Referendum

Referendum

Overview
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

, a constitutional amendment
Constitutional amendment
A constitutional amendment is a formal change to the text of the written constitution of a nation or state.Most constitutions require that amendments cannot be enacted unless they have passed a special procedure that is more stringent than that required of ordinary legislation...

, a law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, the recall
Recall election
A recall election is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended...

 of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

. The word plebiscite comes from the Latin plebiscita, which originally meant a decree of the Concilium Plebis
Plebeian Council
The Concilium Plebis — known in English as the Plebeian Council or People's Assembly — was the principal popular assembly of the ancient Roman Republic. It functioned as a legislative assembly, through which the plebeians could pass laws, elect magistrates, and try judicial cases. The Plebeian...

, the popular assembly of the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

.
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Timeline

1860   Parma, Tuscany, Modena and Romagna vote in referendums to join the Kingdom of Sardinia.

1905   Norway holds a referendum in favor of monarchy over republic.

1920   King Constantine I is restored as King of the Hellenes after the death of his son Alexander I of Greece and a plebiscite.

1936   In Germany, Adolf Hitler receives 99% of the votes in a referendum to ratify Germany's illegal reoccupation of the Rhineland, receiving 44.5 million votes out of 45.5 million registered voters.

1946   Birth of the Italian Republic: In a referendum, Italians vote to turn Italy from a monarchy into a Republic. After the referendum the king of Italy Umberto II di Savoia is exiled.

1961   In France a referendum supports Charles de Gaulle's policies in Algeria.

1962   Newly independent Algeria, by referendum, adopts a Constitution.

1975   India annexes Sikkim after the mountain state holds a referendum in which the popular vote is in favour of merging with India.

1976   The 1976 Constitution of Cuba is adopted by the national referendum.

1980   Andalusia approves its statute of autonomy through a referendum.

 
Encyclopedia
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

, a constitutional amendment
Constitutional amendment
A constitutional amendment is a formal change to the text of the written constitution of a nation or state.Most constitutions require that amendments cannot be enacted unless they have passed a special procedure that is more stringent than that required of ordinary legislation...

, a law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, the recall
Recall election
A recall election is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended...

 of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

. The word plebiscite comes from the Latin plebiscita, which originally meant a decree of the Concilium Plebis
Plebeian Council
The Concilium Plebis — known in English as the Plebeian Council or People's Assembly — was the principal popular assembly of the ancient Roman Republic. It functioned as a legislative assembly, through which the plebeians could pass laws, elect magistrates, and try judicial cases. The Plebeian...

, the popular assembly of the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

. Referendums and referenda are both commonly used as plurals of referendum. However, the use of referenda is deprecated by the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

, which advises that:
In the United States, a plebiscite is typically known as an initiative
Initiative
In political science, an initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote...

 when originating in a petition of ordinary citizens, and as a referendum only if it consists of a proposal referred to voters by the legislature. A plebiscite can be considered a kind of election
Election
An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy operates since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the...

 and is often referred to as such in the U.S. (an election literally means a choice). In other countries, the term election is often reserved for events in which elected representatives are chosen.

Procedure and status


In a first classification by necessity, a referendum may be mandatory, that is, the law (usually the constitution) directs authorities to holding referendums on specific matters (such is the case in amending most constitutions, or impeaching heads of state as well as ratifying international treaties) and are usually binding. A referendum can also be facultative, that is it can be initiated at the will of a public authority (President of the Republic in France and Romania or the Government/Parliament in Greece or Spain) or at the will of the citizens (a petition). It can be binding/ non-binding.

A foundational referendum or plebiscite may be drafted by a constituent assembly
Constituent assembly
A constituent assembly is a body composed for the purpose of drafting or adopting a constitution...

 before being put to voters. In other circumstances a referendum is usually initiated either by a legislature or by citizens themselves by means of a petition. The process of initiating a referendum by petition is known as the popular or citizens initiative
Initiative
In political science, an initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote...

. In the United States the term referendum is often reserved for a direct vote initiated by a legislature while a vote originating in a petition of citizens is referred to as an "initiative", "ballot measure" or "proposition."

In countries in which a referendum must be initiated by parliament, it is sometimes mandatory to hold a binding referendum on certain proposals, such as constitutional amendments. In countries, such as the United Kingdom, in which referendums are neither mandatory nor binding there may, nonetheless, exist an unwritten convention that certain important constitutional changes will be put to a referendum and that the result will be respected.

By nature of their effects, referendums may be either binding or non-binding. A non-binding referendum is merely consultative or advisory. It is left to the government or legislature
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

 to interpret the results of a non-binding referendum and it may even choose to ignore them. This is particularly the case in states that follow Westminster conventions of parliamentary sovereignty. In New Zealand, for example, citizen-initiated referendum (CIR) questions are broad statements of intent, not detailed laws. Following a referendum vote, parliament itself has the sole power to draft, debate and pass enabling legislation if it so chooses, and thus far, New Zealand governments have chosen to ignore completely two of the three proposals that have succeeded in forcing a vote since the CIR device was created in 1993. The third, a series of proposals about criminal justice, prompted some minor reforms only; it too was largely ignored. Matt Qvortrup in his Supply-side Politics (Centre for Policy Studies 2007) argues that this led to a disuse of the New Zealand device. While three petitions were launched in 2007, there was only one in 2004 and 2005, and none in 2006 and 2008 thus far. Only one of these have yet achieved the necessary signature target to force a vote, the overwhelming result (87% opposed) of which was largely ignored by the government. However, according to the New Zealand Election Study, 77 percent of voters believe that the citizen initiated referendum make the politicians more accountable. Trust in politicians has grown by almost 20 percent since the introduction of the device, although that can be more plausibly attributed to the change in electoral system that occurred at the same time.

In most referendums it is sufficient for a measure to be approved by a simple majority of voters in order for it to be carried. However, a referendum may also require the support of a super-majority
Supermajority
A supermajority or a qualified majority is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level or type of support which exceeds a simple majority . In some jurisdictions, for example, parliamentary procedure requires that any action that may alter the rights of the minority has a supermajority...

, such as two-thirds of votes cast. In Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 certain proposals must be endorsed by a three-quarters majority (among them, any proposal to amend article 148 of the Lithuanian Constitution, which states, "Lithuania is an independent and democratic republic").

In some countries, including Italy, there is also a requirement that there be a certain minimum turn-out of the electorate in order for the result of a referendum to be considered valid. This is intended to ensure that the result is representative of the will of the electorate and is analogous to the quorum
Quorum
A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly necessary to conduct the business of that group...

 required in a committee or legislature.

The franchise
Suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

 in a referendum is not necessarily the same as that for election
Election
An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy operates since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the...

s. For example, in Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

, only citizens may vote in a constitutional referendum, whereas citizens of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 are also entitled to vote in general election
General election
In a parliamentary political system, a general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen. The term is usually used to refer to elections held for a nation's primary legislative body, as distinguished from by-elections and local elections.The term...

s.

Australia


Approval in a referendum is necessary in order to amend the Australian constitution
Constitution of Australia
The Constitution of Australia is the supreme law under which the Australian Commonwealth Government operates. It consists of several documents. The most important is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia...

. A bill must first be passed by both houses of Parliament or, in certain limited circumstances, by only one house of Parliament, and is then submitted to a referendum. If a majority of those voting, as well as separate majorities in each of a majority of states, (and where appropriate a majority of people in any affected state) vote in favour of the amendment, it is presented for Royal Assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

, given in the Queen's name by the Governor-General
Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch . He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth...

. Due to the specific mention of referendums in the Australian constitution, non-constitutional referendums are usually termed plebiscites in Australia.

Brazil


Three nationwide referendums were held so far in Brazilian history.

In 1961, the country had just adopted the parliamentary government system, but in a referendum held in 1963, the Brazilian population was consulted about which government system should be withheld in the country and it was decided to have Brazil return to a Presidential system.

In 1993, another referendum to decide Brazil's government system was held. Voters could choose between keep the presidential republic system, adopt a parliamentary republic system, or adopt a parliamentary monarchy system. The majority of voters opined to maintain the current presidential government system.

In 2005 a referendum was held to consult the population about their opinion on the possibility to forbid the sale and civilian possession of firearms and ammunition nationwide. Most of voters declared themselves contrary to the ban and the laws regarding commerce and ownership of weapons in the country remained unaltered.

