What Are The Benefits Of Having A Direct Binding Referendum?

January 29, 2022

For anyone living or operating in a democracy, understanding what a recall, referendum, and initiative are is essential. These are electoral devices that empower people to participate in government activities, especially legislation. 

A referendum, in particular, allows direct voting on matters of political importance. With the referendum voting system, citizens can approve or veto statutes or express their opinion on certain political decisions. The outcome of this can be binding or nonbinding. A direct binding referendum is beneficial because it takes into account the majority decision, implementing it once the results are tallied. These referendums also tend to be more clear-cut, allowing people to make informed decisions.

What Is A Referendum?

A referendum refers to a direct vote made by the electorate about a certain issue of public policy. The government usually holds referendums either through an executive or legislative body. But in certain circumstances, the people can initiate them through a petition.

Depending on the type, a referendum may either be binding or nonbinding. If it’s binding, then the proposal passed will be implemented. If it’s nonbinding, then the outcome of the referendum may just be taken as advice.

What Are The Benefits Of Having A Direct Binding Referendum?

There are several benefits to having a direct binding referendum. Firstly, it is a great way for the public to contribute to the decision making on major political issues, especially on issues that directly involve the people who will be affected by the outcome of the decision.

Secondly, a direct binding referendum accounts for and follows a popular vote. This reinforces the purpose of these kinds of electoral devices—to empower the people. And it represents a decision made by the public at large in equal standing, as opposed to one made solely by certain individuals or legislative bodies.

Thirdly, a direct binding referendum is often straightforward, so it’s easily accepted as legitimate. Citizens are better informed and highly involved, empowering them to cast a vote.

Types of Referendums

There are three types of referendums: obligatory, optional and voluntary. Here’s a breakdown of each:

Obligatory Referendum

An obligatory or mandatory referendum is a vote that’s automatically called under circumstances determined by the law. These are typically matters of major significance, such as constitutional amendments, public expenditure commitments, or the adoption of international treaties. At the state level, the issues that require an obligatory referendum differ by state.

Usually, the outcome of a mandatory referendum is binding, which means that if a proposal is approved, the appropriate authority has to implement it.

Optional Referendum

An optional or facultative referendum is a vote called by a formal demand, which can come from executive, legislative, electoral or other defined agents. For example, citizens can petition to put a statute to a vote if it does not include an obligatory referendum. In this case, the public has the power to overturn the decision in a popular veto.

The consequences of an optional referendum aren't always binding. However, it is often politically difficult to ignore the outcome.


A less common type of referendum is a voluntary referendum, also known as a plebiscite. In this case, the government can refer issues or questions to voters to gauge public preference. The result may be binding or advisory. With the latter, the vote won’t necessarily affect the outcome, but it lets lawmakers know what public opinion is on the matter.

What Is The Purpose Of A Referendum?

The purpose of a referendum is to enable voters to participate in political matters, particularly those relating to legislation or public policy. It is grounded in the principle of democracy that empowers the electorate.

Through referendums, the public can essentially push or veto issues presented by the legislative. In some cases, they can even do this with statutes that aren’t brought up by the officials.

How To Set Up A Referendum

Referendums don’t exist in governments alone. It’s an electoral device used anywhere that operates under a democratic system, be it a company, an association or a club. For example, a large corporation needs to approve a budget for the year. Its executives may set up a referendum with a trusted voting software like ElectionBuddy, then employees can vote to either approve or veto the proposal.

Setting up a referendum is simple. Through a voting method called plurality, you can ask the question and provide choices so the answer such as a Yes or a No. You can even include an abstain option, if you wish. 

You can also add relevant text to the referendum to give voters more information. If you need feedback, you may include a comment section where people can voice their opinions, as well.

As with any ballot, when setting up a referendum, whether binding or nonbinding, it’s essential to use an accurate and secure method to gather votes. A voting software like ElectionBuddy helps make the process safe and seamless. You can set up voting with ease, send it to your voters through email, text or traditional mail, and  get real-time results that you can share immediately.

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