Primary Authority: The Massachusetts General Court draws and enacts congressional and legislative plans, subject to the Governor’s veto. The General Court can override a veto with a 2/3 vote in each chamber. Democrats currently have veto-proof majorities in both chambers. [Mass. Const. art. amend. XIII, CI]
If a bill is presented to the Governor during session, the Governor has 10 days to sign or veto it; otherwise, it becomes law without signature. If the bill is delivered during the last 10 days of session, the Governor must sign or veto it within 10 days of transmittal; otherwise, it is pocket vetoed. Sundays and holidays are excluded from these calculations.
Mapping Timeline: Not specified for congressional plans. Legislative plans must be enacted by the end of the 1st regular session after the decennial census year. [Mass. Const. art. amend. CI]
Map Challenges: Filed in the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Congressional plan challenges must be filed within the 10 days after the plan’s enacted date. There is no specified timeline for legislative plan challenges. [Mass. Const. art. amend. CI; Mass. H.4256 (2021)]
Types of 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 state constitution.
Single-Subject Rule: Initiatives must contain only related or mutually dependent subjects.
Initiative Subject Restrictions: May not impact 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 of the state constitution; rights protected by the state constitution’s Declaration of Rights; or initiative subject restrictions. Initiatives cannot be substantially similar to one which appeared on the ballot in either of the two immediately preceding biennial state elections.
Signature Requirements: 10 preliminary signatures are required for all measures. No more than ¼ of signatures can be gathered from a single county for all types of measures.
To be sent to the General Court, constitutional amendment and statutory initiatives require 3% of all votes cast for Governor in the last gubernatorial election. Two consecutive sessions of the General Court must approve a constitutional measure by the requisite vote thresholds for it to be placed on the ballot. Citizen-initiated amendments require a ¼ vote in each chamber and legislatively initiated amendments require a majority vote in each chamber.
Statutory initiatives also require 3% of all votes cast for Governor in the last gubernatorial election to be sent to the General Court. The General Court can approve the measure by majority vote in each chamber and send it to the Governor for signature at which point it becomes law. If the Court fails to pass it or act on the measure by its deadline, or the Governor vetoes it after passage, the measure proponents can still submit it to the voters at the next election by submitting additional signatures equal to at least 0.5% of the total votes cast for Governor at the last gubernatorial election.
The signature thresholds for referendum petitions depend on the type of law it seeks to affect. If aimed at an emergency law or one whose suspension is not sought by the proponents, it requires 1.5% of the total votes cast for Governor at the last gubernatorial election. If the proponents are seeking to suspend the law from taking effect when their petition is filed, it requires 2% of the total votes cast for Governor at the last gubernatorial election.
Submission Deadlines: For constitutional amendments and statutory initiatives, the initial 10 signatures must be submitted to the Attorney General by the 1st Wednesday in August and the initial petition must be filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth no earlier than the 1st Wednesday of September. Petitions with signatures must be filed with local registrars for certification at least 14 days before the 1st Wednesday of December, and the certified petition must be filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth by the 1st Wednesday of December.
For constitutional amendments, the measure must be placed before the General Court in joint session no later than the 2nd Wednesday in May. For statutory initiatives, the General Court must act on the measure before the 1st Wednesday in May. If the measure is rejected, proponents must collect and file their additional signatures with the local registrars for certification between the 1st Wednesday in May and 14 days before the 1st Wednesday in July. The certified additional signatures to place the measure on the ballot must be filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth between the 1st Wednesday of June and the 1st Wednesday of July.
For referendums, the initial 10 signatures must be submitted to the Secretary of the Commonwealth no later than 30 days after the act is signed by the Governor or passed over his veto. Petitions with all signatures certified must be filed with the Secretary within 90 days after the act is signed into law or passed over veto, and signatures must be submitted to local registrars for certification 14 days before that deadline.
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 both are permitted.
Other Requirements: A fiscal impact statement is not required. For a measure to pass or a referendum to be successful, at least 30% of the ballots cast in the election must vote in favor of the measure and a majority of votes cast on the measure must be in favor of it. The General Court can repeal an initiated measure through the ordinary process of amending the state constitution. Initiatives are permitted on general election ballots, but not on primary, special, or odd-year election ballots.
[Mass. Const. art. amend. XLVIII, LXXIV, LXXXI; Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 53, § 22A; Massachusetts Attorney General Website]