Petition Procedures

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A list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding petition procedures for initiatives and referendums. While this page includes FAQs, they are not legal advice. For exact language and legal requirements, view Portland City Code and City Charter.

Can voters pass citywide laws without going through City Council?

Yes. Voters are guaranteed the right to initiative & referendum petition by the Oregon Constitution and City Charter.

Initiative petitions are petitions to enact new legislation through a ballot measure that may amend City Code or Charter.

Referendum petitions are petitions to repeal Council-adopted ordinances that amend City Code, through a ballot measure.

How do I start an initiative petition?

Residents may enact City laws through the initiative petition process.  Detailed information on how to start an initiative petition is available on the City Elections site. 

To challenge a City Council decision to pass an ordinance, residents may refer the non-emergency ordinance to the voters through the referendum petition process.  Detailed information on how to start a referendum petition is available on the City Elections site.

In many cases, residents may be able to address concerns simply by meeting with City Council Members Offices or testifying before Council.  City Council members may introduce legislation before the City Council without going to the voters.  The only exception to this is amendments to the City Charter, which must go to the voters in all cases.

Have additional questions? Please contact the City Elections Office at or 503-865-6503.