Please be sure to read all five sections below:
- Materials to Review
- Advance Notice of Filing/Review of Petitions
- Signers of Original Petitions
- Petition Title, Enacting Style, and Content
- Physical Filing
Make sure you have reviewed:
- Initiative Petition Process, 2015-2016 ; and
- "How to Place a Question on the State Election Ballot," the Secretary of State's publication which contains instructions and recommendations on the filing of initiative petitions.
Contact us as far in advance as possible of the first-Wednesday-in-August filing deadline to:
- advise us of your intent to file, and
- request, at your option, advance review of a draft of your petition.
We welcome the chance to review draft petitions on an informal, non-binding basis, and will make suggestions for changes to avoid certification problems, if draft petitions are submitted prior to the filing deadline. The sooner the draft is submitted, the better; do not wait until the petition has been signed.
Contact: Deputy Government Bureau Chief Juliana Rice at (617) 963-2583, email firstname.lastname@example.org, fax (617) 727-5785. Email is preferred.
a) Note especially the requirement (under M.G.L. c. 53, s. 22A) that, for each original signer of a petition, there must be filed, with the petition, a certificate of voter registration from the board of registrars or election commission in the city or town in which the signer is a registered voter, showing the address at which the signer is registered.
Each certificate of voter registration must be signed by at least three members of the board of registrars or election commission. Facsimile stamps of registrars' or election commissioners' signatures are acceptable.
You may wish to begin the process of obtaining these certificates well in advance of the first-Wednesday-in-August filing deadline.
The courts have not ruled on whether such certificates must be filed with the Attorney General, but to play it safe, file the certificates with the Attorney General when filing the petition itself, and in any event by the first Wednesday in August.
b) It is preferable to have each signer of the petition put his or her initials on each page of the petition, to avoid any later question about whether the person signing actually saw the final version of the petition.
c) Get well more than ten signatures on your original petition, and submit a certificate of voter registration for each original signer, to guard against the possibility that a defect in one signer's certificate or voter registration status will invalidate the petition.
Although the courts have not yet ruled on whether an initiative petition must have a title, play it safe by including a title indicating that the petition is an initiative petition for a law (or for a constitutional amendment, where applicable) and making some mention of the subject matter of the proposed measure.
Also, if you are filing an initiative petition for a law (not a constitutional amendment), include the "enacting style." The "enacting style" is the phrase that goes after the title of your petition but before the text of the actual law itself. Under M.G.L. c. 4, s. 3, "The enacting style of all measures submitted to the people in pursuance of an initiative petition for a law shall be: Be it enacted by the People, and by their authority." (There is no prescribed enacting style for a petition proposing a constitutional amendment.) The beginning of an initiative petition for a law should therefore look something like the following:
Initiative Petition for a Law Relative to [fill in subject, e.g., Taxes]
Be it enacted by the People, and by their authority:
[set forth full text of your proposed law here]
Although the courts have not yet ruled on the issue, it may be safer for your proposed law not to include "findings," "statements of purpose," "declarations of public policy,' or the like. Such provisions, unless they have their own substantial legal significance (such as in interpreting the other provisions of the proposed law, or in evaluating its constitutionality), may result in a conclusion that the proposed law is not "in proper form for submission to the people," as the state constitution requires. The initiative petition process is a vehicle for making laws, not for voting on lengthy statements of policy that themselves have no legal significance.
A printed and signed original version of a petition must be filed in order for it to be valid. (See also paragraph 3(a) above regarding voter registration certificates).
You need not wait until the first Wednesday in August to file the final version of your petition with the Attorney General. Petitions will be accepted at any time, and early filings are encouraged. Please give us telephone notice if you intend to do so.
Filings are accepted at One Ashburton Place, 20th Floor, Boston, MA 02108-1598. We strongly urge you to file in person rather than by mail.
All filings must be received by close of business, 5:00 P.M., on the first Wednesday in August.
For each petition you file, you will also be asked to complete an Initiative Petition Information Sheet . To expedite filing, we encourage you to complete this form in advance, rather than when you file your petition in person.
In addition to the formal paper filing described above, we strongly encourage you to also provide us with an electronic version of your petition. This will greatly facilitate review by our office and public access to the text of your petition via our website.
Electronic versions should:
- be exact copies of the text of your petition and should also list, at the end, the names and addresses of at least 10 of the original signers;
- be submitted in Word format if possible;
- be filed by email to email@example.com, or on CD or thumbdrive (which will be returned to you), preferably at the time you file the original petition with our office but in any event no later than the close of business, 5:00 P.M., on the first Wednesday in August;
- Please note that email is the preferred method for submission.
- if at all possible be accompanied by an electronic copy of the completed Initiative Petition Information Sheet . You may include the information sheet and corresponding petition in a single electronic document, with the information sheet at the beginning.