The State Constitutional

Convention Clearinghouse

U.S. states where the people can use a periodic state constitutional convention referendum
to bypass the legislature's gatekeeping power over constitutional amendment

The State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse

U.S. states where the people can bypass the legislature in calling a constitutional convention

Nebraska Constitutional Initiative

Constitutional Provisions

Color Code: Highlights in red; Majority requirements in bold.

Article III

III-1. Legislative authority; how vested; power of initiative; power of referendum.

The legislative authority of the state shall be vested in a Legislature consisting of one chamber. The people reserve for themselves the power to propose laws and amendments to the Constitution and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the Legislature, which power shall be called the power of initiative. The people also reserve power at their own option to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, section, or part of any act passed by the Legislature, which power shall be called the power of referendum.


III-2. First power reserved; initiative.

The first power reserved by the people is the initiative whereby laws may be enacted and constitutional amendments adopted by the people independently of the Legislature. This power may be invoked by petition wherein the proposed measure shall be set forth at length. If the petition be for the enactment of a law, it shall be signed by seven percent of the registered voters of the state, and if the petition be for the amendment of the Constitution, the petition therefor shall be signed by ten percent of such registered voters. In all cases the registered voters signing such petition shall be so distributed as to include five percent of the registered voters of each of two-fifths of the counties of the state, and when thus signed, the petition shall be filed with the Secretary of State who shall submit the measure thus proposed to the electors of the state at the first general election held not less than four months after such petition shall have been filed. The same measure, either in form or in essential substance, shall not be submitted to the people by initiative petition, either affirmatively or negatively, more often than once in three years. If conflicting measures submitted to the people at the same election be approved, the one receiving the highest number of affirmative votes shall thereby become law as to all conflicting provisions. The constitutional limitations as to the scope and subject matter of statutes enacted by the Legislature shall apply to those enacted by the initiative. Initiative measures shall contain only one subject. The Legislature shall not amend, repeal, modify, or impair a law enacted by the people by initiative, contemporaneously with the adoption of this initiative measure or at any time thereafter, except upon a vote of at least two-thirds of all the members of the Legislature.


III-3. Second power reserved; referendum.

The second power reserved is the referendum which may be invoked, by petition, against any act or part of an act of the Legislature, except those making appropriations for the expense of the state government or a state institution existing at the time of the passage of such act. Petitions invoking the referendum shall be signed by not less than five percent of the registered voters of the state, distributed as required for initiative petitions, and filed in the office of the Secretary of State within ninety days after the Legislature at which the act sought to be referred was passed shall have adjourned sine die or for more than ninety days. Each such petition shall set out the title of the act against which the referendum is invoked and, in addition thereto, when only a portion of the act is sought to be referred, the number of the section or sections or portion of sections of the act designating such portion. No more than one act or portion of an act of the Legislature shall be the subject of each referendum petition. When the referendum is thus invoked, the Secretary of State shall refer the same to the electors for approval or rejection at the first general election to be held not less than thirty days after the filing of such petition.

When the referendum is invoked as to any act or part of act, other than emergency acts or those for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, by petition signed by not less than ten percent of the registered voters of the state distributed as aforesaid, it shall suspend the taking effect of such act or part of act until the same has been approved by the electors of the state.


III-4. Initiative or referendum; signatures required; veto; election returns; constitutional amendments; non-partisan ballot.

The whole number of votes cast for Governor at the general election next preceding the filing of an initiative or referendum petition shall be the basis on which the number of signatures to such petition shall be computed. The veto power of the Governor shall not extend to measures initiated by or referred to the people. A measure initiated shall become a law or part of the Constitution, as the case may be, when a majority of the votes cast thereon, and not less than thirty-five per cent of the total vote cast at the election at which the same was submitted, are cast in favor thereof, and shall take effect upon proclamation by the Governor which shall be made within ten days after the official canvass of such votes. The vote upon initiative and referendum measures shall be returned and canvassed in the manner prescribed for the canvass of votes for president. The method of submitting and adopting amendments to the Constitution provided by this section shall be supplementary to the method prescribed in the article of this Constitution, entitled, “Amendments” and the latter shall in no case be construed to conflict herewith. The provisions with respect to the initiative and referendum shall be self-executing, but legislation may be enacted to facilitate their operation. All propositions submitted in pursuance hereof shall be submitted in a non-partisan manner and without any indication or suggestion on the ballot that they have been approved or endorsed by any political party or organization. Only the title or proper descriptive words of measures shall be printed on the ballot and when two or more measures have the same title they shall be numbered consecutively in the order of filing with the Secretary of State and the number shall be followed by the name of the first petitioner on the corresponding petition.


