The Initiative and Referendum Institute (IRI) is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization dedicated to providing information and resources in support of ballot initiatives and referenda. Their guiding principle, quoted in the words of Thomas Jefferson, is that there is "no safer depository of the ultimate power of society but the people themselves."
The IRI homepage features a color-coded map showing which states have initiatives or popular referenda. A pull-down menu of all fifty states links the user to individual pages with historical summaries, governmental bodies that oversee referendum processes, and initiative or referendum requirements. The homepage also features an initiative and referendum timeline and an offer to register for free e-mail updates. On the left side of every page, there is a static frame with a useful table of contents. Unfortunately, none of the pages have dates and some parts of the site, including pages for the advisory board, legal advisors, and attorney general opinions, are still "under construction." Disappointingly, the "Library" page is a direct link to Amazon.com.
Interesting features of the site include a section on statewide initiatives and referenda with a table listing various data on the initiative processes. There is also a section on historical initiative and referendum usage with statistics available for the years 1898 to 1998, and a separate free historical database, which requires user registration, contains information on numerous ballot questions that have appeared on statewide ballots since 1904. The database has search fields for subjects, status, states, type, election result, and date. There are brief results for each search, with links to full reports, as well as summary reports for each list of search results.
The IRI site is a useful starting point for activists and students wanting an introduction to initiative and referenda definitions and history as well as concrete advice on how to begin the process. However, parts of the site appear to be out of date, for example, the "Legislative Watch" section's last entry is from 2001, and under important "Legal Cases," the site links to the circuit court decision in Buckley v. American Constitutional Foundation even though the case now has been heard by the Supreme Court. Users would need to do further research to uncover more current and accurate information.
University of Maryland at College Park