How does Binding Citizens Initiated Referenda (BCIR) work?


New Zealand already has legislation for citizens initiated referenda, but the result of any referendum is not binding on government. Politicians can ignore the will of the people and they usually do:


Anti GE referenda.

Reducing MP numbers referenda.

Stricter sentencing referenda.

Anti-smacking referenda.

The Politicians say three-yearly elections are all we are good for. We can’t be trusted with important decisions that affect our lives.

BCIR works to prevent political parties following an agenda at odds with the will of the people. When a government passes new legislation they may require a government to hold a referendum.. It works like this:

All legislation or government decisions, new or existing becomes subject to a ‘facultative’ BCIR.

The people may also put forward ‘initiatives’. These are ideas private groups or individuals develop for approval by the people.

Any person or group wishing to have a referendum must frame a suitable yes/no petition question and gather sufficient support to trigger a referendum. For Real Democracy NZ Inc believes obtaining 50,000 signatures should be enough to trigger a facultative referendum, while an initiative BCIR petition should require 100,000 signatures. The number of signatures required for local referenda can be set by local communities.

Once the required number of signatures is gathered the government must schedule a referendum on either an initiative or a facultative issue. The result is binding on government and must be acted on as soon as possible.

A petition question must be scrutinised to avoid ambiguity that may confuse voters.

If more than one referendum is required in any one year all votes can be cast on a selected day via a postal vote or secure internet based voting system.

Holding referenda in this way is common in Switzerland, other parts of Europe and in many states in the USA.

Following its introduction BCIR may require a settling down period. The people may wish to play ‘catch up’ by subjecting past unpopular government actions to BCIR.