Article XVI

XVI-1. How Proposed.

The Legislature may propose amendments to this Constitution. If the same be agreed to by three-fifths of the members elected to the Legislature, such proposed amendments shall be entered on the journal, with yeas and nays, and published once each week for three consecutive weeks, in at least one newspaper in each county, where a newspaper is published, immediately preceding the next election of members of the Legislature or a special election called by the vote of four-fifths of the members elected to the Legislature for the purpose of submitting such proposed amendments to the electors. At such election said amendments shall be submitted to the electors for approval or rejection upon a ballot separate from that upon which the names of candidates appear. If a majority of the electors voting on any such amendment adopt the same, it shall become a part of this Constitution, provided the votes cast in favor of such amendment shall not be less than thirty-five per cent of the total votes cast at such election. When two or more amendments are submitted at the same election, they shall be so submitted as to enable the electors to vote on each amendment separately.


  • Article III, sections 2 and 4, of the Constitution of the State of Nebraska set out some of the procedural requirements that must be met before an enactment initiated by a petition becomes a part of the statutory law of Nebraska or a part of the Nebraska Constitution. The people of Nebraska have specifically reserved the right to amend their Constitution themselves in sections 2 and 4 of Article III and in Article XVI, section 1, of the Nebraska Constitution. Omaha Nat. Bank v. Spire, 223 Neb. 209, 389 N.W.2d 269 (1986).
  • This section provides procedure for amending Nebraska Constitution. Cunningham v. Exon, 207 Neb. 513, 300 N.W.2d 6 (1980).
  • Constitutional provision should not be construed so as to defeat the will of the people, plainly expressed, and substantial compliance with its requirements is sufficient. Swanson v. State, 132 Neb. 82, 271 N.W. 264 (1937).
  • Constitutional amendment purporting to exclude schools of deaf and blind from jurisdiction of Board of Control was ineffective for failure to comply with requirements as to giving and publication of notice. State ex rel. Hall v. Cline, 118 Neb. 150, 224 N.W. 6 (1929).
  • By analogy to this section, publication of home rule charter amendment substantially complied with constitutional requirements. Sandell v. City of Omaha, 115 Neb. 861, 215 N.W. 135 (1927).
  • Canvass of vote upon adoption of constitutional amendment was properly made by State Canvassing Board. State ex rel. Oldham v. Dean, 84 Neb. 344, 121 N.W. 719 (1909).
  • Substantial compliance with constitutional limitations as to provisions for amendments thereto are sufficient. State ex rel. Thompson v. Winnett, 78 Neb. 379, 110 N.W. 1113 (1907).
  • Submission of a proposed constitutional amendment by the Legislature is not a legislative act. Weston v. Ryan, 70 Neb. 211, 97 N.W. 347 (1903).



XVI-2. Convention.

When three-fifths of the members elected to the Legislature deem it necessary to call a convention to revise, amend, or change this constitution, they shall recommend to the electors to vote at the next election of members of the Legislature, for or against a convention, and if a majority of the electors voting on the proposition, vote for a convention, the Legislature shall, at its next session provide by law for calling the same; Provided, the votes cast in favor of calling a convention shall not be less than thirty-five per cent of the total votes cast at such election. The convention shall consist of not more than one hundred members, the exact number to be determined by the Legislature, and to be nominated and elected from districts in the manner to be prescribed by the Legislature. Such members shall meet within three months after their election, for the purpose aforesaid. No amendment or change of this constitution, agreed upon by such convention, shall take effect until the same has been submitted to the electors of the state, and adopted by a majority of those voting for and against the same.



  • Statute providing for election of delegates to constitutional convention was valid. Baker v. Moorhead, 103 Neb. 811, 174 N.W. 430 (1919).

Source: Nebraska Constitution