Nebraska State Constitution Article III-4

Article III-4


Initiative or referendum; signatures required; veto; election returns; constitutional amendments; non-partisan ballot.

The whole number of votes cast for Governor at the general election next preceding the filing of an initiative or referendum petition shall be the basis on which the number of signatures to such petition shall be computed. The veto power of the Governor shall not extend to measures initiated by or referred to the people. A measure initiated shall become a law or part of the Constitution, as the case may be, when a majority of the votes cast thereon, and not less than thirty-five per cent of the total vote cast at the election at which the same was submitted, are cast in favor thereof, and shall take effect upon proclamation by the Governor which shall be made within ten days after the official canvass of such votes. The vote upon initiative and referendum measures shall be returned and canvassed in the manner prescribed for the canvass of votes for president. The method of submitting and adopting amendments to the Constitution provided by this section shall be supplementary to the method prescribed in the article of this Constitution, entitled, "Amendments" and the latter shall in no case be construed to conflict herewith. The provisions with respect to the initiative and referendum shall be self-executing, but legislation may be enacted to facilitate their operation. All propositions submitted in pursuance hereof shall be submitted in a non-partisan manner and without any indication or suggestion on the ballot that they have been approved or endorsed by any political party or organization. Only the title or proper descriptive words of measures shall be printed on the ballot and when two or more measures have the same title they shall be numbered consecutively in the order of filing with the Secretary of State and the number shall be followed by the name of the first petitioner on the corresponding petition.


  • Neb. Const. art. III, sec. 1C
  • Adopted 1912, Laws 1911, c. 223, sec. 2, p. 671;
  • Amended 1920, Constitutional Convention, 1919-1920, No. 4.
  • Note: The requirement in the first sentence of this section--that the required number of signatures be computed based on the number of votes in the last gubernatorial election--was implicitly repealed by the 1988 amendments to Article III, sections 2 and 3, which changed the references in those sections for the required number of signatures from "electors" to "registered voters." Duggan v. Beermann, 245 Neb. 907, 515 N.W.2d 788 (1994); see also Pony Lake Sch. Dist. 30 v. State Comm. for the Reorganization of Sch. Dists., 271 Neb. 173, 710 N.W.2d 609 (2006).


The rule under this provision that "legislation which hampers or renders ineffective the power reserved to the people is unconstitutional" has no application outside of regulating legislation intended to facilitate the initiative or referendum procedures. Pony Lake Sch. Dist. v. State Committee for Reorg., 271 Neb. 173, 710 N.W.2d 609 (2006).

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).

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).

Under the constitutional provision authorizing the Legislature to enact laws which facilitate the initiative and referendum process, the Legislature may enact reasonable legislation to prevent fraud or to render intelligible the purpose of the proposed law or constitutional amendment. 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).

Legislation may be enacted to facilitate referendum. Klosterman v. Marsh, 180 Neb. 506, 143 N.W.2d 744 (1966).

This section authorizes Legislature to enact laws to prevent fraud or to render intelligible the purpose of the proposed law or constitutional amendment. State ex rel. Winter v. Swanson, 138 Neb. 597, 294 N.W. 200 (1940).

The result of a vote upon a proposed constitutional amendment is determined by State Canvassing Board, and, if carried, becomes operative on the date of the Governor's proclamation to that effect. Swanson v. State, 132 Neb. 82, 271 N.W. 264 (1937).

An election held without affirmative constitutional or statutory authority is a nullity. Thompson v. James, 125 Neb. 350, 250 N.W. 237 (1933).