The Detroit Charter and City Government
ARTICLE 12. INITIATIVE and REFERENDUM
Annotations By: Jacqueline Bejma
Sec. 12-101. Initiative and Referendum
Voters can enact city ordinances through “initiative”
Voters can nullify city ordinances through “referendum”
Initiative and referendum powers do not apply to budget, appropriation or emergency ordinances
Initiative and referendum may be invoked by petition
The voters of the city reserve the power to enact city ordinances, call the “initiative”, and the power to nullify ordinances, enacted by the city, called the “referendum”. However, these powers do not extend to the budget or any ordinance for the appropriation of money; the referendum power does not extend to any emergency ordinance.
The initiative and the referendum may be invoked by petition as provided in this chapter.
Sec. 12-102. Petitions
Initiative and referendum petitions must be signed by at least 3% of the number of votes cast for mayor in the previous general election
Petitions must state the measure to be initiated or referred and a brief statement of its substance
Signers of the petition must be voters of the city
Signatures must be indelible and legible and must include the date of signature
Each petition must include a sworn affidavit confirming the validity of each signature
Initiative and referendum petitions must be signed by voters of the City, not less in number than three percent (3%) of all votes cast for the office of Mayor at the preceding regular city general election.
Petitions shall set forth in full, the measure to be initiated or referred, as well as a brief statement of its substance. If the measure is submitted to the voters, that brief statement shall appear on the official ballot.
Signers of the petitions shall be voters of the City. Each signer shall sign his or her name indelibly and shall indicate his or her residence and the date of signing. Each petition paper shall contain a sworn affidavit of the circulator stating the number of signers on each petition paper; that each signature is, to the knowledge of the circulator, the genuine signature of the person whose name it purports to be; and that it was affixed in the presence of the circulator.
Sec. 12-103. Time of Filing
An initiative petition must be filed with the city clerk at least 140 days before the election
A referendum petition must be filed with the city clerk before the ordinance takes effect of within 30 days of ordinances which take immediate effect
An initiative petition must be filed with the City Clerk not less than one hundred and forty (140) days before the election at which it is to be voted on.
A referendum petition must be filed with the City Clerk before the ordinance on which the referendum is sought, takes effect or, where the ordinance is given immediate effect, within thirty (30) days after its effective date.
Sec. 12-104. Filing and Canvass of Petitions
The city clerk must verify signatures and send to the Election Department for canvassing within 10 days of submittal and report to city council
Any signatures more than 6 months old cannot be counted
Petitions to adopt or rescind an ordinance shall be filed with the Office of the City Clerk. The City Clerk shall verify the number of petitions that were filed and transmit petitions to the Department of Elections for a canvass of the petitions. Within ten (10) days of receipt, the Department of Elections shall canvass the signatures thereon to determine their sufficiency and make a report of the result to the City Council. Any signature on an initiative petition obtained more than six (6) months before the filing of the petition with the Office of the City Clerk shall not be counted.
Sec. 12-105. Insufficient Petitions
If the city clerk finds there are not enough signatures, 15 days will be granted to get additional petitions signed
If the Clerk’s canvass discloses that the number of signatures on petitions for any initiative or referendum is insufficient, additional petitions may be filed within fifteen (15) days after the Clerk’s determination. When this fifteen (15) day period has expired, the Clerk shall again canvass the signatures on the petitions filed to determine their sufficiency and make a report of the result.
Sec. 12-106. Suspension of Ordinance
When a referendum is invoked, the ordinance does not take effect until the city clerk has determined that there are sufficient signatures on the petitions
Where a referendum on an ordinance has been invoked under section 12-103, the effect of the ordinance shall be delayed or suspended until the City Clerk has made a final report that the referendum petitions are insufficient or, if the referendum petitions are sufficient, until the voters of the City have expressed their support for the ordinance in the referendum election.
Sec. 12-107. Time Limit for Enactment or Repeal of Ordinance
If the Election Commission finds that there are significant signatures, within 60 days, the city can:
- Enact an ordinance proposed by an initiative petition
- Repeal an ordinance affected by a referendum petition
If the city fails to enact or repeal an ordinance, the measure will be submitted to voters
Upon the report of the Department of Elections that the initiative or referendum petitions are sufficient, and filed within the time limits provided by this Charter, the City may within sixty (60) days:
- In the case of an initiative petition, enact the ordinance, which is proposed by the petition, in accordance with Section 4-115, 4-117, 4-118 of this Charter; or
- In the case of referendum petition, repeal the ordinance, which is set out in the petition, in accordance with Section 4-115, 4-117, 4-118 of this Charter.
Sec. 12-108. Submission to Election Commission and Voters
If the City fails to enact or repeal an ordinance in accordance with Se. 12-107 of this charter, the City Council must forward the petition to the Election Commission
The Election Commission will make a determination as to whether the question can be lawfully placed on the ballot
If there is no legal impediment, the Election Commission will place the question on the ballot
If a measure is submitted to voters, it will be submitted:
- Initiatives: at the next general election
- Referendum: at the next general election occurring at least 70 days after city council determines not to repeal the ordinance
All initiatives and referenda are determined by a majority of voters
If the City fails to enact or repeal the ordinance in accordance with Section 12-107 of this Charter, the City Council shall forward the proposed initiative or referendum petition to the Election Commission. The Election Commission shall make a determination as to whether the question can lawfully be placed on the ballot and report their conclusions to the City Council. If there is no legal impediment to placing the measure on the ballot, the Election Commission shall place the question on the ballot and submit the measure to the voters in accordance with the applicable requirements of Michigan Election Law, MCL 168.1, et seq.
If a measure must be submitted to the voters, it shall be submitted:
- In the case of an initiative or referendum, at the next election in the city, or, in the discretion of the City Council, at a special election, subject to applicable provisions of the Michigan Election Law, MCL 168.1, et seq.
Except as otherwise required by law, the result of any initiative or referendum election shall be determined by a majority of the voters voting on the question.
Sec. 12-109. Amendment, Repeal and Re-Enactment
Any initiative ordinance adopted by voters cannot be repealed by the city for 12 months
Any referendum ordinance nullified by voters cannot be reenacted by the city for 12 months
An ordinance adopted by the voters through initiative proceedings may not be amended or repealed by the city for a period of twelve (12) months after the date of the election at which it was adopted, and an ordinance nullified by the voters through referendum proceedings may not be re-enacted by the city for a period of twelve (12) months after the election at which it was defeated.
Sec. 12-110. Submission by Council
City council can submit any ordinance to the public for amendment or repeal at will
The City Council may, on its own motion, submit any proposed ordinance or any proposal for the repeal or amendment of any ordinance to the voters in the manner and with the effect provided in this chapter for submission of proposals initiated by petition.
Sec. 12-111. Similar or Conflicting Measures
If 2 similar initiative or referendum measures are submitted to voters at the same time, the one with the highest number of votes will prevail
If two (2) or more initiative or referendum measures submitted to the voters of the city shall have conflicting provisions, or attempt to accomplish the same object, and more than one (1) of these measures is approved by the voters, the measure receiving the highest number of affirmative votes shall prevail to the extent of their inconsistency.
Sec. 12-112. Repeal or Amendment of Ordinance in Effect
City voters can invoke initiative power to repeal or amend an existing ordinance
The voters of the City may invoke the initiative power to repeal or amend an existing ordinance.