Washington State Petitions



​​T​HE ​I​NITIATIVE process is the direct power of the voters to enact new laws or change existing laws. It allows the electorate to petition to place proposed legislation on the ballot. The initiative’s only limitation is that it cannot be used to amend the state constitution.

There are two types of initiatives:

Initiatives to the People, if certified to have sufficient signatures, are submitted for a vote of the people at the next state general election. Initiatives submitted to the people require a simple majority of voter approval to become require a simple majority of voter approval to become law (except for gambling or  lottery measures which require 60 percent approval).

Initiatives to the Legislature, if certified, are submitted to the Legislature at its regular session each January.  Once submitted, the Legislature must take one of the following three actions:

  1. The Legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people;
  2. The Legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election; or
  3. The Legislature can propose a different measure dealing with the same subject, in which case both measures must be placed on the next state General Election ballot.

To qualify to the ballot or Legislature, the sponsor of either type of initiative must first circulate the complete text of the proposal among voters and ​obtain a number of legal ​voter signatures equal to eight percent of the number of votes cast for the  office of Governor at the last regular gubernatorial election.

​​​T​HE ​R​EFERENDUM process gives voters an opportunity to approve or reject laws either proposed or enacted by the Legislature. The only acts that are exempt from the power of referendum are emergency laws — those that are necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, and the support of state government and its existing institutions.

The two types of referenda are as follows:

​Referendum Measures are laws recently passed by the Legislature that are placed on the ballot because of petitions signed by voters.

​Referendum Measures are proposed laws referred to the electorate by the Legislature.

Referendum measures must be certified by the Secretary of State to have ​a number of petition signatures of legal voters equal to four percent of the total votes cast for the office of Governor in the last regular gubernatorial election.

A referendum certified to the ballot must receive a simple majority vote to become law (except for gambling and lottery measures which require 60 percent approval).


For filing deadlines, resources and instructions click on the following link:
​Secretary of State - Initiatives & Referenda
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