Campaign Toolkit

CFTE offers a variety of resources to help your community put a transit measure on the ballot and run a successful campaign. 




What are Ballot Measures?

In most communities, transit advocates have the power on Election Day to do more than select candidates for elected office. Citizens can enact legislation, fund projects or approve amendments using citizen initiated ballot measures. In twenty-four states and the District of Columbia, citizens have the right to adopt laws and amend state constitutions by placing legislation directly on the ballot for approval or rejection. Additionally, most localities allow some form of initiative either at the town, city or county level.

“I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but the people…” –Thomas Jefferson

Quick Facts About Ballot Measures:

  • Nearly 90 percent of American cities, towns and municipalities offer some form of referendum or initiative procedure.
  • No national initiative or referendum process exists in the United States.
  • Ballot measure campaigns tend to increase voter turn out in mid-term elections, but not in presidential election years.
  • No state limits financial contributions to ballot measure campaigns.
  • 60% of all initiative activity has taken place in just six states (Arizona, California, Colorado, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington), even though 24 states have the statewide initiative process.

Five Basic Types of Ballot Measures:

Ballot Measure:
Any issue on a ballot other than a candidate for office. Initiatives and referendums are two types of ballot measures.

Initiatives are when citizens collect signatures on a petition in order to place questions on the ballot for adoption or rejection by the voting public. If a specified number of voters sign a petition in favor of an idea, the proposal goes either to the voters or to a lawmaking body, which are then required to vote on the issue. Anyone may put together an initiative campaign. Initiatives often ask advisory questions, propose memorials, outline potential statutes or amend a state constitution.

Legislative Referendum:
This is a proposal that has been “referred” to the ballot by a state legislature. Legislative referendums usually create laws, amend the state constitution or refer bond questions. All states allow the legislative referendum process.

Referendum (or Popular Referendum):
A referendum is when citizens collect signatures on a petition in order to bring about a public vote on specific legislation that was enacted by their legislature. A constitutional referendum asks voters to approve or reject an amendment to the state constitution. Many cities and states also allow statutory referendums, in which citizens vote on laws passed by the legislature or proposed by an initiative.

A recall is a ballot measure initiated by citizens to remove an elected official from office.