Massachusetts

Overview

Massachusetts Redistricting Process

Congressional and Legislative

Congressional and legislative maps are enacted by the State General Court. The Governor can veto the plans.

The General Court can override a veto with a two-thirds vote. Democrats currently have veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

Challenges to the maps are litigated in the State Supreme Court.

Source: Mass. Const. amend. art. XIII, CI.


Ballot Measure Process

Kinds of Ballot Measures
Indirect initiatives and referendums are permitted to amend statutes. Indirect initiatives are permitted to amend the state Constitution. Legislatively initiated ballot measures may amend both statutes and the Constitution.

Single-Subject Rule
Initiatives must contain only related or mutually dependent subjects.

Initiative Subject Restrictions
The following are not permitted: laws concerning religion or religious institutions; judges, judicial decisions, or courts; laws that apply to particular cities/towns; laws that make specific appropriations; the 18th Amendment Article; restricting rights found in the Declaration of Rights; subject restrictions or the modification of existing restrictions. Initiatives may also not be substantially the same as one which has appeared on the ballot at either of the two immediately preceding biennial state elections.

Signature Requirements
10 preliminary signatures are required.

The signature requirements for constitutional amendments is 3% of all votes cast for governor in the latest gubernatorial election to be sent to the Legislature. Constitutional amendments must be approved by the General Court in two consecutive sessions. An amendment is referred to the next General Court should it be approved by one-fourth of the Court (half of the Court if the amendment is to be referred by the General Court rather than the citizens). The following General Court must also pass the amendment with one-fourth of the General Assembly voting in favor to place the amendment on the ballot. 2,158,326 votes were cast for governor in the 2014 General Election in Massachusetts. 2,674,615 votes were cast for governor in the 2018 General Election in Massachusetts. Petitions for the 2020 ballot submitted in 2017 needed 64,750 signatures and petitions submitted in 2018 needed 80,239 signatures. Petitions for the 2022 ballot submitted in either 2019 or 2020 need 80,239 signatures. Proponents cannot collect greater than 25% of signatures from a single county (which based on the 2018 General Election would be 20,060).

The signature requirements for statutory initiatives is 3% of all votes cast for governor in the latest gubernatorial election to be sent to the General Court. 2,674,615 votes were cast for governor in the 2018 General Election in Massachusetts, so 80,239 signatures are required. No more than one-fourth of the signatures may come from a single county (which based on the 2018 General Election would be 20,060). One-fourth of the General Court must approve the initiative to place it on the ballot. Should the Legislature fail to act on the initiative, a signature requirement of 0.5% of all votes cast for governor in the latest gubernatorial election is required to get the initiative on the ballot. 2,674,615 votes were cast for governor in the 2018 General Election in Massachusetts, so 13,374 additional signatures are required. No more than one-fourth of the additional signatures may come from a single county (which based on the 2018 General Election would be 3,344).

The signature requirements for veto referendums varies depending on three factors: (1) whether the law in question has an emergency declaration; (2) whether the petitioners are requesting that the law be suspended upon filing the petition; and (3) the number of votes cast for Governor at the last gubernatorial election. If the law in question is an emergency law or the petitioners are not requesting the law be suspended until the election, the signature requirement is 1.5% of all votes cast for Governor in the last gubernatorial election. 2,674,615 votes were cast for governor in the 2018 General Election in Massachusetts, so 40,120 signatures are required. If petitioners seek to suspend the law prior to the election, signatures equal to 2% of all votes cast for governor in the latest gubernatorial election are required. 2,674,615 votes were cast for governor in the 2018 General Election in Massachusetts, so 53,493 signatures are required.

One county cannot provide more than one-fourth of the signatures for any referendum (which based on the 2018 General Election is 13,374).

Submission Deadlines and Circulation Periods
Initiative petitions with the initial ten signatures must be submitted to the Attorney General for certification by the first Wednesday in August before the assembling of the General Court into which it is to be introduced. All initiative petitions with the initial ten signatures must also be submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office not earlier than the first Wednesday of the September before the assembling of the General Court into which they are to be introduced. The remaining signatures must be submitted to the appropriate local election officials for certification no later than 14 days before the first Wednesday in December. Signed petitions must then be filed with the Secretary of State’s Office by the first Wednesday of the December in the same year (December 6, 2017 or December 5, 2018 for the 2020 ballot). If the initiative is not voted down by the General Court by the first Wednesday of the following May, the second round of signatures for statutory initiatives must be submitted to the appropriate local elections officials for certification no later than 14 days before the first Wednesday in July. The certified second round of signatures must then be filed with the Secretary of State no earlier than the first Wednesday of June and no later than the first Wednesday of July (July 1, 2020 for initiatives). Referendums must be submitted within 90 days after the law it is challenging is signed.

Ballot Title and Summary
The Ballot Title and Summary are drafted by the proponents and written by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, subject to approval by the Attorney General. Expedited reviews for Titles and Summaries are permitted.

Other Requirements
A fiscal impact statement is not required. 30% of ballots cast in the election must vote for the measure for it to pass. The General Court must use the standard process of amending the Constitution to repeal an initiated measure. Referendums may not include any law that appropriates money for the current or ordinary expenses of the commonwealth or for any of its departments, boards, commissions, or institutions; that relate to religion; that relate to judges or the courts; that relate to particular localities of the State; or that relate to certain provisions in the state Declaration of Rights. Initiatives are permitted on general election ballots, but not on primary, special, or odd-year election ballots.

Source: Mass. Const. art. of amend. VIII; XLVIII; LXXIV, LXXXI. Massachusetts State Website


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