What happens if two contradictory ballot initiatives pass?

What happens if two contradictory ballot initiatives are placed on the ballot and both somehow manage to pass? For example if California had an election and one proposition was “Marriage in the state of California shall consist of the union of one man and one woman” and another proposition was “Marriage in the state of California shall consist of the union of; one man and one woman, two men, or two women”. What if both passed?

In California, the Attorney General’s office handles coordination of initiatives.

The process of introducing an initiative is spelled out at the Secretary of State’s website.

Between those two sites, I couldn’t find anything directly addressing the concept of contradictory initiatives, but you can email the AG’s office.

That is what the courts are for. Both initiatives would end up in court before the votes were finished being counted. After that, who knows? Unexplored territory.

Actually, it has happened that California has had two contradictory ballot initiatives on the ballot before. It is always mentioned in the media that if both pass, the one that passes with more votes takes effect.


And don’t bet that the courts wouldn’t get their oar in anyway. CA ballot initiatives are sometimes struck down by the CA Supreme Court if they don’t pass constitutional muster (example - proposition 5 (Indian Gaming) was passed in 1998, and struck down by the Supreme Court as violating the 1984 State Lottery act, an initiative constitutional amendment). In this circumstance, I would imagine there would be extreme pressure to invalidate one or both of them.

What’s a California initiative anyway? I’m accustomed to an initiative being a change to the constitution, which kind of takes away the power from the (state) court to declare it unconstitutional.

Wow, I can finally utter the phrase, “I missed the edit window.”

Upon further looking, it looks like not all of Michigan initiatives are constitutional changes after all. Proposal 3 last year would have been a public act rather than a constitutional change, and would have permitted the hunting of mourning doves. Whereas in 2004 Proposal 4-2 was a constitutional change (gay marriage). The courts are determining impact, though, not constitutionality, in this case.

General answer, pending a knowledgeable one by someone else: California once had a populist movement (Governor Hiram Johnson? Early 1920s?) that figured that the voice of the people is the voice of Og. It’s easier to get propositions placed on the ballot here than in other states, I think. Some are full-blown constitutional amendments, but others are not, I think.

…Um, it seemed like a good idea at the time?..

In California, most initiatives placed on the ballot are constitutional amendments because if the Legislature doesn’t like it, it cannot reverse the vote on its own. All constitutional amendments have to go before the voters.

You can get a regular old statute placed on the ballot through the initiative process, but the Legislature could just go and pass another law to effectively repeal it.

It does take more signatures to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, but the whole process is so streamlined now that there are companies whose sole business it is to gather signatures.