Initiative in the United States

Initiative Definition

in election law, it is the process of proposing a law through a petition and then voting on it. In some states citizens can suggest a new law to be presented to voters. This suggested law is called an initiative , or a proposition. A petition must be signed by a certain number of people before the initiative can be voted on by the legislators or by the citizens. If a majority are in favor of the law, it goes into effect. It is different from Recall and from referendum.


In French law, initiative was the name given to the important prerogative conferred by the Charte Constitutionnelle (article 16) on the late king to propose through his ministers projects of laws. (1 Toullier, Dr. Civ. note 39). (1)  

Initiative Lawmaking

In February 1996, California voters got more than one million signatures on an initiative called the California Civil Rights Initiative. The initiative called for ending affirmative action. Affirmative action is a policy that began in the 1960s. It requires employers to hire a certain percentage of women and minorities. It was a controversial initiative. Voters approved the initiative, ending affirmative action in California. Supporters of the initiative believe that skill and character are all that should be considered in hiring people. People in favor of affirmative action believe affirmative action is necessary to give all people an equal opportunity for employment.

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, an Initiative is the practice by which legislation may be proposed and voted on directly by the people (rather than their representatives) . Its adoption was an important element of the Progressive era political reform movement. There are some twenty states that now use the initiative (Alaska has some different policies). (…)

Lawmaking by popular votes on initiatives or referenda is a constitutional feature of the individual states rather than the United States. After a century in which some form of direct lawmaking by voters spread to about half the states, however, its legal status under the United States.

Faith-Based Initiatives and Delinquency in relation to Crime and Race

Faith-Based Initiatives and Delinquency is included in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime (1), beginning with: Working in collaboration with federal, state, and local criminal justice agencies, faith-based community organizations have played a significant role in gaining and maintaining public trust, decreasing crime, and fostering neighborhood development. Faith-based initiatives that focus on delinquents are important in the study of race and crime because of the differential treatment and disproportionate contact and confinement of minority youth in juvenile justice. Faith-based initiatives can assist in primary, secondary, and tertiary delinquency prevention. This section describes the rationale for faith-based initiatives, examples of such initiatives, and the role of community with respect to these programs. The most important link between faith-based organizations and crime has to do with the location of those organizations in communities where crime prevails. In such high-crime, low-income communities, churches continue to have a significant presence. (2)

Initiative in the International Business Landscape

Definition of Initiative in the context of U.S. international business and public trade policy: The mechanism by which citizens can petition to present a measure directly to the voters or to the legislature.

President’s Initiative on Race in relation to Crime and Race

President’s Initiative on Race is included in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime (1), beginning with: On June 13, 1997, President William Jefferson Clinton issued Executive Order No. 13050, which created the Initiative on Race. The program authorized the creation of an advisory board to inform the president on the state of race relations in the United States. Board members traveled the country speaking with thousands of people about the role of race in various critical areas where racial tensions lingered, including civil rights, education, and poverty. The Initiative on Race also examined issues directly related to race and crime, such as racial profiling, sentencing disparities, and victimization disparities. This project was designed to take stock of race relations in America and to propose recommendations aimed at creating a more racially unified and equitable society. This section reviews the advisory board’s findings and summarizes their recommendations to improve the state of race relations. (3)

Initiative in Foreign Legal Encyclopedias

Link Description
Initiative Initiative in the World Legal Encyclopedia.
Initiative Initiative in the European Legal Encyclopedia.
Initiative Initiative in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia.
Initiative Initiative in the UK Legal Encyclopedia.
Initiative Initiative in the Australian Legal Encyclopedia.

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Concept of Initiative in Political Science

The following is a very basic definition of Initiative in relation to the election system and the U.S Congress: The process of proposing a law through a petition and then voting on it


Notes and References

  1. This definition of Initiative Is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary
  2. Entry about President’s Initiative on Race in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime
  3. Id.

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