How to Sponsor an Initiative

Learn how to sponsor an initiative and put a measure on the ballot by following these steps. To sponsor or co-sponsor an initiative, you must be a registered voter in Washington State.

The Office of the Secretary of State (OSOS) has an online system for sponsors to file statewide initiatives only. If you wish to file a referendum, you must contact OSOS directly.

Initiative filing periods and deadlines

These steps are completed in the online system.

  •   Set up a sponsor user account.
  •   Select the type of initiative (to the Legislature, or to the People).
  •   Upload initiative text.
  •   Pay $5 filing fee.
  •   Submit affidavit.
  •   Receive an email notification when the initial filing is submitted.

OSOS transmits filing to Code Reviser.

  •   The Code Reviser has 7 business days to review your text, recommend new language, and issue a Certificate of Review.
  •   You may accept or reject the recommendations.

Sponsor files final text.

  •   Upload your final text and Certificate of Review. You must upload no later than 15 business days from the date the OSOS sent your initial filing to the Code Reviser.
  •   Within 24 hours of uploading the final filing, OSOS assigns your initiative a number. The filing is transmitted to the Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General facilitates.

  •   Within 5 days of receiving your filing, the AG issues a ballot title and concise description.
  •   A challenge may be filed within 5 days by the sponsor or any person of the public in Thurston County Superior Court.
  •   If no challenge is filed within 5 days, the Initiative is established.

Create Petition & Circulate.

  •   Requirements for formatting the petition RCW 29A.72, WAC 434-379
  •   The minimum number of signatures required to certify the initiative must equal, or exceed 8 percent of the total votes cast in the previous gubernatorial race.
  •   The average rate of invalid signatures on petitions is 15 percent. We strongly suggest obtaining at least 20 percent more signatures than the minimum threshold requires

Petition Signature Check (2 weeks minimum).

  •   Make appointment to submit petitions only after signature threshold is met.
  •   When you deliver your petitions to our office, we’ll provide you a receipt for the number of boxes delivered.
  •   We begin to count petition sheets by hand. You will receive a receipt for the unofficial number of sheets counted.
  •   Then, petitions are imaged, and prepared for the verification of signatures. When complete, you will receive official notification of the final sheet count.
  •   The OSOS verifies signatures on petitions. Sponsors are welcome to observe the process after attending our Observer Training.

OSOS certifies initiative to the ballot, or to the legislature.

  •   You will receive notification when the petition check is complete. We will notify you whether the petition has a sufficient or an insufficient number of valid signatures.
  •   The Attorney General's Office must add a 10 - 15 word fiscal disclosure statement to the measure based on Office of Financial Managment (OFM) analysis. After the statement is added, OSOS will certify to the ballot. 
  •   The OSOS signs the official certification.
  •   When an initiative is referred to the Legislature, they may:
    • Enact into law (as is).
    • Take no action (placing it on next General Election ballot).
    • Propose an alternative (both measures are placed on the ballot).

OSOS coordinates submission to Voters’ Pamphlet.

  •   Statements in support of or against a ballot measure are prepared by committees.
  •   Sponsors submit “for” statements – see Guidelines for Ballot Measures.
  •   The Office of Financial Management (OFM) issues the fiscal impact statement.