Canada


Referendums are rare in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and only three have ever occurred at the federal level. The most recent was a referendum in 1992 on a package of proposed constitutional measures known as the Charlottetown Accord
Charlottetown Accord
The Charlottetown Accord was a package of proposed amendments to the Constitution of Canada, proposed by the Canadian federal and provincial governments in 1992. It was submitted to a public referendum on October 26 of that year, and was defeated.-Background:...

. Although the Constitution of Canada
Constitution of Canada
The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law in Canada; the country's constitution is an amalgamation of codified acts and uncodified traditions and conventions. It outlines Canada's system of government, as well as the civil rights of all Canadian citizens and those in Canada...

 does not expressly require that amendments be approved by referendum, many argue that, in light of the precedent set by the Charlottetown Accord referendum, this may have become a constitutional convention
Constitutional convention (political custom)
A constitutional convention is an informal and uncodified procedural agreement that is followed by the institutions of a state. In some states, notably those Commonwealth of Nations states that follow the Westminster system and whose political systems derive from British constitutional law, most...

.

A referendum can also occur at the provincial level. The 1980
1980 Quebec referendum
The 1980 Quebec referendum was the first referendum in Quebec on the place of Quebec within Canada and whether Quebec should pursue a path toward sovereignty. The referendum was called by Quebec's Parti Québécois government, which strongly favoured secession from Canada...

 and 1995
1995 Quebec referendum
The 1995 Quebec referendum was the second referendum to ask voters in the Canadian province of Quebec whether Quebec should secede from Canada and become an independent state, through the question:...

 referendums on the secession of Québec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

 are notable cases. In conjunction with the provincial election
Ontario general election, 2007
The Ontario general election of 2007 was held on October 10, 2007 to elect members of the 39th Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, Canada. The Liberals under Dalton McGuinty won the election with a majority government, winning 71 out of a possible 107 seats with 42.2% of the popular...

 in 2007, the province of Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

 voted on a mixed-member proportional representation electoral system and British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

 held two consecutive referendums on BC-STV
BC-STV
BC-STV is a proposed voting system recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform for use in British Columbia, and belongs to the Single Transferable Vote family of voting systems. BC-STV was supported by a majority of the voters in a referendum held in 2005 but the government had...

 in 2005 and 2009. In 2011 British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

 held yet another referendum against a newly imposed HST tax. The results ended up making British Columbia the first province to overturn the harmonization of provincial and federal taxes.

Chile


There have been four plebiscites and one "consultation" in Chilean history. In 1925, a plebiscite was held over a new constitution that would replace a semi-parliamentary system with a presidential one. The "Yes" vote won overwhelmingly, with 95% of the vote.

In 1978, after the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 protested against Pinochet's régime, the country's military government held a national consultation, which asked if people supported Pinochet's rule. The "Yes" vote won with 74%, although the results have been questioned.

Another constitutional plebiscite
Chilean National Plebiscite, 1980
The National Plebiscite in 1980 in Chile was a referendum held on September 11, 1980 to approve the 1980 Political Constitution of the Republic of Chile as a replacement for Chile's 1925 constitution. The result was 4,204,897 votes in favor and 1,893,420 votes against ratification...

 was held in 1980. The "Yes" won with 68.5%, prolonging Pinochet's term until 1989 and replacing the 1925 Constitution with a new one still used today. The results of this plebiscite have also been questioned by Pinochet's opponents, because of the lack of voters registration.

In a historical plebiscite held in 1988, 56% voted to end the military régime. The next year, yet another plebiscite was held for constitutional changes for the transition to a democratic government (the "Yes" vote won with 91%).

There have been several referendums in individual municipalities in Chile since the return to civilian rule in 1990. A referendum, which took place on 2006 in Las Condes
Las Condes
Las Condes is a commune of Chile located in Santiago Province, Santiago Metropolitan Region. The area is inhabited primarily by upper-mid to high income families...

, over the construction of a mall was noteworthy for being the first instance in Chilean history where electronic voting machines were used.

Costa Rica


October 7, 2007 the first referendum held in Costa Rica was to approve or reject the free trade agreement with Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

, Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

 (Costa Rica already has FTAs with the latter) and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 known as the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).

It was very narrowly approved (49.030 votes). Results were 51.62% voted in favour and 48.38% against it. It is currently the only free trade agreement in the world that has been approved on a referendum.

From 2008 to 2010 conservative groups, linked to religious institutions, managed to collect 150,000 signatures to call a referendum to decline unions between same-sex couples. The Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) had scheduled the consultation on December 5, 2010.

However, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court rejected the referendum stating that "The rights of minorities that arise from anti-majoritarian claims can not be subjected to a referendum process which the majority imposes". This consideration supports the main argument of those who rejected the consultation considered a violation of human rights, among these gay groups and humanitarian actors.

The Board further considered that "people who have sex with same sex are a group at disadvantage and discrimination, which requires the support of public authorities for the recognition of their constitutional rights or other legislation". Decisions of the Constitutional Court are final so the ruling stopped the referendum and opened to the Congress the opportunity to continue discussing the bill on the recognition of homosexual unions.

Denmark


In Denmark, referendums are held every time new treaties of the European Union
Treaties of the European Union
The Treaties of the European Union are a set of international treaties between the European Union member states which sets out the EU's constitutional basis. They establish the various EU institutions together with their remit, procedures and objectives...

 have to be approved. One sixth of the parliamentary members can force a referendum in certain cases, one third in all cases. Because Denmark has a multiparty system, this has happened. However, it has been the norm to hold a referendum with every new EU treaty, even when more than five sixths can be found. Recently, the Danish government was highly criticized when it did not hold a referendum regarding the controversial Lisbon treaty.

The Constitution of Denmark
Constitution of Denmark
The Constitutional Act of Denmark is the Kingdom of Denmark's constitution, or fundamental law. Originally verified in 1849, the last revision was signed on 5 June 1953 as "the existing law, for all to unswerving comply with, the Constitutional Act of Denmark".-Idea and structure:The main...

 can be changed only after a referendum.

The present location of the border with Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 was determined by a referendum in 1920 after the German capitulation
Capitulation (surrender)
Capitulation , an agreement in time of war for the surrender to a hostile armed force of a particular body of troops, a town or a territory....

. See Schleswig
Schleswig
Schleswig or South Jutland is a region covering the area about 60 km north and 70 km south of the border between Germany and Denmark; the territory has been divided between the two countries since 1920, with Northern Schleswig in Denmark and Southern Schleswig in Germany...

.

Egypt


On 19 March 2011 a constitutional referendum was held in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, following the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. The reforms made it easier for candidates to run for president, limited the number of presidential terms to two four-year periods, and ensured judicial monitoring of elections.

Hong Kong



Due to discontent towards the proposal of political reform made by the Hong Kong government, the Civic Party
Civic Party
Civic Party is a liberal democratic political party in Hong Kong.The Civic Party is currently the third largest political party in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, with five members securing seats in the 2008 Hong Kong Legislative Council elections...

 and the League of Social Democrats
League of Social Democrats
The League of Social Democrats or LSD is a radical pro-democratic political party in Hong Kong. Its declared purpose is to "take a clear-cut stand to defend the interests of the grassroots"...

 joined together to carry out "Five Constituencies Referendum" in early 2010, by having one Legislative Councillors (from either one of the parties) in each constituency resigned, forcing the government to carry out a by-election, thus giving a chance for all voters to show their will towards universal suffrage and the abolishment of functional constituencies .Quite often, it is refereed as "De facto referendum".

The Basic Law of Hong Kong does not provide for official referenda, but the pan-democrats hope that by returning the resignees to the Legislative Council, on their manifesto of real political reform in Hong Kong and the abolition of functional constituencies
Functional constituency
In the political systems of Hong Kong and Macau, a functional constituency is a professional or special interest group involved in the electoral process...

, the election can be seen as a de-facto referendum and an endorsement of these issues.

The original five pan-democrat Legislative Councillors were re-elected, the turnout was much lower than the expectation of the two parties, due to the suppression of pro-Beijing Camp.

Iraq



The current Constitution of Iraq
Constitution of Iraq
The Constitution of Iraq is Iraq's fundamental law.-History:Iraq's first constitution, which established a constitutional monarchy, entered into force under the auspices of a British military occupation in 1925 and remained in effect until the 1958 revolution established a republic...

 was approved by referendum on 15 October 2005, two years after the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

-led invasion. The constitution was designed to shift crucial decisions about government, the judiciary and human rights to a future national assembly. It was later modified to provide for the establishment of a committee by the parliament to be elected in December 2005 to consider changes to the constitution in 2006.

