Referendum Quick Facts

The REFERENDUM allows citizens, through the petition process, to refer acts of the Legislature to the ballot before they become law. The referendum also permits the Legislature itself to refer proposed legislation to the electorate for approval or rejection.

There are two types of referenda: the referendum bill and the referendum measure. The primary purpose of both is to give 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 the legislature deem 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 Bills are proposed laws referred to the electorate by the Legislature.

Referendum measures may be filed any time after the legislature has passed the act that the sponsor wants referred to the ballot. Signature petition sheets must be filed within 90 days after the final adjournment of the legislative session at which the act was passed. The deadline to turn in Referendum petitions is June 10, 2020.

Referendum measures must be certified by the Secretary of State to have a number of petition signatures of legal voters equal to four (4) percent of the total votes cast for the office of Governor in the last regular gubernatorial election (129,811). The referendum is then submitted at the next state general election.

For more information on filing a Referenda or Initiative in Washington State, please see our online handbook: Filing an Initiative or Referenda in Washington State.