State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett is taking another stab at legislation to bar companies that gather petition signatures for ballot measures from paying workers on a per-signature basis.
Corbett said SB 168, introduced Thursday, would remove the incentive for signature gatherers to harass or bully voters into signing petitions, or to fabricate signatures; if they’re paid an hourly wage or salary, it won’t matter how many signatures they gather.
“Our initiative process was established at the turn of the century to give Californians more direct say in our democratic process. It was certainly not set up to create a scam to line the pockets of signature gatherers,” Corbett, D-San Leandro, said in a news release issued Friday afternoon. “Senate Bill 168 will help eliminate fraud and uphold the integrity of the initiative process.”
Some states have received reports of petition circulators forging signatures of names taken from a phonebook, she said; others inserted carbon paper and a second petition beneath the original one, without voters’ knowledge, to get signatures on two petitions at a time. And here in California, she noted, Sacramento County election officials in 2006 discovered that nearly 33 percent of signatures in a petition filed were fraudulent.
Corbett, along with senators Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and Dean Florez, D-Shafter, had put forth a similar bill in 2009 that was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009; the governor said it would limit the initiative process by making it “difficult for grassroots organizations to gather the necessary signatures and qualify measures for the ballot.”
A few states, including Colorado, Montana and Nebraska, passed similar laws in recent years, but a federal judge last June issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of Colorado’s in a still-pending lawsuit that claims the ban is unconstitutional.