Ireland



The current Constitution of Ireland
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...

 was adopted by plebiscite on 1 July 1937. In Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

, every constitutional amendment must be approved by referendum; 30 such referendums have occurred so far (from the enactment of the current constitution to the end of 2009). Constitutional amendments are first adopted by both Houses of the Oireachtas
Oireachtas
The Oireachtas , sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the "national parliament" or legislature of Ireland. The Oireachtas consists of:*The President of Ireland*The two Houses of the Oireachtas :**Dáil Éireann...

 (parliament), submitted to a referendum, and are signed into law by the President
President of Ireland
The President of Ireland is the head of state of Ireland. The President is usually directly elected by the people for seven years, and can be elected for a maximum of two terms. The presidency is largely a ceremonial office, but the President does exercise certain limited powers with absolute...

. The role of the president is merely ceremonial: she cannot refuse to sign into law an amendment that has been approved in a referendum. The constitution also provides for a referendum on an ordinary law, known as an 'ordinary referendum
Ordinary referendum
The ordinary referendum is a referendum in the Republic of Ireland in which the president may refer a bill directly to the electorate before it becomes law. Articles 27 and 47 of the Constitution of Ireland provides for a referendum on a proposal other than a proposal to amend the constitution...

'. Such a referendum can take place only under special circumstances, and none have yet occurred. The closest referendum result was 1995's vote to legalise divorce - 50.3% voted "Yes" (to legalise divorce) and 49.7% voted "No." Only Ireland held a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon
Treaty of Lisbon
The Treaty of Lisbon of 1668 was a peace treaty between Portugal and Spain, concluded at Lisbon on 13 February 1668, through the mediation of England, in which Spain recognized the sovereignty of Portugal's new ruling dynasty, the House of Braganza....

.

Iceland


The constitution of Iceland
Constitution of Iceland
The Constitution of Iceland is the supreme law of Iceland. It is composed of 80 articles in seven sections, and within it the leadership arrangement of the country is determined and the human rights of its citizens are preserved. The current constitution was first instituted on June 17, 1944; since...

 provides two articles on referendums:
  • According to the 11th article, if 3/4 of the parliament
    Althing
    The Alþingi, anglicised variously as Althing or Althingi, is the national parliament of Iceland. The Althingi is the oldest parliamentary institution in the world still extant...

     votes to dismiss the president
    President of Iceland
    The President of Iceland is Iceland's elected head of state. The president is elected to a four-year term by universal adult suffrage and has limited powers. The president is not the head of government; the Prime Minister of Iceland is the head of government. There have been five presidents since...

     then that decision must be put to a binding referendum.
  • According to the 26th article, should the president veto a bill from the parliament then it must be put to a binding referendum.


A total of 7 referendums have been held in Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

, two of which were held after the nation declared independence and became a republic in 1944.
  1. Prohibition referendum
    Icelandic prohibition referendum, 1908
    The Icelandic prohibition referendum of 1908 was the first referendum to be held in Iceland. 60.1% of voters favoured prohibition while 39.9% were against it....

     (1908)
  2. Community service referendum (1916)
  3. Sovereignty referendum
    Icelandic sovereignty referendum, 1918
    The Icelandic sovereignty referendum of 1918 changed the status of Iceland within the Kingdom of Denmark from home rule to a sovereign country. The proposal was approved with 92.6% support....

     (1918)
  4. Prohibitation referendum
    Icelandic prohibition referendum, 1933
    The Icelandic prohibition referendum of 1933 was a review of the 1908 referendum. Prohibition was abolished with 57.7% support....

     (1933)
  5. Constitutional referendum (1944)
  6. Loan guarantees referendum (2010)
  7. Loan guarantees referendum
    Icelandic loan guarantees referendum, 2011
    A referendum on the loan guarantees repayment by Iceland to the governments of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands for their loan guarantees to the Depositors' and Investors' Guarantee Fund of Iceland over the failure of the Icesave bank was held in Iceland on 9 April 2011...

     (2011)

Italy



The constitution of Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 provides for two kinds of binding referendums.

A legislative referendum can be called in order to abrogate a law totally or partially, if requested by 500,000 electors or five regional councils. This kind of referendum is valid only if at least a majority of electors goes to the polling station. It is forbidden to call a referendum regarding financial laws or laws relating to pardons or the ratification of international treaties.

A constitutional referendum can be called in order to approve a constitutional law or amendment only when it has been approved by the Houses (Chamber of Deputies
Italian Chamber of Deputies
The Italian Chamber of Deputies is the lower house of the Parliament of Italy. It has 630 seats, a plurality of which is controlled presently by liberal-conservative party People of Freedom. Twelve deputies represent Italian citizens outside of Italy. Deputies meet in the Palazzo Montecitorio. A...

 and Senate of the Republic
Italian Senate
The Senate of the Republic is the upper house of the Italian Parliament. It was established in its current form on 8 May 1948, but previously existed during the Kingdom of Italy as Senato del Regno , itself a continuation of the Senato Subalpino of Sardinia-Piedmont established on 8 May 1848...

) with a majority of less than two thirds in both or either House, and only at the request of one fifth of the members of either House, or 500,000 electors or five Regional Councils
Regional Council (Italy)
Regional Council is the name of the elected legislative assembly of a Regione of Italy, excluded Sicily and Valley of Aosta, which parliament's name is, respectively, Sicilian Regional Assembly and Council of the Valley .-Origins:The regional idea was born, in Italy, during the national...

. A constitutional referendum is valid no matter how many electors go to the polling station. Any citizen entitled to vote in an election to the Chamber of Deputies may participate in a referendum.

Malta


There are three types of referendums in Malta; these are Constitutional, Consultative and Abrogative Referendums. Constitutional Referendums are binding and is set out in the Constitution and in practice it would only take place to increase the life time of the incumbent legislature. This type of Referendum in Malta in effect has never taken place. The second provision is for Consultative Referendums. These can either take place prior to the assent of a bill in the House of Representatives
House of Representatives of Malta
The House of Representatives is the unicameral legislature of Malta and a component of the Parliament of Malta.The House is composed of an odd number of members elected for a five year term...

 or following the parliamentary procedure in a form of a conditional clause in the said bill. In the former case it would not legally bind Parliament to approve the said legislation irrelevant of the result of the said referendum, however the latter case, it would be conventionally binding on the President to promulgate the bill into law. Throughout the History of Malta there has been five referendums on a national level. There has been however one regional referendum for Gozo in 1973 and further local Referendums within Local Council jurisdictions. The Final form of Referendums; i.e. Abrogative Referendums is provided for in the Referenda Act even though it has never been utilized and if invoked and successful can abrogate pieces of legislation barring some exceptions notably financial and constitutional law.

Morocco


There have been several referendums in Morocco. Most of which were related to the Moroccan constitution. Since he became king of Morocco, King Mohammed VI has led a lot of reforms that made Morocco an exception from all the other Arab countries. On February 20, 2011, Thousands took to the streets of Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier and Marrakesh in peaceful protests demanding a new constitution, a change in government and an end to corruption. During a march on Hassan II Avenue in the capital, Rabat, demonstrators demanded a new constitution to bring more democracy to the country. They shouted slogans calling for economic opportunity, education reform, better health services, and help in coping with the rising cost of living.
On March 9, King Mohammed VI made a speech that was described as a "historical" speech in which he announced several reforms including a new constitution to the country.
In a televised speech on Friday, 17 June, King Mohammed VI announced a series of constitutional reforms, to be put to a national referendum on 1 July. The proposed reforms would give the prime minister and the parliament more executive authority, and would make Berber an official language in Morocco, together with Arabic. The proposal would empower the prime minister with the authority to appoint government officials and to dissolve the parliament - the powers previously held by the king. However, the king would remain the military commander-in-chief and would retain his position as the chair of the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Security Council, the primary bodies responsible for the security policy. A new constitutional provision would also confirm the king's role as the highest religious authority in the country.
Although most people were celebrating among the protesters after the King's speech, the leaders of the 20 February Movement rejected the proposals as insufficient and called for continuing protests on 19 June 2011. On 29 June 2011, the protesters called for a boycott of the referendum.
The referendum was held on June 1, and almost all Moroccans said yes to it with a "98% yes" "2% No" turnout.

