Nebraska State Constitution Article III-2
First power reserved; initiative.
The first power reserved by the people is the initiative whereby laws may be enacted and constitutional amendments adopted by the people independently of the Legislature. This power may be invoked by petition wherein the proposed measure shall be set forth at length. If the petition be for the enactment of a law, it shall be signed by seven percent of the registered voters of the state, and if the petition be for the amendment of the Constitution, the petition therefor shall be signed by ten percent of such registered voters. In all cases the registered voters signing such petition shall be so distributed as to include five percent of the registered voters of each of two-fifths of the counties of the state, and when thus signed, the petition shall be filed with the Secretary of State who shall submit the measure thus proposed to the electors of the state at the first general election held not less than four months after such petition shall have been filed. The same measure, either in form or in essential substance, shall not be submitted to the people by initiative petition, either affirmatively or negatively, more often than once in three years. If conflicting measures submitted to the people at the same election be approved, the one receiving the highest number of affirmative votes shall thereby become law as to all conflicting provisions. The constitutional limitations as to the scope and subject matter of statutes enacted by the Legislature shall apply to those enacted by the initiative. Initiative measures shall contain only one subject. The Legislature shall not amend, repeal, modify, or impair a law enacted by the people by initiative, contemporaneously with the adoption of this initiative measure or at any time thereafter, except upon a vote of at least two-thirds of all the members of the Legislature.
- Neb. Const. art. III, sec. 1A (1912);
- Adopted 1912, Laws 1911, c. 223, sec. 2, p. 671;
- Amended 1920, Constitutional Convention, 1919-1920, No. 4;
- Amended 1988, Laws 1988, LR 248, sec. 1;
- Amended 1998, Laws 1997, LR 32CA, sec. 1;
- Amended 2004, Initiative Measure No. 418, sec. 1.
1. Single subject requirement
3. Amendment by initiative
1. Single subject requirement
For purposes of the single subject requirement for voter initiatives under the Nebraska Constitution, the general subject is defined by its primary purpose. Christensen v. Gale, 301 Neb. 19, 917 N.W.2d 145 (2018).
The controlling consideration in determining the singleness of a subject, for purposes of the single subject requirement for voter initiatives under this provision of the Nebraska Constitution, is its singleness of purpose and relationship of the details to the general subject, not the strict necessity of any given detail to carry out the general subject. Christensen v. Gale, 301 Neb. 19, 917 N.W.2d 145 (2018).
Where the limits of a proposed law, having natural and necessary connection with each other, and, together, are a part of one general subject, the proposal is a single and not a dual proposition, and thus does not violate the single subject requirement for voter initiatives under the Nebraska Constitution. Christensen v. Gale, 301 Neb. 19, 917 N.W.2d 145 (2018).
Whether the elements of complex statutory amendments can be characterized as presenting different policy issues for purposes of the single subject requirement for voter initiatives under this provision of the Nebraska Constitution, the crux of the question is the extent of the differences and how the elements relate to the primary purpose. Christensen v. Gale, 301 Neb. 19, 917 N.W.2d 145 (2018).
The separate-vote requirement under article XVI, section 1, imposes the same requirements as the single subject requirement under this provision: A voter initiative or a legislatively proposed constitutional amendment may not contain two or more distinct subjects for voter approval in a single vote. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).
The single subject test for ballot measures to change the law—whether the measure is a voter initiative or a legislatively proposed constitutional amendment—is whether the proposed law’s provisions have a natural and necessary connection with each other and together are part of one general subject. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).
Under the single subject ballot requirement, the general subject of a proposed ballot measure is defined by its primary purpose. Without a unifying purpose, separate proposals in a ballot measure necessarily present independent and distinct proposals that require a separate vote. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).
In order to qualify for the ballot, a petition to amend Nebraska's Constitution must be signed by 10 percent of the registered voters of the state. State ex rel. Bellino v. Moore, 254 Neb. 385, 576 N.W.2d 793 (1998).
Article III, section 2, which refers to registered voters repeals the reference in article III, section 4, which refers to those voting in the preceding gubernatorial election. The number of signatures required for placement of an initiative petition on the ballot by the Nebraska Constitution is equal to 10 percent of the number of registered voters on the date the signatures are to be turned in. Duggan v. Beermann, 245 Neb. 907, 515 N.W.2d 788 (1994).
This section is satisfied by a filing on July 5 for a general election to be held November 5. State ex rel. Morris v. Marsh, 183 Neb. 521, 162 N.W.2d 262 (1968).
Provision that election on initiative shall be submitted at next general election is not mandatory. If court proceedings require, election may be at subsequent general election. Barkley v. Pool, 102 Neb. 799, 169 N.W. 730 (1918).
Initiative procedure did not constitute adequate remedy to correct existing inequalities in apportionment of legislative districts. League of Nebraska Municipalities v. Marsh, 209 F.Supp. 189 (D. Neb. 1962).
3. Amendment by initiative
An appellate court makes no attempt to judge the wisdom or the desirability of enacting initiative amendments. State ex rel. Johnson v. Gale, 273 Neb. 889, 734 N.W.2d 290 (2007).
The people of this state may amend their Constitution in any way they see fit, provided the amendments do not violate the federal Constitution or conflict with federal statutes or treaties. State ex rel. Johnson v. Gale, 273 Neb. 889, 734 N.W.2d 290 (2007).
In a case involving the people's amendment to this state's Constitution, the Supreme Court makes no attempt to judge the wisdom or the desirability in enacting such amendments. Duggan v. Beermann, 249 Neb. 411, 544 N.W.2d 68 (1996).
Statutory provisions authorizing initiative petitions should be construed in such a manner that the legislative power reserved in the people is effectual and should not be circumscribed by restrictive legislation or narrow and strict interpretation of the statutes pertaining to its exercise. Christensen v. Gale, 301 Neb. 19, 917 N.W.2d 145 (2018).
Provisions in a statute making it a criminal offense for a person to willfully and knowingly circulate a petition outside the county in which the person is registered to vote, and providing that signatures secured in such a manner shall not be counted, unnecessarily obstruct the people's right to participate in the initiative and referendum process and are therefore unconstitutional. A law which unnecessarily obstructs or impedes operation of the initiative and referendum process is unconstitutional. State ex rel. Stenberg v. Beermann, 240 Neb. 754, 485 N.W.2d 151 (1992).
Article III, sections 2 and 4, of the Constitution of the State of Nebraska set out some of the procedural requirements that must be met before an enactment initiated by a petition becomes a part of the statutory law of Nebraska or a part of the Nebraska Constitution. The people of Nebraska have specifically reserved the right to amend their Constitution themselves in sections 2 and 4 of article III and in article XVI, section 1, of the Nebraska Constitution. Omaha Nat. Bank v. Spire, 223 Neb. 209, 389 N.W.2d 269 (1986).
Legislature is authorized to enact laws to facilitate operation of the initiative power. State ex rel. Winter v. Swanson, 138 Neb. 597, 294 N.W. 200 (1940).