Any citizen or group of citizens could start the initiative process by drafting a proposed law and recording it with the United States attorney general. They then would have 18 months to collect petitions with valid signatures equal in number to 3 percent of the votes cast inthe most recent presidential election - at present, that would be 2.45 million.In addition, in order to prevent initiatives of purely local concern from getting on the ballot, that 3 percent requirement would have to be met in at least 10 states.

Once the signatures were collected, the attorney general would be responsible for checking their validity. Because the requirements for a "valid" petition signature are so technical, initiative proponents probably would have to get an extra 1 or 2 million to be certain; in effect, then the 3 percent requirement really is 4 to 5 percent.

Finally, if the petitions checked out, the proposed law would go on the next national election ballot. If voters passed it by a simple majority, it would become law in 30 days.

Initiatives would be limited in their legislative scope. They would not be used to declare war, call up the militia or amend the Constitution. Also, like any other law, an initiative law would be subjectto judicial review of its constitutionality and to congressional override. (Such overrides would require a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress and presidential concurrence during the first two years after passage, but simple majorities would suffice thereafter.)

"Some people are disappointed when we describe all the difficulties involved in getting an initiative on the ballot." says Bill Harrington. "But the purpose of the amendment isn't to replace Congress with a direct demovracy. It is just to add another check to the checks-and-balances system - in this case, the people, who are the ulimate source of political authority anyway."