Netherlands


In principle, national referendums in the Netherlands are not possible by law. However, from 2002 until 2005, there was a Temporary Referendum Law in place, which allowed for non-binding referendums, known in Dutch as Volksraadpleging ("People's Consultation"), to be organised for laws already approved by the House of Representatives. No referendum was called based on this law.

In order to hold the 2005 referendum on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe , , was an unratified international treaty intended to create a consolidated constitution for the European Union...

, a different law was temporarily put in place. That referendum was the first national referendum in the Netherlands in 200 years and it was the result of an initiative proposal by parliamentarians Farah Karimi
Farah Karimi
Farahnaz Karimi , 15 November 1960) is an Iranian-Dutch politician. She was member of the House of Representatives between 1998 and 2006 for GreenLeft.-Life before Politics:...

 (Greens), Niesco Dubbelboer (Labour) and Boris van der Ham (Democrats
Democrats 66
Democrats 66 is a progressive and social-liberal political party in the Netherlands. D66 was formed in 1966 by a group of politically unaligned, young intellectuals, led by journalist Hans van Mierlo. The party's main objective was to democratise the political system; it proposed to create an...

).

New Zealand



New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 has two types of referendum. Government referendums are predominantly about alcohol
Alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

 policy (although none has been held recently) or constitutional
New Zealand constitution
The constitution of New Zealand consists of a collection of statutes , Treaties, Orders in Council, letters patent, decisions of the Courts and unwritten constitutional conventions...

 issues. However, there are referendums on other issues. Furthermore, constitutional issues, such as the establishment of the Supreme Court of New Zealand
Supreme Court of New Zealand
The Supreme Court of New Zealand is the highest court and the court of last resort in New Zealand, having formally come into existence on 1 January 2004. The court sat for the first time on 1 July 2004. It replaced the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, based in London...

, may be done without a referendum. New Zealand also has provision for citizens-initiated referendums, although these are non-binding. The Prime Minister, John Key
John Key
John Phillip Key is the 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand, in office since 2008. He has led the New Zealand National Party since 2006....

, has said he will work to raise the number of times referendums are used.

Norway


The Norwegian Constitution does not mention refendums at all, and as such, referendums are not a part of Norwegian political practice. However, six advisory referendums have been held in Norway, most notably, the referendums on Norwegian EU membership, and the referendum for dissolving the union with Sweden. It is worth noting that these referendums, and potential future referendums, although legitimate as part of Norwegian constitutional convention
Constitutional convention (political custom)
A constitutional convention is an informal and uncodified procedural agreement that is followed by the institutions of a state. In some states, notably those Commonwealth of Nations states that follow the Westminster system and whose political systems derive from British constitutional law, most...

, will not have any legal binding: They will merely be advisory, and the final decision will be taken by the Norwegian parliament, who may choose (albeit unlikely) to disregard the will of the Norwegian people as expressed through the referendum.

Portugal


In Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, a Referendum is a determined proposition presented by the Government, Citizens or Political Organizations that is submitted to the popular pronouncement through a national election. Until now, there were already three Referendums:
abortion, in 1998, when the "No" won;
regionalization, in 1998, when the "No" won;
abortion, in 2007, where the "Yes" won. This referendum was asked because the first referendum on this issue had a low turnout.

Romania


Under the Romanian Constitution of 1991, revised in 2003, there are three situations in which referendums can be held. Article 90 of the Constitution establishes a facultative and non-binding referendum, which the President can initiate on matters of principle. Article 95 establishes a mandatory and binding referendum for the impeachment of the President in case he is deemed guilty of disobeying the Constitution. Article 151 also establishes a mandatory and binding referendum on approving Constitutional amendments. This last provision has been used twice: in adopting the Romanian Constitution in 1991, and amending it in 2003.

Serbia



The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia
Constitution of Serbia
The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia is Serbia's fundamental law. The current constitution was approved in a constitutional referendum, held from on 28–29 October 2006...

 was adopted on a referendum held in 28–29 October 2006. The constitutional referendum passed with 3,521,724 voting a 53.04% majority. 3,645,517 or 54.91% voted on the referendum, which made it legitimate.

Singapore


According to the Constitution of Singapore
Constitution of Singapore
The Constitution of Singapore is the supreme law of Singapore and it is a codified constitution.The constitution cannot be amended without the support of more than two-thirds of the members of parliament on the second and third readings . The president may seek opinion on constitutional issues...

, a referendum can be held in a few circumstances, including situations when a constitutional amendment passed by the Parliament is rejected by the President, or when the nation's sovereignty needs to be decided (i.e. merger or incorporation into other countries). There has been only one referendum in Singapore to date, which is the 1962 national referendum
Singapore national referendum, 1962
The Singapore national referendum of 1962, or also commonly referred to as the Merger Referendum of Singapore was the first and only referendum to date held in Singapore on September 1, 1962. It called for people to vote on the terms of merger with Malaysia...

, deciding on the merger of Singapore into Malaysia. Singapore was eventually forced to secede from Malaysia and declared independence, which had not even been an option in the referendum, on 9 August 1965. Hence, Singapore became the only country to become independent against its own will.

Sweden



The Constitution of Sweden
Constitution of Sweden
The Swedish Constitution consists of four fundamental laws :* The 1810 Act of Succession * The 1949 Freedom of the Press Act * The 1974 Instrument of Government * The 1991 Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression...

 provides for both binding and non-binding referendums. Since the introduction of parliamentary democracy, six referendums have been held: the first was about alcohol prohibition
Prohibition
Prohibition of alcohol, often referred to simply as prohibition, is the practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the...

 in 1922, and the most recent was about euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

 membership in 2003. All have been non-binding, consultative referendums. Two, in 1957 and 1980, were multiple-choice referendums.

Switzerland


In Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 Swiss voters can demand a binding referendum at federal, cantonal and municipal level. They are a central feature of Swiss political life. It is not the government's choice whether or when a referendum is held, but it is a legal procedure regulated by the Swiss constitution. There are two types of referendums:
  • Facultative referendum: Any federal law, certain other federal resolutions, and international treaties that are ongoing in nature, or any change to Swiss law may be subject to referendum if at least 50,000 people or eight cantons have petitioned to do so within 100 days. Within cantons and municipalities, the required number of people is smaller, and there may be additional causes for a facultative referendum, e.g., expenditures that exceed a certain amount of money. The facultative referendum is the most common type of referendum, and it is mostly carried out by political parties or by interest groups.
  • Obligatory referendum: There must be a referendum on any amendments to the constitution and on any joining of a multinational community or organization for collective security. In many municipalities, expenditures that exceed a certain amount of money also are subject to the obligatory referendum. Constitutional amendments are proposed by the parliament or by the cantons or by citizens' initiatives. Citizen's initiatives at the federal level need to collect 100,000 valid signatures within 18 months, and must not contradict international laws or treaties. Often, parliament elaborates a counter-proposal to an initiative, leading to a multiple-choice referendum. Very few such initiatives pass the vote, but more often, the parliamentary counter proposal is approved.


The possibility of facultative referendums forces the parliament to search for a compromise between the major interest groups. In many cases, the mere threat of a facultative referendum or of an initiative is enough to make the parliament adjust a law.

The referendums are said, by their adversaries, to slow politics down. On the other hand, empirical scientists, e.g. Bruno S. Frey among many, show that this and other instruments of citizens' participation, direct democracy, contribute to stability and happiness.

The votes on referendums are always held on a Sunday, typically three or four times a year, and in most cases, the votes concern several referendums at the same time, often at different political levels (federal, cantonal, municipal). Referendums are also often combined with elections. The percentage of voters is around 40% to 50%, unless there is an election. The decisions made in referendums tend to be conservative. Citizens' initiatives are usually not passed. The federal rule and referendums have been used in Switzerland since 1848.

United Kingdom



Although Acts of Parliament may permit referendums to take place, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies. In the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, a legislative body has absolute sovereignty, meaning it is supreme to all other government institutions—including any executive or judicial bodies...

 means any Act of Parliament giving effect to a referendum result could be reversed by a subsequent Act of Parliament. As a result, referendums in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 cannot be constitutionally binding, although they will usually have a persuasive political effect.

