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Place Issue on Ballot

The Virginia Department of Elections (ELECT) designed the referendum petition form to assure that all required information was provided by petition signers. In addition, the bulletins listed below were prepared for use by citizens interested in placing an issue on the ballot in a county, city or town.

Referendum Provisions – In General

This bulletin was prepared to assure compliance with the provisions of §§ 24.2-684 and 24.2-684.1. The petitioner must determine whether or not Virginia Law allows the issue to appear on the ballot. See Local Issues below.

Direct Election of School Board Members or Reversion to Appointed School Board Members
At its 1992 Session, the General Assembly enacted legislation permitting citizens in counties, cities and town constituting separate school divisions to petition for a referendum on this question. This bulletin was prepared because of the interest generated across Virginia. It is updated annually to reflect appropriate deadlines for filing petitions for this issue. It also includes the additional requirements imposed by §§ 24.2-684 and 24.2-684.1 of the Code of Virginia.

Pari-Mutuel Wagering Or Off-track Pari-Mutuel Wagering
At the November 1988 election, voters approved Chapter 855 of the 1988 Act of the General Assembly which authorized pari-mutuel betting on horse racing and provided for its regulation. This bulletin was prepared in 1989 as the first local referendums on the pari-mutuel wagering were held that year. It is updated when changes are enacted by the General Assembly to §§ 24.2-684, 24.2-684.1 or to any relevant section of Title 59 of the Code of Virginia.

There are several other types of issues. Some may appear on the ballot only by action taken by the General Assembly or the local governing body, as appropriate. Others may appear due to petitions signed by a specific number of registered voters from the county, city, town or local district; while others may appear on the ballot either by action taken by the local governing body or by voter petition. General explanations are provided below.

Statewide Issues

Requires legislation to be enacted by the General Assembly. Voters cannot circulate petitions for any question to appear on the ballot statewide.

Local Issues

Local issues are permitted to be placed on the ballot only if the question is authorized by statute or by charter. In such cases the question is specifically stated in either the county, city or town charter or in the section of the Code of Virginia that permits the question. Example: the Direct Election of School Board is found in § 22.1-57.2. The signature requirements also are included in that section.

You can determine which issues are permitted by law by going to https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode and submit a search using the keyword: “referendum”.

The Code section that authorizes the issue also will specify if it can appear on the ballot as a result of voter petition.

Initiative Referendum

Voter petition for an initiative referendum is permitted ONLY if the county, city or town charter includes provisions allowing voters to circulate petitions for such an issue. The charter also would provide the procedures to be followed, including the number of signatures required, the deadline for filing, restrictions on types of questions permitted, etc. Compliance with the provisions of §§ 24.2-684 and 24.2-684.1 also is required.

Each bulletin includes the Statement of Petitioner, Certificate of Receipt and Acceptance and appropriate Sample Order(s). The links below can be used to download each bulletin and referendum petition form.

Petition of Qualified Voter for Referendum Form

Current Referenda and Archive