Ballot measures differ from most legislation passed by representative democracies; ordinarily, an elected legislature develops and passes laws. Ballot measures, by contrast, are an example of direct democracy.
In many U.S. states, ballot measures may originate by several different processes:
- Initiative, in which any citizen or organization may gather a predetermined number of signatures to qualify a measure for the ballot;
- Popular referendum, in which a predetermined number of signatures (typically lower than the number required for an initiative) qualifies a ballot measure repealing a specific act of the legislature;
- Legislative referral (aka "legislative referendum"), in which the legislature puts proposed legislation up for popular vote (either voluntarily or, in the case of a constitutional amendment as a required procedure).