Measures, Initiatives, Referenda, and Recalls


Measures
A measure is any constitutional amendment or other proposition submitted to a popular vote at any election.

What to Submit

  • Districts & Cities: Submit a “Resolution Requesting Consolidation of Election and Ordering of Such Election” and “Notice to County Clerk of Measure Submitted to the Voters.”
  • County: Submit a “Resolution Ordering Consolidation of Election and Ordering of Such Election.”

  • Schools: Submit the “Resolution Ordering an Election, Specifications of the Election Order, and Requesting Consolidation”, and the “Notice to County Clerk of Measure Submitted to the Voters.”

Measure Text

  • When submitting the documents for a measure, please indicate the measure wording by placing a box around the entire question you wish to appear on the sample ballot.
  • You also have to indicate in writing which portion of the resolution or ordinance you want to be printed in the Voter’s Information Pamphlet.
  • If you don’t want the measure text to appear in the Voter’s Pamphlet, please submit that request in writing. In such case, before the analysis of the measure, the voters will be directed to contact the Election Division for a copy of the proposed measure.
  • The jurisdiction will be billed for the costs.
  • By law the ballot question is limited to 75 words. All measures are followed by the words, “Yes” and “No”.
  • For school bond measures, the words to appear are: “Bonds-Yes,” “Bonds-No.”
  • For a school reorganization measure, the wording is “Reorganization of School District – Yes” and “Reorganization of School District – No”.

Where to Submit

  • Submit your election measure paperwork to the Contra Costa County Elections Division, Candidates Section, (925) 335-7874.

For additional information please view the Guide to Filing Measure Arguments.

County Initiative
An initiative is the power of the electors to propose a new ordinance by which they will be governed. An initiative is placed on the ballot after its proponents have successfully met a series of deadlines.

The rules on filing an initiative depend on the jurisdiction in which the initiative is to be taking place. Any registered voter (proponent) in the district/jurisdiction has the power to initiate the process of filing an initiative. Initiatives can be filed at any time during the year.

Information on how to qualify a State initiative can be found on the Secretary of State’s website. Information on how to qualify a City initiative must be obtained from the Office of the City Clerk for the city in which the initiative is to be circulated.

Any person or group desiring to start and circulate an initiative petition is strongly advised to contact private legal counsel to guide and advise them through the many steps involved in the petition process. Refer to Elections Code sections 9100 thru 9126; 9160 thru 9190; and 9600 thru 9610.

County Initiative – Filing Process

  • To begin the process the proponent will need to file with the Elections Official a Notice of Intention. The notice shall include the names and business or residence addresses of at least one but not more than five proponents of the petition, and shall be accompanied by the written text, not exceeding 500 words in length, stating the reasons for the proposed petition and a request that a ballot title and summary be prepared.
  • Within 15 days after the Notice of Intention is filed, County Counsel will provide and return to the Elections Official a ballot title and summary for the proposed measure. The Elections Official will then issue a copy of the summary and ballot title to the proponent.
  • The proponent is responsible for designing and printing of the petition. The ballot title and summary prepared by County Counsel must appear on each section of the petition above the text of the measure. The petition design must adhere to the requirements of Elections Codes 100-104. A copy of the petition must be filed with the Elections Official for approval.
  • Prior to circulation of the petition, the proponent must publish a Notice of Intention, and the ballot title and summary of the proposed measure in a newspaper of general circulation within the county, and file proof of publication with the Registrar of Voters office.

County Initiative – Circulation Process

  • Once the petition has been approved and proof of publication has been filed, the proponent may begin circulating the petition. The proponent has 180 days to circulate the petition for signatures from the date of receipt of the title and summary. Any registered voter within the jurisdiction of the proposed ordinance may sign the petition. Any person who is a voter or who is qualified to register to vote in the county may circulate the petition.
  • The number of signatures required is based on the total number of votes cast within the county for all candidates for Governor at the last gubernatorial election. Below is the formula used by the Elections Official to determine the date of election, initiatives can appear on the next scheduled election or can qualify for a special election.

County Initiative – Verification and Certification Process

  • 10% Rule – If after signatures are checked the petition contains at least 10% qualified signatures, the Board of Supervisors shall do one of the following:
    1. Pass the ordinance without alteration either at the regular meeting at which the certification of the petition is presented or within 10 days.

    2. Submit the measure to the voters at the next election occurring not less than 88 days after the date of the order.
    3. Order a report (pursuant to Section 9111) at the regular meeting at which the certification of the petition is presented. When the report is presented to the Board of Supervisors, it shall either adopt the ordinance within 10 days or order an election. (EC 9118)
  • 20% Rule – If after signatures are checked the petition contains at least 20% qualified signatures and the petition contains a request that the ordinance be submitted immediately to a vote of the people at a special election, the Board of Supervisors shall do one of the following:
    • Pass the ordinance without alteration either at the regular meeting at which the certification of the petition is presented or within 10 days.
    • Immediately call a special election.
    • Order a report (pursuant to Section 9111) at the regular meeting at which the certification of the petition is presented. When the report is presented to the Board of Supervisors, it shall either adopt the ordinance within 10 days or order an election. (EC 9116)
  • The proponent must file all sections of the petition at one time. At the time of filing, the Elections Official will examine the petition to determine if the number of signatures affixed, based on raw count, is equal to or greater than the number of signatures required.
  • The Elections Official has 30 days from the date of filing to verify the signatures on the petition. There is no charge for verifying signatures. If the petition is sufficient the Registrar of Voters will certify the results to the Board of Supervisors at their next regularly scheduled meeting.
  • If a majority (50% plus 1) of the voters voting on the proposed ordinance vote in its favor, the ordinance will be considered adopted on the date the vote is declared by the governing body of the jurisdiction, and will go into effect 10 days after that date.

