or Search the whole Web with IxQuick


Feedback - Info(at)

831 / 624-6500 P.O. Box 1495, Carmel, CA 93921

This Page Last Updated August 25, 2015