Referendums are rare; only two have been put to the entire UK electorate. The first was the United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975, which was held two years after British accession to the European Economic Community
European Economic Community
The European Economic Community The European Economic Community (EEC) The European Economic Community (EEC) (also known as the Common Market in the English-speaking world, renamed the European Community (EC) in 1993The information in this article primarily covers the EEC's time as an independent...

 to gauge support for continued membership. The second was the United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, 2011. This was to vote on changing the 'First Past the Post
Plurality voting system
The plurality voting system is a single-winner voting system often used to elect executive officers or to elect members of a legislative assembly which is based on single-member constituencies...

' system to an alternative electoral system
Voting system
A voting system or electoral system is a method by which voters make a choice between options, often in an election or on a policy referendum....

, the Alternative Vote.

Referendums have been held in individual parts of the United Kingdom on issues relating to devolution
Devolution
Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level. Devolution can be mainly financial, e.g. giving areas a budget which was formerly administered by central government...

 in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, an elected Mayor of London
Mayor of London
The Mayor of London is an elected politician who, along with the London Assembly of 25 members, is accountable for the strategic government of Greater London. Conservative Boris Johnson has held the position since 4 May 2008...

 and a Greater London Authority
Greater London Authority
The Greater London Authority is the top-tier administrative body for Greater London, England. It consists of a directly elected executive Mayor of London, currently Boris Johnson, and an elected 25-member London Assembly with scrutiny powers...

 for Greater London
Greater London
Greater London is the top-level administrative division of England covering London. It was created in 1965 and spans the City of London, including Middle Temple and Inner Temple, and the 32 London boroughs. This territory is coterminate with the London Government Office Region and the London...

, a regional assembly for the North-East
North East England
North East England is one of the nine official regions of England. It covers Northumberland, County Durham, Tyne and Wear, and Teesside . The only cities in the region are Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne and Sunderland...

 of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and the constitutional status and governance of Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. Since 1973, the year of the first such plebiscite, there have been nine major referendums.

In 2004, Her Majesty's Government promised a UK-wide referendum on the new European Constitution
Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe , , was an unratified international treaty intended to create a consolidated constitution for the European Union...

, but this was postponed in 2005 following the defeats of the French and Dutch referendums. Due to the replacement of the European Constitution with the Treaty of Lisbon
Treaty of Lisbon
The Treaty of Lisbon of 1668 was a peace treaty between Portugal and Spain, concluded at Lisbon on 13 February 1668, through the mediation of England, in which Spain recognized the sovereignty of Portugal's new ruling dynasty, the House of Braganza....

, there was no obligation for a referendum. Referendums have also been proposed, but not held, on the replacement of the pound sterling
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 with the euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

 as the currency
Currency
In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

 of the United Kingdom. The present Scottish Government, a Scottish National Party
Scottish National Party
The Scottish National Party is a social-democratic political party in Scotland which campaigns for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom....

 administration, wishes to hold a referendum on Scottish Independence
Scottish independence
Scottish independence is a political ambition of political parties, advocacy groups and individuals for Scotland to secede from the United Kingdom and become an independent sovereign state, separate from England, Wales and Northern Ireland....

 between late 2013 and 2016. As it is now a majority government
Majority government
A majority government is when the governing party has an absolute majority of seats in the legislature or parliament in a parliamentary system. This is as opposed to a minority government, where even the largest party wins only a plurality of seats and thus must constantly bargain for support from...

, the referendum can pass through the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

 unhindered. The Westminster government has also indicated that it will facilitate such a referendum.

At the local level, the Government has put proposals for directly-elected mayors to several towns by referendum. The 1972 Local Government Act also contains a little-used provision that allows non-binding local referendums on any issue to be called by small groups of voters. Strathclyde Regional Council held a postal referendum in 1994 on whether control of water and sewerage services should be transferred to appointed boards: this was largely a political tactic, since this was the policy of the UK Government at the time. The UK Parliament enacted the legislation anyway, and it came into force on 1 April 1996.

United States


In the United States, the term "referendum" typically refers to a popular vote originated by petition to overturn legislation already passed at the state or local levels (mainly in the western United States). In industrial cities and regions, it refers to internal, union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

 organization in terms of electing delegates or approving a collective bargaining
Collective bargaining
Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and the representatives of a unit of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions...

 agreement. By contrast, "initiative
Initiative
In political science, an initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote...

s" and "legislative referrals" consist of newly drafted legislation submitted directly to a popular vote as an alternative to adoption by a legislature. Collectively, referendums and initiatives in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 are commonly referred to as ballot measures, initiatives, or propositions.

There is no provision for the holding of referendums at the federal level in the United States; indeed, there is no national electorate of any kind. The United States constitution does not provide for referendums at the federal level. A constitutional amendment would be required to allow it. However, the constitutions of 24 states (principally in the West) and many local and city governments provide for referendums and citizen's initiatives.

However, a Constitutional Convention can be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and that Convention to propose one or more amendments to the Constitution. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. This route has never been taken, and there is discussion in political science circles about just how such a convention would be convened, and what kind of changes it would bring about.

Uruguay



The Uruguayan constitution allows citizens to challenge laws approved by Parliament by use of a referendum or to propose changes to the Constitution by the use of a plebiscite. This right has been used a few times in the past 15 years: to confirm an amnesty to members of the military who violated human rights during the military regime (1973–1985), to stop privatization of public utilities companies, to defend pensioners' incomes, and to protect water resources.

Other countries

  • Brazil: In October 2005, 122 million voters decided to continue to allow the sale of firearm
    Firearm
    A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

    s in Brazil. This referendum was offered by the government as part of a violence minimization initiative known as project disarmament.
  • Croatia held an independence referendum
    Croatian independence referendum, 1991
    An independence referendum was held in Croatia on 19 May 1991. The result was 95.7% in favour, with a turnout of 83.6%.-Background:The Croatian parliament made the decision to hold the referendum on 2 May.-Results:-Aftermath:...

     in May, 1991, with a turnout of 80%, of which 93% of the voters opted for independence.
  • East Timor, formerly governed
    Indonesian occupation of East Timor
    Indonesia occupied East Timor from December 1975 to October 1999. After centuries of Portuguese colonial rule in East Timor, a 1974 coup in Portugal led to decolonization among its former colonies, creating instability in East Timor and leaving its future uncertain...

     by Indonesia
    Indonesia
    Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

    , had a referendum on 30 August 1999, in which voters chose either to become a Special Autonomous Region within Indonesia, or for independence. Around 79% of voters opted for independence.
  • Eritrea: In April 1993 nearly 1 million voters (a quarter of the population), cast ballots to become "sovereign and independent" of Ethiopia. This vote was the result of thirty years of war by Eritreans during their War of Independence
    Eritrean War of Independence
    The Eritrean War of Independence was a conflict fought between the Ethiopian government and Eritrean separatists, both before and during the Ethiopian Civil War. The war started when Eritrea’s autonomy within Ethiopia, where troops were already stationed, was unilaterally revoked...

    . The result was a vote for independence by 99.8% of the voters.
  • France: The practice of referendums for tough decisions appeared with Charles De Gaulle
    Charles de Gaulle
    Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

    's Fifth Republic
    Fifth Republic
    There have been several Fifth Republics in the course of history, including:* French Fifth Republic * Fifth Republic of the Philippines * Fifth Republic of South Korea...

    , in order to overcome the Parliament. A referendum can be called by the President for constitutional changes
    French Matignon Accords referendum, 1988
    A referendum on the Matignon Accords was held in France on 6 November 1988. The accords were approved by 80% of voters, although turnout was just 36.9%.-Results:...

    , treaty ratification, laws concerning the administration or the territory. The political risks involved made the practice rare. Most constitutional revisions went through the super-majority of the Parliament in Congress. Therefore, a procedure of popular initiative, backed by a handful of MPs, is being put in place.
  • Iran: In 1979 and after the Islamic Revolution had toppled the Iranian monarchy
    Iranian monarchy
    Iranian monarchy may refer to:*pre-Islamic Iran**2700 BC – 519 BC Elamite Empire**715 BC – 549 BC Median Empire**558 BC – 330 BC Achaemenid dynasty**247 BC – 224 AD Arsacid dynasty **224 AD – 651 AD Sassanian dynasty*Islamic Iran...