County Initiative Flow Chart

County Referendum
A referendum is the submission of an ordinance, proposed or actual, to a direct popular vote. By using referendum powers, the legislative board of a jurisdiction (e.g., Board of Supervisors, City Council) may ask registered voters to decide on the enactment, repeal, or amendment of any ordinance. Additionally, voters may independently circulate a petition protesting the adoption of an ordinance and requesting that the issue be put up for a popular vote.

County Referendum – Proponents

  • Submission by the Citizens:
    The referendum process provides citizens with a chance to refer an ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors to a vote of the people. The very nature of the referendum process is that it must be accomplished in a very condensed time-frame. Therefore, there are no requirements for proponents to file notices, or publish intent, or obtain any document or input from the Elections Official or government official. It is truly a process of the people. It is advised that proponents obtain legal counsel to confirm that they are complying with the law. California Elections Code Division 9, Sections 9140 through 9147 provide the procedures for the county referendum process.
  • Submission by Board of Supervisors:
    The Board of Supervisors may submit to the voters, without a petition, an ordinance for the repeal, amendment, or enactment of any ordinance. The ordinance shall be voted upon at any succeeding regular or special election and, if it receives a majority of the votes cast, the ordinance shall be repealed, amended, or enacted accordingly.
  • Petition Protesting Adoption of an Ordinance:
    If a petition protesting the adoption of an ordinance is presented to the Board of Supervisors prior to the effective date of the ordinance, the ordinance shall be suspended and the Supervisors shall reconsider the ordinance. The petition shall be signed by voters of the county equal in number to at least 10 percent of the entire vote cast within the county for all candidates for Governor at the last gubernatorial election. (EC 9144)

County Referendum – Format and Circulation

Proponents may begin to circulate petitions to reconsider a county ordinance for voter signatures after the Board of Supervisors takes final action on adoption of an ordinance. The petition must be filed prior to the effective date of the ordinance, which in most cases is 30 days after the date of final passage.

    Format

  • Across the top of each page of the referendum petition there shall be printed the following: “Referendum Against an Ordinance Passed by the Board of Supervisors”
  • Each section of the referendum petition shall contain:
    1. The identifying number or title
    2. The text of the ordinance or the portion of the ordinance that is subject to referendum.
  • The petition sections shall be designed so that each signer shall personally affix all of the following:
    • His or her signature.
    • His or her printed name.
    • His or her residence address, giving street and number, or if no street or number exists, adequate designation of residence so that the location may be readily ascertained.
    • The name of his or her incorporated city or unincorporated community.
  • Only a person who is a qualified registered voter at the time of signing the petition is entitled to sign it. The address must be the same on the petition and the voter registration record. A voter may register to vote and sign a petition at the same time. It is up to the signature gatherer to turn in the voter registration cards prior to turning in the petitions. The number of signatures attached to each section shall be at the pleasure of the person soliciting the signatures.
    Circulators

  • Circulator must be a registered voter. Once the petition is formatted circulators may start collecting signatures. Circulator must also on each section of the petition have attached to it a declaration signed by the circulator.

County Referendum – Filing Process

  • The proponent(s) shall file all sections of the petition at one time.
  • Petitions must be presented to the Board prior to the effective date of the ordinance.
  • At the time of filing the Clerk of the Board and Registrar of Voters shall examine the petition to determine if the number of signatures is equal or greater than the number of signatures required.
  • If the number of signatures meets the minimum requirement the Elections Official should continue to the next step. If not, no further action should be taken.
    • Signature Check: From the date of filing, excluding weekends and State Holidays the Elections Official has 30 days to check the signatures on the petition. If the petition contains more than 500 signatures the Elections Official may use a random sampling technique for verification.
    • Notify Proponents: Proponents will be notified by the Elections Official the results for sufficiency or insufficiency of the petition filed.
    • Certification: If the petition is sufficient the Elections Official shall certify the results to the Board of Supervisors at their next regular meeting after the completion of the signature checking.
    • Number of signatures required will be provided by County Elections Official.
    • After the signatures are checked, if the referendum contains at least 10% of qualified signatures, the Board of Supervisors shall either entirely repeal the ordinance or submit the ordinance to the voters either at a special election called for that purpose or the next regularly scheduled county election occurring not less than 88 days after the date of the order.
    • The ordinance should not become effective unless and until a majority of the voters vote in favor of it.

