The Difference Between an Initiated Constitutional Amendment and a Statutory Initiative

To say the initiative and referendum process can be confusing is an understatement. Even if you understand the difference between initiative and referendum, you may not know that there are different types of initiatives. When it comes to initiatives, there are two types: initiated constitutional amendments and statutory initiatives. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these two initiatives are interchangeable, though. There is a difference between an initiated constitutional amendment and a statutory initiative.

Of course, it can be easy to confuse the two types of initiatives if you’re unfamiliar with the differences between them. However, once you become familiar with what each type of initiative is, you’ll have no problem telling them apart. So, what exactly are the differences between a constitutional amendment and a statutory initiative?

Initiated Constitutional Amendments: What are they?

A constitutional amendment that comes about through the initiative process is called an initiated constitutional amendment. In other words, the initiative process is used to bring about a change to a constitution. 

Remember, initiatives happen at the state and local level, so an initiated constitutional amendment would enact change to a state constitution.

In the states that allow an initiated constitutional amendment, the process usually includes a minimum number of signatures on the petition. However, there may be additional requirements, depending on the state. 

To learn more about the requirements for initiated constitutional amendments in your state, find your state on our learn page.

Which States Allow Initiated Constitutional Amendments?

In total, the following 18 states allow initiated constitutional amendments:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon 
  • South Dakota

Statutory Initiatives: What are they?

While initiated constitutional amendments create changes to a constitution, statutory initiatives create new laws. In other words, the states that allow statutory initiatives allow citizens to circulate petitions proposing new laws. Similar to initiated constitutional amendments, statutory initiatives can occur at both the state and local level.

Within states that allow statutory initiatives, citizens may have the option of either direct or indirect initiatives. Direct initiatives, upon qualifying, are placed directly on the ballot while indirect initiatives, upon qualifying, are sent to the state legislature. 

As with initiated constitutional amendments, there are typically requirements for a minimum number of signatures. There may also be certain time constraints or requirements for where the signatures come from, depending on the state.

To know more about the requirements in your state, visit our learn page and find your state. 

Which States Allow Statutory Initiatives?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the following 21 states allow statutory initiatives. These states allow either indirect or direct initiatives or, in some cases, both:

  • Alaska (Indirect)
  • Arizona (Direct)
  • Arkansas (Direct)
  • California (Direct)
  • Colorado (Direct)
  • Idaho (Direct)
  • Maine (Indirect)
  • Massachusetts (Indirect)
  • Michigan (Indirect)
  • Missouri (Direct)
  • Montana (Direct)
  • Nebraska (Direct)
  • Nevada (Indirect)
  • North Dakota (Direct)
  • Ohio (Indirect)
  • Oklahoma (Direct)
  • Oregon (Direct)
  • South Dakota (Direct)
  • Utah (Both)
  • Washington (Both)
  • Wyoming (Indirect)

What’s the Difference Between an Initiated Constitutional Amendment and a Statutory Initiative?

States that allow for the initiative process on either the statutory or initiated constitutional amendment level are considered to have direct democracy. As you’ve seen, though, the levels of direct democracy can vary.

A key difference between constitutional amendments and statutory initiatives is what they bring about on the ballot. To recap, a constitutional amendment makes a change to existing law. Just like amendments made to the United States Constitution, these initiatives make changes to existing state constitutions. Meanwhile, statutory initiatives bring about new laws. These initiatives are proposals for new legislature within the state.

While the process for both types of initiatives may be similar, it is often not entirely the same. There may be differences, even within the same state, when it comes to the number of required signatures. Furthermore, the state may have different requirements for where the signatures need to come from depending on the type of initiative.
When it comes to the different kinds of initiatives, it’s always best to do your research ahead of time. If you’ve determined that your state allows the type of initiative you want, contact us to get started.