Undertake an Initiative Campaign
Constitutional and Statutory Provisions
Historical Information (Secretary of State)
Wyoming’s initiative and referendum pioneer was
State Rep. L. C. Tidball of Sheridan. In the early 1890s Tidball was one of the
first state legislators in the nation - possibly the very first - to introduce a
bill to amend a state constitution to provide for statewide I&R.
The Wyoming legislature waited 19 years before
finally taking favorable action on an I&R bill in 1912, after all the
surrounding states had already put I&R into their constitutions. It was favored
by a six to one margin of the voters who cast ballots on its ratification. It
still failed to take effect, however, because Wyoming constitutional amendments
required ratification by a "supermajority" of all the voters casting ballots in
the election, which made blank ballots count as "no" votes. By this standard,
the I&R amendment narrowly failed.
Finally, in 1968, Wyoming’s legislature passed an
I&R amendment, and it won voter ratification. But the procedures, specified by
the legislature, included the most difficult petition requirement for
initiatives of any state law in the nation: 15 percent of the number of ballots
cast in the preceding gubernatorial election. And it did not allow voters to
propose or vote on initiative constitutional amendments at all.
Though several attempts were made, only one
initiative qualified for the ballot in 20 years: a proposed law, titled
"In-stream Flows," that would allow the state’s fish and game department to
claim water rights on behalf of fish and wildlife, so that future development -
and particularly energy projects like a proposed water-guzzling coal slurry
pipeline - would not drain essential water sources. The backers’ first petition
drive, in 1981, fell 1,000 names short, and they were forced to start again. By
early 1986 they had finally qualified their measure for the November 1986
ballot. The legislature enacted it in March 1986, making a citizen vote on the
In 1992, the first statewide initiative qualified
for the ballot. It was an initiative to ban triple trailers from state highways
– it passed overwhelmingly. That same year, two other initiatives qualified for
the ballot – a term limits measure and an initiative that would regulate
railroads and hazardous materials. They both passed. Since 1992, only three
other initiatives have made the ballot. The reason for the low number is that
the initiative process in Wyoming ranks as one of the most difficult in the
country. Attempts by pro-initiative legislators in 2002 to try and lessen the
restrictions on the initiative process went nowhere.
David Schmidt, Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot Initiative Revolution.