    , a referendum
    Iranian Islamic Republic referendum, March 1979
    A referendum on creating an Islamic Republic was held in Iran on 30 and 31 March 1979. It was approved by 99.3% of voters.-Results:...

     was held to choose the future governing system of the country. The question was a simple yes or no to the Islamic Republic
    Islamic republic
    Islamic republic is the name given to several states in the Muslim world including the Islamic Republics of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Mauritania. Pakistan adopted the title under the constitution of 1956. Mauritania adopted it on 28 November 1958. Iran adopted it after the 1979 Iranian...

    , a system which combines direct representation with religious authority. The Islamic Republic
    Islamic republic
    Islamic republic is the name given to several states in the Muslim world including the Islamic Republics of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Mauritania. Pakistan adopted the title under the constitution of 1956. Mauritania adopted it on 28 November 1958. Iran adopted it after the 1979 Iranian...

     was established after more than 98% of the population voted yes.
  • 'Kashmir (a state within the territory of India) The Security Council of United Nations on the complaint of Government of India concerning the dispute over the State of Jammu and Kashmir passed resolution 47(1948), “that both India and Pakistan desire that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite”. It recommended to the Governments of India and Pakistan to restore peace and order in Jammu and Kashmir and provide full freedom to all subjects of the state, to vote on the question of accession.
  • Puerto Rico: Three Puerto Rican status referendums (in 1967, 1993, and 1998) have taken place in Puerto Rico
    Puerto Rico
    Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

     to determine whether the insular area should become an independent nation
    Puerto Rican independence movement
    The Puerto Rican independence movement refers to initiatives throughout the history of Puerto Rico aimed at obtaining independence for the Island, first from Spain, and then from the United States...

     (comprising a republic
    Republic
    A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

     and an associated republic), apply for statehood
    U.S. state
    A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

    , or maintain commonwealth
    Commonwealth (United States insular area)
    In the terminology of the United States insular areas, a Commonwealth is a type of organized but unincorporated dependent territory.The definition of "Commonwealth" according to current U.S. State Department policy reads: "The term 'Commonwealth' does not describe or provide for any specific...

     (Estado Libre Asociado) status. Remaining a commonwealth has been the result of all three referendums. There was also a 2005 referendum (Resolution 64) to determine whether the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico
    Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico
    The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico is the territorial legislature of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The structure and responsibilities of the Legislative Assembly are defined in Article III of the Constitution of Puerto Rico....

     should be restructured (among other changes to become unicameral
    Unicameralism
    In government, unicameralism is the practice of having one legislative or parliamentary chamber. Thus, a unicameral parliament or unicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of one chamber or house...

    ).
  • Pakistan:General Pervez Musharraf held a referendum on 30 April 2002 to legitimize his presidency and assure its continuance after the approaching restoration of democracy. He thus extended his term to five years after the October 2002 elections. The voter turnout was 80 percent by most estimates, amidst claims of irregularities. A few weeks later, Musharraf went on TV and apologized to the nation for "irregularities" in the referendum.
  • Singapore: On 1 September 1962, a referendum
    Singapore national referendum, 1962
    The Singapore national referendum of 1962, or also commonly referred to as the Merger Referendum of Singapore was the first and only referendum to date held in Singapore on September 1, 1962. It called for people to vote on the terms of merger with Malaysia...

     was held to put the terms of the merger with Malaya
    Federation of Malaya
    The Federation of Malaya is the name given to a federation of 11 states that existed from 31 January 1948 until 16 September 1963. The Federation became independent on 31 August 1957...

     to a direct vote by the citizens of Singapore
    Singapore
    Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

    . (The decision to merge with Malaya had already been made.) There were three choices: 1) To merge with Malaya, having autonomy
    Autonomy
    Autonomy is a concept found in moral, political and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision...

     in labour and education; 2) To merge with Malaya, having same status as the other states in Malaya; 3) To merge with Malaya, having terms similar to those of the Borneo
    Borneo
    Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

     territories. Option #1 won with 71%. Two years after the merger
    Singapore in Malaysia
    On 16 September 1963, which was also Lee Kuan Yew's 40th birthday, Singapore merged with the Federation of Malaya alongside Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia...

    , Malaysia expelled Singapore.
  • Slovenia: There was an independence referendum on 23 December 1990. The turnout was a massive 88.5% of all voters of which 95% that took part voted for the independence. It was the first such referendum in one of the then Yugoslavian republics and as such marked a turning point in the history of many nations. The results were announced on 26 December and on 25 June 1991 Slovenian parliament passed an independence law proclaiming Slovenia a sovereign country. This was followed by a ten day war in which Slovenian forces drove the Yugoslavian peoples army out of the country.
  • Spain: In 1976 a referendum was held to determine if citizens wanted to change the political system (dictatorship) or not to change it, after the death of Francisco Franco
    Francisco Franco
    Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

    . Spaniards chose (94%) to change ("Referéndum para la reforma política", literally «Referendum for political reformation»). Also, in 1986 another referendum approved Spain's membership of NATO.
  • Russia
    Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

    n Constitution of 1993
    Constitution of Russia
    The current Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted by national referendum on 12 December 1993. Russia's constitution came into force on 25 December 1993, at the moment of its official publication...

    was adopted by controversial referendum
    Russian constitutional referendum, 1993
    A referendum was held in Russia on 12 December, 1993. It was initiated by President Boris Yeltsin after the fall of the Supreme Soviet. This was in a direct violation of the corresponding law № 241-1 «On the referendums of the Russian SFSR»...

    .
  • Venezuela: The 1999 constitution, created by the Chávez government, and approved by referendum, brought in the concept of requiring referendums for constitutional changes, as well as providing for recall referendums of elected officials (which require petitions of a minimum percentage of voters to be submitted). In the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004 voters determined whether or not Hugo Chávez
    Hugo Chávez
    Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

    , the current President of Venezuela, should be recalled from office. The result of the referendum was to not recall Chávez.
  • Thailand: On 4 September 2008, amidst hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding the government resign, Thailand's premier Samak Sundaravej's government approved the idea of a referendum to ask the Thai electorate if it wanted to keep the government or not. The plebiscite was not held because it was certain to legitimize unfairly the government's standing and policies.

Multiple-choice referendums


A referendum usually offers the electorate only two choices, either to accept or reject a proposal, but this need not necessarily be the case. In Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, for example, multiple choice referendums are common; two multiple choice referendums held in Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, in 1957 and 1980, offered voters a choice of three options; and in 1977 a referendum held in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 to determine a new national anthem
Advance Australia Fair
"Advance Australia Fair" is the official national anthem of Australia. Created by the Scottish-born composer, Peter Dodds McCormick, the song was first performed in 1878, but did not gain its status as the official anthem until 1984. Until then, the song was sung in Australia as a patriotic song...

 was held in which voters were presented with four choices.

A multiple choice referendum poses the problem of how the result is to be determined if no single option receives the support of an absolute majority
Majority
A majority is a subset of a group consisting of more than half of its members. This can be compared to a plurality, which is a subset larger than any other subset; i.e. a plurality is not necessarily a majority as the largest subset may consist of less than half the group's population...

 (more than half) of voters. This can be resolved by applying voting system
Voting system
A voting system or electoral system is a method by which voters make a choice between options, often in an election or on a policy referendum....

s designed for single winner elections to a multiple-choice referendum.

Swiss referendums get around this problem by offering a separate vote on each of the multiple options as well as an additional decision about which of the multiple options should be preferred. In the Swedish case, in both referendums the 'winning' option was chosen by the Single Member Plurality ("first past the post") system. In other words the winning option was deemed to be that supported by a plurality, rather than an absolute majority, of voters. In the 1977 Australian referendum the winner was chosen by the system of preferential instant-runoff voting
Instant-runoff voting
Instant-runoff voting , also known as preferential voting, the alternative vote and ranked choice voting, is a voting system used to elect one winner. Voters rank candidates in order of preference, and their ballots are counted as one vote for their first choice candidate. If a candidate secures a...

.

Although California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 does not have deliberate multiple-choice referendums in the Swiss or Swedish sense (in which only one of several counter-propositions can be victorious, and the losing proposals are wholly null and void), it does have so many yes-or-no referendums at each Election Day that the State's Constitution provides a method for resolving inadvertent conflicts when two or more inconsistent propositions are passed on the same day. This is a de facto form of Approval Voting
Approval voting
Approval voting is a single-winner voting system used for elections. Each voter may vote for as many of the candidates as the voter wishes. The winner is the candidate receiving the most votes. Each voter may vote for any combination of candidates and may give each candidate at most one vote.The...

