Distict of Columbia voters gave a commanding lead in early returns last night to ballot proposals giving them the right to hold elections to enact or repeal legislation and to unseat elected officials.
In two questions on yesterday's ballots, the voters were asked wherever they wanted to add new provisions to the city's home rule charter to establish the rights of initiative and referendum and of recall.
The City Council voted last spring to seek the public vote on the proposals. They were promoted by a citizen organization called initiative D.C. and were endorsed last week by several top city officials including Mayor Walter E. Washington and DeL. Walter E. Fauntroy (D.D.C.).
The initiative would give voters broad, but not unlimited rights to vote to pass new laws that the City Council refuses to approve. A referndum would give voters the right to repeal laws after they are on the books.
Applied to Washington, the two procedures must be carried out within the legal framework of the home rule charter enacted by Congress which took effect in 1975. For example, a commuter tax - barred by the charter - could not be enacted by initiative.
The recall procedure gives the voters the right to remove elected officials from office.
All three procedures are widely used by states and cities around the country. California voters, for example, are called upon regularly to east votes on long lists of ballot propositions, many of them controversial.
The process of recall is rarely used. Typically it is a device to remove officials accused of wrongdoing and not those whose voting patterns become unpopular.
All the procedures are triggered by petitions that world be circulated and signed by the voters.
The measures voted upon yesterday require signatures of 5 per cent of all registered voters from a cross-section of the city's voting wards to put an initiative or referendum on the ballot. For recall, 10per cent of voters must sign.