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.

See Also


Initiative: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Initiative. This part provides references, in relation to Initiative, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Initiative by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Initiative and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Initiative or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Initiative and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Initiative. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Initiative should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Initiative when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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