 - i.e., the proposition with the most "yes" votes prevails over the others to the extent of any conflict.

Criticisms


Although some advocates of direct democracy would have the referendum become the dominant institution of government, in practice and in principle, in almost all cases, the referendum exists solely as a complement to the system of representative democracy
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

, in which most major decisions are made by an elected legislature. An often cited exception is the Swiss canton of Glarus
Canton of Glarus
The Canton of Glarus is a canton in east central Switzerland. The capital is Glarus.The population speaks a variety of Alemannic German.The majority of the population identifies as Christian, about evenly split between the Protestant and Catholic confessions.-History:According to legend, the...

, in which meetings are held on the village lawn to decide on matters of public concern. In most jurisdictions that practice them, referendums are relatively rare occurrences and are restricted to important issues.

Advocates of the referendum argue that certain decisions are best taken out of the hands of representatives and determined directly by the people. Some adopt a strict definition of democracy, saying elected parliaments are a necessary expedient to make governance possible in the large, modern nation-state, though direct democracy is nonetheless preferable and the referendum takes precedence over Parliamentary decisions.

Other advocates insist that the principle of popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with Republicanism and the social contract...

 demands that certain foundational questions, such as the adoption or amendment of a constitution, the secession of a state or the altering of national boundaries, be determined with the directly expressed consent of the people.

Advocates of representative democracy say referendums are used by politicians to avoid making difficult or controversial decisions.

Criticism of populist aspect


Critics of the referendum argue that voters in a referendum are more likely driven by transient whims than careful deliberation, or that they are not sufficiently informed to make decisions on complicated or technical issues. Also, voters might be swayed by strong personalities, propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 and expensive advertising campaigns. James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

 argued that direct democracy is the "tyranny of the majority."

Some opposition to the referendum has arisen from its use by dictators such as Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 and Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 who, it is argued, used the plebiscite to disguise oppressive policies as populism
Populism
Populism can be defined as an ideology, political philosophy, or type of discourse. Generally, a common theme compares "the people" against "the elite", and urges social and political system changes. It can also be defined as a rhetorical style employed by members of various political or social...

. Hitler's use of plebiscites is argued as reason why, since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, there has been no provision in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 for the holding of referendums at the federal level.

Patten's criticism


British politician Chris Patten
Chris Patten
Christopher Francis Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes, CH, PC , is the last Governor of British Hong Kong, a former British Conservative politician, and the current chairman of the BBC Trust....

 summarized many of the arguments used by those who oppose the referendum in an interview in 2003 when discussing the possibility of a referendum in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 on the European Union Constitution
Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe , , was an unratified international treaty intended to create a consolidated constitution for the European Union...

:

Never-end-um


A further perceived flaw of the referendum is that, in some circumstances, the democratic spirit of the referendum may be flouted by the repeated submission to the referendum of a proposal until it is eventually endorsed, perhaps due to a low turn-out or public fatigue with the issue. This is especially a problem where a proposal may be difficult to reverse, such as secession from a larger country or the abolition of a monarchy. The repeated holding of a referendum on a single issue has been pejoratively referred to as a "never-end-um".

Many critics of the EU point to the Treaty of Nice
Treaty of Nice
The Treaty of Nice was signed by European leaders on 26 February 2001 and came into force on 1 February 2003. It amended the Maastricht Treaty and the Treaty of Rome...

's ratification procedure in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, where the government submitted the Treaty to a referendum twice, getting the required "Yes" vote on the second attempt. This controversy was repeated during the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Closed questions and the separability problem


Some critics of the referendum attack the use of closed questions. A difficulty which can plague a referendum of two issues or more is called the separability problem
Separability problem
The separability problem is a concept from the field of social choice theory that describes the situation where two or more issues up for vote on a ballot either are, or are perceived as, related....

. If one issue is in fact, or in perception, related to another on the ballot, the imposed simultaneous voting of first preference on each issue can result in an outcome that is displeasing to most.

Undue limitations on regular government power


Several commentators have noted that the use of citizens' initiatives
Initiative
In political science, an initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote...

 to amend constitutions has so tied the government to a mishmash of popular demands as to render the government unworkable. The Economist
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

 has made this point about the US State of California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, which has passed so many referendums restricting the ability of the state government to tax the people and pass the budget that the state has become effectively ungovernable. Calls for an entirely new California constitution have been made.

Popular culture


In Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg
Steven Allan Spielberg KBE is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, video game designer, and studio entrepreneur. In a career of more than four decades, Spielberg's films have covered many themes and genres. Spielberg's early science-fiction and adventure films were seen as an...

's 2002 film Minority Report
Minority Report (film)
Minority Report is a 2002 American neo-noir science fiction film directed by Steven Spielberg and loosely based on the short story "The Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick. It is set primarily in Washington, D.C...

, based on a short story written by Philip K Dick, a referendum is held on 22 April 2054 on whether people should be arrested and judged for a murder they will commit in the future reported by people with pre-cognitive powers.

Sources

  • Emerson, P J. Defining Democracy puts both two-option and multi-option referendums into their historical context and suggests which are the more accurate measures of "the will of the people". The de Borda Institute is at http://www.deborda.org
  • Emerson Peter, Designing an All-Inclusive Democracy (Springer-Verlag, 2007), describes the Modified Borda Count (MBC), as well as the Quota Borda System (QBS) and the matrix vote.
  • The Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation, statistics (German). http://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/portal/de/index/themen/17/03/blank/key/stimmbeteiligung.html

See also

  • History of direct democracy in the United States
    History of direct democracy in the United States
    The history of direct democracy amongst non-Native Americans in the United States dates from the 1630s in the New England Colonies. Some New England town meetings still carry on that tradition.-Progressive Era:...

  • List of politics-related topics
  • Political science
    Political science
    Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

  • Referendums related to the European Union
    Referendums related to the European Union
    This is a list of referendums related to the European Union.- Enlargement of 1973 : - Before allowing the new candidate member states to join the European Communities, founding member France held a referendum on 23 April 1972...

  • Initiative
    Initiative
    In political science, an initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote...

  • Initiative and referendum
    Initiative and referendum
    In the politics of the United States, initiative and referendum is a process that allows citizens of many U.S. states to place new legislation on a popular ballot, or place laws recently passed by the legislature on the ballot, and vote on it....

  • United Nations in Kashmir
    United Nations in Kashmir
    The United Nations has played an important role in maintaining peace and order in Jammu and Kashmir since the transfer of Power to India and independence to Pakistan in 1947. Immediately after the freedom a dispute erupted between India and the successor nation-state of Pakistan on the question of...

  • Independence referendum
    Independence referendum
    An independence referendum is a type of referendum in which the citizens of a territory decide whether the territory should become an independent country. The independence referendum is considered successful if the citizens vote in favor of independence or unsuccessful if they do not...

  • Popular referendum
    Popular referendum
    A popular referendum is a type of a referendum that provides a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a...

  • War referendum
    War referendum
    A War referendum is a type of referendum in which citizens decide whether a nation should go to war.The earliest idea of a war referendum came from Marquis de Condorcet in 1793 and Immanuel Kant in 1795....


Specific referendums


  • Arizona Proposition 204, 2006
    Proposition 204
    Proposition 204 of 2006 was a law enacted by the voters of Arizona by means of the initiative process. It requires that pigs and calves used for veal on factory farms be given enough room to turn around and fully extend their limbs. The Act was approved in a vote held as part of the 2006 Arizona...

  • Australian referendum, 1967 (Aboriginals)
    Australian referendum, 1967 (Aboriginals)
    The referendum of 27 May 1967 approved two amendments to the Australian constitution relating to Indigenous Australians. Technically it was a vote on the Constitution Alteration 1967, which became law on 10 August 1967 following the results of the referendum...

  • Belfast Agreement
    Belfast Agreement
    The Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement , sometimes called the Stormont Agreement, was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process...

     (1998)
  • Bolivian gas referendum, 2004
    Bolivian gas referendum, 2004
    Bolivia held a referendum on the future of its natural gas reserves on Sunday, 18 July 2004. The referendum was one of the first promises made by President Carlos Mesa upon assuming the presidency in the aftermath of the Bolivian Gas War of October 2003 that saw his predecessor, Gonzalo Sánchez de...

  • Carinthian Plebiscite
    Carinthian Plebiscite
    The Carinthian Plebiscite on 10 October 1920 determined the final southern border between the Republic of Austria and the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes after World War I.- History :...

