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Guide Instructions for filing an initiative petition

Learn the steps you need to take to file a petition, from giving notice to the Attorney General’s Office, to writing the petition, collecting signatures, and filing.

Getting started

We recommend that you contact the Attorney General’s Office as early as possible before the first Wednesday in August filing deadline to:

  • Advise the office that you want to file a petition
  • Optionally ask for an early review of a draft of your petition

Staff at the Attorney General’s Office can informally review draft petitions and make suggestions to avoid problems with certification. The earlier a draft is submitted, the better. You can contact the Attorney General’s Office by calling 617-963-2583 or sending an email to ballotquestions@state.ma.us.

Drafting your initiative petition

We recommend that all petitions include a title a that states whether the petition is for a law or a constitutional amendment. Mention the subject of the petition in its title and include the “enacting style,” a phrase that follows the title of the petition and before the actual text of the petition.

The title and enacting style of a petition should look like this:

Initiative Petition for a Law Relative to [fill in subject, e.g. Taxes]
Be it enacted by the People, and by their authority:
[fill in the full text of your petition here]

Because initiative petitions are for making or amending laws, not voting on statements of policy, avoid long statements that describe findings, statements of purpose, or declarations of public policy. These statements could be viewed as advocacy and make your petition inappropriate for certification.

An initiative petition that has been signed or filed cannot be edited, except in the spring after the petition is filed when “perfecting amendments” can be made.

Collecting signatures

To help make sure that each person signing your petition actually reads the proposed measure, have each signer put his or her initials on each page. You must collect at least 10 signatures from registered voters at this stage in the process. You should collect more than 10 signatures to make sure that any issues with a signature or a signer’s voter registration status will not invalidate the petition.

Collecting voter registration certificates

Each signer must also file a certificate of voter registration from the board of registrars or election commission in the town or city where the signer is a registered voter. The certificate must show 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. Stamps of registrars’ or election commissioners’ signatures are acceptable.

You can collect voter registration certificates at the offices of local election officials.

File the certificates of voter registration with the Attorney General’s Office when you file the petition and signatures on or before the first Wednesday in August. They will be returned to you along with your original petition and signature pages if your petition is certified.

Preparing the petition information sheet

For each petition you want to file, you must complete an Initiative Petition Information Sheet. You should complete the form before filing your petition and bring it with you to the Attorney General’s Office.

Additional Resources for Preparing the petition information sheet

Filing your initiative petition

Initiative petitions must be filed in print. We also recommend filing them electronically for ease of distribution and publishing to the Mass.gov.

Filing initiative petitions in print

You must file original printed and signed petitions with the Attorney General’s Office on or before the first Wednesday in August. Filings are accepted at One Ashburton Place, 20th Floor, Boston, MA 02108. You can file by mail, but late petitions cannot be accepted, even if they were delayed in the mail, so filing in person is strongly suggested. The Attorney General’s Office closes at 5:00 PM.

For each petition you file you will be asked to complete an Initiative Petition Information Sheet. To expedite the process of filing your petition, you can fill out the form in advance and bring it with you to the office.

When you file your petition, you will receive a receipt. Hold onto this receipt because you will be asked to present it in September when you return to pick up your petition if it is certified. You can then file your certified petition with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Submitting initiative petitions electronically

In addition to filing petitions in print, we ask that you submit an electronic version of your petition.

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 as a PDF file if possible;
  • Be filed, preferably by email to ballotquestions@state.ma.us or on a USB stick when submitting your printed petition;

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