Thursday, January 03, 2019

Good news for signature collectors; perhaps not so good for democracy

We all voted in November and a good thing too. Despite conventional wisdom that this is a moderate conservative country, when more of us vote, progressive measures and everyday people win.

In particular, we all voted in California, mostly for better Congesscritters and to make a statement. But as part of that package, some 12.4 million of us voted in the Governor's race between Gov. Gavin and some ho-hum GOPer. That'a a lot. In 2014 only 7.3 million of us voted in Gov. Jerry running against Some Dude.

The number of votes in the Governor's race sets how many signatures are required to put something on the state ballot. Those people who bother you with petitions need to collect 5 percent of the most recent turnout for Governor for an initiative and 8 percent for a state constitutional amendment. From 2014

it took 365,879 signatures to qualify an initiative and 585,407 for an amendment. ...

... [high turnout in 2018] jumped the initiative threshold to 623,212 signatures and 997,139 for amendments.

SF Chronicle

Almost all signature collection is accomplished by small semi-professional armies of folks who make their living at it. Signature gatherers are paid some $1.50 to $5 for each name they collect, depending on how close they are to the measure's deadline and what sponsors will bear. It's a tough job, but good workers can make a living. Sure -- they are a pain when you try to rush by them. But I try to be polite. I've done some collection on a volunteer basis for measures trying to save money. There's no need to be mean to the pest with the clipboard.

Who pays to put initiatives on our ballot? The rule of thumb recently was that it cost at least 1 million dollars. I imagine the new cost will escalate towards 2 million. Clearly this won't get done unless some rich donors want us to vote on something. Maybe we'll see a few less obscure measures, but we do also have more than our share of newly minted millionaires with political (and often self-serving) ideas.

California's proliferating ballot measures have long proved a mixed blessing for progressives ideas. Once in a while we can win something, but we also have to fight repeated defensive actions against often deceptive conservative attempts to get the voters to enshrine prejudices and tax breaks that legislatures won't pass.

Ah democracy ... colored and co-opted by money ... but still staggering forward.

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