     (1920)
  • Cypriot Annan Plan referendum, 2004
  • Edinburgh congestion charge (2005)
  • Kenyan constitutional referendum, 2005
    Kenyan constitutional referendum, 2005
    The 2005 Kenyan constitutional referendum was held on 21 November 2005. The proposed new constitution was voted down by a 58% majority of Kenya's voters...

  • Montenegrin independence referendum, 1992
    Montenegrin independence referendum, 1992
    The Montenegrin independence referendum of 1992 was the first independence referendum for Montenegrin independence. 421,549 citizens were registered voters.- Campaign :...

  • Montenegrin independence referendum, 2006
    Montenegrin independence referendum, 2006
    The Montenegrin independence referendum was a refe­rendum on the independence of the Republic of Montenegro from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro that was held on 21 May 2006.The total turnout of the referendum was 86.5%...

  • Norwegian prohibition referendum, 1919
    Norwegian Prohibition referendum, 1919
    A referendum on whether Norway should introduce Prohibition was held on October 5 and 6, 1919. A partial prohibition had been in effect since 1917. The prohibition proposal did not include all types of alcohol, only spirits...

  • Norwegian continued prohibition referendum, 1926
    Norwegian Continued Prohibition referendum, 1926
    A consultative and facultative referendum on whether Norway should continue prohibition was held on October 18, 1926. A partial prohibition had been effective since 1917, and a 1919 referendum lay a ban on spirits and dessert wine....

  • Norwegian European Communities membership referendum, 1972
  • Norwegian European Union membership referendum, 1994
  • Panama Canal expansion referendum, 2006
    Panama Canal expansion referendum, 2006
    The Panama Canal expansion referendum was held on October 22, 2006, when the citizens of Panama approved the Panama Canal expansion project by a wide margin.-Constitutional background:...

  • Puerto Rico status referendums
    Political status of Puerto Rico
    The current political status of Puerto Rico is the result of various political activities both within the United States and Puerto Rican governments. The basic question regarding this issue is whether Puerto Rico should remain a U.S. territory, become a U.S...

     (1967, 1993, 1998)
  • Republic of China referendums
  • Serbian constitutional referendum, 2006
    Serbian constitutional referendum, 2006
    A referendum on a proposed draft of the new Serbian constitution was held on October 28 and 29 October 2006 and has resulted in the draft constitution being approved by the Serbian electorate. The constitution is Serbia's first as an independent state since the Kingdom of Serbia's 1903 constitution...

  • South African referendum, 1992
    South African referendum, 1992
    The 1992 referendum was held in South Africa on 17 March of that year. In it, white South Africans were asked to vote in the country's last whites-only referendum to determine whether or not they supported the negotiated reforms begun by State President F.W. de Klerk two years earlier, in which he...

  • Tokelauan self-determination referendum, 2006
  • Venezuelan recall referendum, 2004
  • Referendums in Canada
    Referendums in Canada
    National referendums are seldom used in Canada. The first two referendums saw voters in Québec and the rest of Canada take dramatically opposing stands, the third saw most of the voters take a stand dramatically opposed to that of the politicians in power....

    • Alberta liquor plebiscite, 1957
    • British Columbia aboriginal treaty referendum, 2002
      British Columbia aboriginal treaty referendum, 2002
      The BC Treaty Referendum was a province-wide referendum on First Nations treaty rights in British Columbia, Canada.In the spring of 2002 the Premier Gordon Campbell and the British Columbia Liberal Party government sent out ballots to registered voters in the province. The referendum proposed eight...

    • British Columbia electoral reform referendum, 2005
      British Columbia electoral reform referendum, 2005
      A referendum was held in the Canadian province of British Columbia on May 17, 2005 to determine whether or not to adopt the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform...

    • British Columbia electoral reform referendum, 2009
      British Columbia electoral reform referendum, 2009
      A second referendum on electoral reform was held in conjunction with the provincial election on May 12, 2009. The BC-single transferrable vote electoral system was again voted on by the BC electorate. It would have required 60 per cent overall approval and 50 per cent approval in at least 60 per...

    • Charlottetown Accord
      Charlottetown Accord
      The Charlottetown Accord was a package of proposed amendments to the Constitution of Canada, proposed by the Canadian federal and provincial governments in 1992. It was submitted to a public referendum on October 26 of that year, and was defeated.-Background:...

    • List of Northwest Territories plebiscites
    • Newfoundland referendums, 1948
      Newfoundland referendums, 1948
      The Newfoundland Referendums of 1948 were a series of two referendums to decide the political future of the Dominion of Newfoundland. Before the referendums, Newfoundland was in debt and went through several delegations to determine whether the country would join Canada, remain under British rule...

    • Northwest Territories division plebiscite, 1982
    • Nunavut capital plebiscite, 1995
    • Ontario electoral reform referendum, 2007
      Ontario electoral reform referendum, 2007
      An Ontario electoral reform referendum was held on October 10, 2007, in an attempt to establish a mixed member proportional representation system for elections to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario...

    • Ontario prohibition plebiscite, 1894
      Ontario prohibition plebiscite, 1894
      An Ontario prohibition plebiscite was held on January 1, 1894, in conjunction with municipal elections under the Prohibition Plebiscite Act, on the legality of alcoholic beverages and the implementation of prohibition...

    • Ontario prohibition referendum, 1902
      Ontario prohibition referendum, 1902
      An Ontario prohibition referendum was held on December 4, 1902, under the Liquor Act, on the legality of alcoholic beverages and the implementation of prohibition in the province. Though the referendum passed, a majority of half of the voters in the 1898 election did not support the motion and...

    • Ontario prohibition referendum, 1919
      Ontario prohibition referendum, 1919
      An Ontario prohibition referendum was held on October 20, 1919 , on the repeal of the prohibition of alcoholic beverages...

    • Ontario prohibition referendum, 1921
      Ontario prohibition referendum, 1921
      An Ontario prohibition referendum was held on April 18, 1921 concerning a ban on the importation of alcoholic beverages into Ontario.- Referendum question :Shall the importation and the bringing of intoxicating liquors into the province be forbidden?...

    • Ontario prohibition referendum, 1924
      Ontario prohibition referendum, 1924
      An Ontario prohibition referendum was held on October 23, 1924 on the repeal of the Ontario Temperance Act. The referendum was brought about by a clause in the Act, which permitted the possible repeal of prohibition by a majority vote.- Referendum question :...

    • Prince Edward Island electoral reform referendum, 2005
      Prince Edward Island electoral reform referendum, 2005
      A referendum was held in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island on November 28, 2005 to determine whether or not to adopt the Mixed Member Proportional Representation System as presented by the Commission on Prince Edward Island's Electoral Future.-Results:...

    • Quebec referendum, 1980
    • Quebec referendum, 1995
    • Saint John, New Brunswick ward plebiscite, 2007
      Saint John, New Brunswick ward plebiscite, 2007
      On October 9, 2007 the city of Saint John, New Brunswick held a plebiscite on a proposal regarding how its Common Council would be composed in the future...

  • Referendums in the United Kingdom
    Referendums in the United Kingdom
    Referendums are only occasionally held by the government of the United Kingdom. Eleven referendums have been held so far , the first in 1973; only two of these covered the whole UK...

    • United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975
    • United Kingdom European Constitution referendum (proposed)
    • United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, 2011
    • Northern England devolution referendums, 2004
    • Northern Ireland Belfast Agreement referendum, 1998
    • Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum, 1973
    • Scottish devolution referendum, 1979
    • Scottish devolution referendum, 1997
    • Welsh devolution referendum, 1979
    • Welsh devolution referendum, 1997
    • Welsh devolution referendum, 2011
    • Edinburgh congestion charge
    • Greater London Authority referendum, 1998
  • Referendums related to European Union
    European Union
    The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

     accession:
    • Danish European Communities membership referendum, 1972
      Danish European Communities membership referendum, 1972
      A referendum on joining the European Economic Community was held in Denmark on 2 October 1972. The result was 63.3% in favour with a turnout of 90.1%...

    • Norwegian European Communities membership referendum, 1972
    • Norwegian European Union membership referendum, 1994
    • Polish European Union membership referendum, 2003
      Polish European Union membership referendum, 2003
      Polish European Union membership referendum in 2003 also known in Poland as European referendum or accession referendum concerned accession of Poland to the European Union and ratification of the Treaty of Accession 2003 by Poland...