It’s time for Delaware to consider referendums

May 27, 2022

Gov. John Carney has chosen to veto a bill legalizing marijuana in Delaware. By law, that’s his decision. But the General Assembly has the option to override him with two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate.

In response to Carney’s veto decision, Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, says Carney is going against the will of the people, as 60% of Delawareans support legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use. That number falls in line with polls run on the Cape Gazette’s website over the last few years.

So when an elected official or the Legislature as a whole goes against public opinion, shouldn’t there be a way for citizens to change the law?

Twenty-six states and Washington, D.C., have voter initiative or referendum processes.

As it relates to legalizing marijuana, nine states and Washington, D.C., used the ballot initiative process, which requires a certain number of signatures to place an issue before voters. The legislators of two states – Illinois and Vermont – passed bills to legalize marijuana.

In New Jersey, the legislature passed a resolution to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot when voters went to the polls in 2020.

According to the University of Southern California’s Initiative & Referendum Institute, Delaware allows less participation in lawmaking than any other state. It does not allow initiatives or referendums, and Delaware is the only state that does not require voter approval of constitutional amendments.

Much like the marijuana bill’s uphill battle, a constitutional amendment to allow voter initiatives or referendums in Delaware would need a two-thirds supermajority in both houses in two consecutive sessions for passage.

Although legalized marijuana is the issue of the day, ballot initiatives or referendums could be used for many controversial issues such as death penalty, abortion, election laws, budget matters and gun control.

Legislators are elected to represent the interests of their constituents. When they fail or refuse to do that, there needs to be a mechanism to allow voters to decide. It’s time to amend the Delaware Constitution to allow voter initiatives or referendums.


  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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