Code of the District of Columbia

Part G. Initiatives, Referendums, and Recalls.


Subpart 1. Initiative and Referendum.

§ 1–204.101. Definitions.

(a) The term “initiative” means the process by which the electors of the District of Columbia may propose laws (except laws appropriating funds) and present such proposed laws directly to the registered qualified electors of the District of Columbia for their approval or disapproval.

(b) The term “referendum” means the process by which the registered qualified electors of the District of Columbia may suspend acts of the Council of the District of Columbia (except emergency acts, acts levying taxes, or acts appropriating funds for the general operation budget) until such acts have been presented to the registered qualified electors of the District of Columbia for their approval or rejection.


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-281.

1973 Ed., § 1-181.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-1001.02.

Cross References

Elections, “proposer” defined, see § 1-1001.02.


§ 1–204.102. Process.

(a) An initiative or referendum may be proposed by the presentation of a petition to the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics containing the signatures of registered qualified electors equal in number to 5 percent of the registered electors in the District of Columbia: Provided, that the total signatures submitted include 5 percent of the registered electors in each of 5 or more of the City’s wards. The number of registered electors which is used for computing these requirements shall be according to the latest official count of registered electors by the Board of Elections and Ethics which was issued 30 or more days prior to submission of the signatures for the particular initiative or referendum petition.

(b)(1) Upon the presentation of a petition for a referendum to the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics as provided in this section, the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics shall notify the appropriate custodian of the act of the Council of the District of Columbia (either the President of the United States or the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives) as provided in §§ 1-204.04 and 1-204.46 and the President of the United States or the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, as is appropriate, return such act or portion of such act to the Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia. No further action may be taken upon such act or portion of such act until after a referendum election is held.

(2) No act is subject to referendum if it has become law according to the provisions of § 1-204.04.


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199; June 7, 1979, D.C. Law 3-1, § 5, 25 DCR 9454.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-282.

1973 Ed., § 1-182.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-204.103 and § 1-204.112.


§ 1–204.103. Submission of measure at election.

The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics shall submit an initiative measure without alteration at the next general, special, or primary election held at least 90 days after the measure is received. The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics shall hold an election on a referendum measure within 114 days of its receipt of a petition as provided in § 1-204.102. If a previously scheduled general, primary, or special election will occur between 54 and 114 days of its receipt of a petition as provided in § 1-204.102, the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics may present the referendum at that election.


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-283.

1973 Ed., § 1-183.


§ 1–204.104. Rejection of measure.

If a majority of the registered qualified electors voting on a referred act vote to disapprove the act, such action shall be deemed a rejection of the act or that portion of the act on the referendum ballot and no action may be taken by the Council of the District of Columbia with regard to the matter presented at referendum for the 365 days following the date of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics’ certification of the vote concerning the referendum.


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-284.

1973 Ed., § 1-184.

Editor's Notes

Rejection of Initiative on Mandatory Life Imprisonment or Death Penalty for Murder in the District of Columbia: Section 138 of Pub. L. 102-382, 106 Stat. 1436, the District of Columbia Appropriations Act, 1993, provided an initiative measure which would have increased the penalty for first-degree murder in the District of Columbia to a sentence of death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole; the initiative was rejected at the general election held on November 3, 1992.


§ 1–204.105. Approval of measure.

If a majority of the registered qualified electors voting in a referendum approve an act or adopt legislation by initiative, then the adopted initiative or the act approved by referendum shall be an act of the Council upon the certification of the vote on such initiative or act by the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, and such act shall become law subject to the provisions of § 1-206.02(c).


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199; Oct. 27, 1978, 92 Stat. 2023, Pub. L. 95-526.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-285.

1973 Ed., § 1-185.


§ 1–204.106. Short title and summary.

The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics shall be empowered to propose a short title and summary of the initiative and referendum matter which accurately reflects the intent and meaning of the proposed referendum or initiative. Any citizen may petition the Superior Court of the District of Columbia no later than 30 days prior to the election at which the initiative or referendum will be held for a writ in the nature of mandamus to correct any inaccurate short title and summary by the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics and to mandate that Board to properly state the summary of the initiative or referendum measure.


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199; Oct. 27, 1978, 92 Stat. 2023, Pub. L. 95-526.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-286.

1973 Ed., § 1-186.


§ 1–204.107. Adoption of acts to carry out subpart.

The Council of the District of Columbia shall adopt such acts as are necessary to carry out the purpose of this subpart within 180 days of the effective date of this subpart. Neither a petition initiating an initiative nor a referendum may be presented to the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics prior to October 1, 1978.


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199; Oct. 27, 1978, 92 Stat. 2023, Pub. L. 95-526.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-287.

1973 Ed., § 1-187.


Subpart 2. Recall of Elected Officials.

§ 1–204.111. “Recall” defined.

The term “recall” means the process by which the qualified electors of the District of Columbia may call for the holding of an election to remove or retain an elected official of the District of Columbia (except the Delegate to Congress for the District of Columbia) prior to the expiration of his or her term.


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-291.

1973 Ed., § 1-191.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-1001.17.

Cross References

Elections, recall of elected officials, see § 1-1001.17.


§ 1–204.112. Process.

Any elected officer of the District of Columbia government (except the Delegate to Congress for the District of Columbia) may be recalled by the registered electors of the election ward from which he or she was elected or by the registered electors of the District of Columbia at large in the case of an at-large elected officer, whenever a petition demanding his or her recall, signed by 10 percent of the registered electors thereof, is filed with the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. The 10 percent shall be computed from the total number of the registered electors from the ward, according to the latest official count of registered electors by the Board of Elections and Ethics which was issued 30 or more days prior to submission of the signatures for the particular recall petition. In the case of an at-large elected official, the 10 percent shall include 10 percent of the registered electors in each of 5 or more of the City’s wards. The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics shall hold an election within 114 days of its receipt of a petition as provided in § 1-204.102. If a previously scheduled general, primary, or special election will occur between 54 and 114 days of its receipt of a petition as provided in § 1-204.102, then the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics may present the recall question at that election.


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199; June 7, 1979, D.C. Law 3-1, § 5, 25 DCR 9454.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-292.

1973 Ed., § 1-192.


§ 1–204.113. Time limits on initiation of process.

The process of recalling an elected official may not be initiated within the first 365 days nor the last 365 days of his or her term of office. Nor may the process be initiated within 1 year after a recall election has been determined in his or her favor.


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-293.

1973 Ed., § 1-193.


§ 1–204.114. When official removed; filling of vacancies.

An elected official is removed from office if a majority of the qualified electors voting in the election vote to remove him or her. The vacancy created by such recall shall be filled in the same manner as other vacancies as provided in §§ 1-204.01(d) and 1-204.21(c)(2) and § 1-1001.10(a).


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-294.

1973 Ed., § 1-194.


§ 1–204.115. Adoption of acts to carry out subpart.

The Council of the District of Columbia shall adopt such acts as are necessary to carry out the purpose of this subpart within 180 days of October 27, 1978. No petition for recall may be presented to the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics prior to October 1, 1978.


(Mar. 10, 1978, D.C. Law 2-46, § 2, 24 DCR 199.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-295.

1973 Ed., § 1-195.

Cross References

Elections, recall of elected officials, see § 1-1001.17.