Referendum Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Referendum, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Referendum?

(n) Referendum is defined as the placing of an issue, existing or proposed statute, proposal or action etc., to be voted upon by the public, with an intention to collect the opinion about such action or proposals, to decide up on its implementation or continuance

History and Meaning of Referendum

The term 'referendum' originated in Switzerland in the 1840s, where it was used to denote a popular vote on a constitutional matter. Today, the term has a broader meaning and is used to describe a political mechanism where the general public decides on matters of national importance. The referendum provides a way for citizens to voice their opinions on specific issues or proposed laws, and their vote can either be binding or non-binding.

Examples of Referendum

  1. In 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union. This referendum resulted in a 52-48 victory for the leave campaign and has since then been known as Brexit.
  2. In 2014, Scotland held a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. The vote was unsuccessful, with 55% voting against independence.
  3. In 2005, the Netherlands held a referendum on the European Constitution. The referendum resulted in a rejection of the proposed constitution by 61.5% of the population.

Legal Terms Similar to Referendum

  1. Plebiscite: A vote that seeks the opinion of the public on a particular question, often relating to constitutional change.
  2. Initiative: A process that enables citizens to propose legislation and submit it to a popular vote.
  3. Recall: A procedure that allows citizens to remove an elected official from office before their term has ended.
  4. Advocacy: A process of encouraging, supporting or arguing for the adoption of specific policies or actions.