Initiative & Referendum Institute

at the University of Southern California 

What is the Initiative & Referendum Institute?


In 1998, in recognition of the initiative and referendum process’ influence on America, the Initiative & Referendum Institute was founded. The Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit non-partisan research and educational organization, is dedicated to educating the citizens about how the initiative and referendum process has been utilized and in providing information to the citizens so they understand and know how to utilize the process. No other organization does what we do.


Edwin Meese, III, former U.S. Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan, had this to say about the Institute, "[T]he Initiative & Referendum Institute performs a valuable service to the Nation by providing research and educational programs to protect and expand the democratic process of initiative and referendum by the people in the several states. Having this electoral ability is a critical ‘safety valve’ for effective citizenship."

The Initiative & Referendum Institute studies the initiative and referendum process and publishes papers and monographs addressing its effect on public policy, citizen participation and its reflection of trends in American thought and culture.  We also research and produce a state-by-state guide to the initiative and referendum process that can be used by activists, and we work to educate and update the public on how the process is being utilized across the country.  We analyze the relationship between voters and their elected lawmakers and when and why the people turn to initiative and referendum to enact changes in state and local law.

The Initiative & Referendum Institute has garnered significant media attention.  We have been interviewed or cited by numerous media outlets including, ABC News, Voter News Service, CBS Radio, Pacific Radio Network, CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Fox News Channel, The Christian Science Monitor, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The National Journal, The Wall Street Journal, Governing Magazine, USA Today, Court TV’s “Supreme Court Watch” and “Washington Watch”, The Economist, National Public Radio, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Congressional Quarterly, and dozens of other publications, newspapers and radio stations around the world.

The Institute is uniquely qualified to undertake this mission. Comprising the Institute’s Board of Directors and Advisory Board are some of the world’s leading authorities on the initiative and referendum process, including prominent scholars; experienced activists - who know the nuts and bolts of the process and its use; skilled attorneys; and political leaders who have seen first hand the necessity of having a process through which citizens can directly reform their government.

Wayne Pacelle, Senior Vice President of the Humane Society of the United States stated that, "the Initiative & Referendum Institute is the only independent voice for preserving and expanding the right of citizens to make laws directly through the initiative and referendum process. This vital tool of democracy is under siege by special interests, and the Initiative & Referendum Institute is a powerful and persuasive voice for the right of I&R."


Click here for a PDF copy of our IRS determination letter.


Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to the Institute.

© 2014 Initiative & Referendum Institute

University of Southern California

Los Angeles CA 90089-0071