County Referendum Flow Chart

Recall
A recall is the power of the voters, to remove elected officials from office before their term expires as provided in Article 2 of the State Constitution.

Recall Process
Any elected officer, including a person who has been appointed in lieu of an election or to fill a vacancy, can be recalled. (Election Code 11006)

The Recall Process is started by registered voters of the jurisdiction and eligible to vote on the office of the incumbent they seek to recall. They are the proponents and have control over the circulation of and obtaining petition signatures. (EC 11005)

The Registrar of Voters Office is the Elections Official in the case of the recall of local elected officers of:

  • County
  • School District
  • County Board of Education
  • Community College District
  • Special District
  • Judges of Superior Court

Contact the City Clerk in the case of the recall of elective officers of a city. (EC 11002)

Recall Procedures

Preparing the Notice of Intention

  • It is the initial step for the proponent interested in the recall of an elected officeholder. The Notice of Intention consists of the following:

    • The name and title of the officer to be recalled.
    • A statement of no more than 200 words expressing the reason for the recall.
    • The printed name, signature and residence address of each of the proponents. The minimum number of proponents shall be ten, or equal to the number of signatures required to have been filed on the nomination paper of the officer to be recalled, whichever is higher.
    • The language contained in Election Code 11023 informing the incumbent of his or her right to file an answer. (Election Code 11020)
    • If more than one officer is being recall, one Notice of Intention for each incumbent is needed. (Election Code 11006)

Serve the Officer Being Recalled

  • A copy of the Notice of Intention must be served on the incumbent to be recalled by personal delivery or by certified mail. (Election Code 11021)

File the Notice of Intention and Proof of Service with the Elections Official.

  • File the original Notice of Intention with the Elections Official within seven (7) days of the incumbent having been served, along with an affidavit of time and manner of service.
  • At the time the Notice of Intention is filed, the Elections Official will verify the word count and that the proponents are registered voters within the district.
  • A separate Notice of Intention must be filed for each officer being recalled.

Publish the Notice of Intention at the proponents’ expense.

    The proponent is also required to publish, at their expense, the Notice of Intention at least once in a newspaper of general circulation serving the jurisdiction of the incumbent who is being recalled.
  • If such publication is not possible, the notice shall be posted in at least three (3) public places within the jurisdiction of the officer being recalled. Posting is allowed only if there is no newspaper of general circulation able to provide timely publication in the jurisdiction of the officer being recalled.
  • The proponent must file proof of publication or an affidavit of posting the Notice of Intention at the same time that they file two (2) blank copies of the petition with the appropriate Elections Official. Proof of publication can be obtained from the newspaper publisher after the Notice of Intention appears in print.(Election Code 11022)

Answer of incumbent.

  • The incumbent has the right to give a response to the grounds for the proposed recall contained in the proponent’s Notice of Intention.
    Within seven (7) days after the filing of the Notice of Intention, the officer being recalled may file an answer of not more than 200 words with the Elections Official, and must also serve a copy by personal delivery or certified mail, on one of the proponents named in the Notice of Intention.
  • The answer shall be signed and accompanied by the printed name, signature, and business or residence address of the officer being recalled.
  • Once all the necessary documents have been filed with the Elections Official, the proponent may begin creating the petition.(Election Code 11023)

Recall Petition – Format and Circulation

    Format

  • The language, design, and format are provided by the Secretary of State or County Elections Official
  • The language, design, and format provided is mandatory and must be used. (Election Codes 100, 100.5, 11040, 11041, 11043, 11043.5 and 11046)
  • Before proceeding with circulation of any recall petition, proponents are required to submit their petition form to the Elections Official office for its review and agreement as to whether the petition conforms to the requirements of the Election Code.(EC 11042)
  • The petition must be designed so that each signer can affix the required information.
  • Each section of the petition must have attached to it a declaration signed by the circulator.
  • Within 10 days after the Notice of Intention is filed the proponent shall file two blank copies of the proposed petition with the Elections Official.
  • No signatures may be obtained until the form of the petition has been approved by the Elections Official.
    Circulation

  • The recall petition can be circulated by registered voters in the jurisdiction who are qualified to vote on the office of the incumbent being recalled.
  • The recall petition can only be signed by registered voters who are qualified to vote on the office held by the incumbent being recalled.
  • The number of valid signatures on a recall petition is based on a percentage of the number of registered voters in the jurisdiction of the incumbent subject to recall.
    • Under 1,000 registered voters – 30% of total registered voters signatures are needed and must be filed with the Election Official within 40 days.
    • 1,000 to 9,999 registered voters – 25 % of total registered voters signatures are needed and must be filed with the Election Official within 60 days.
    • 10,000 to 49,999 registered voters – 20% of total registered voters signatures are needed and must be filed with the Election Official within 90 days.
    • 50,000 to 99,999 registered voters – 15% of total registered voters signatures are needed and must be filed with the Election Official within 120 days.
    • 100,000 and above registered voters – 10% of total registered voters signatures are needed and must be filed with the Election Official within 160 days.

    Recall Process Guide