Brown vetoes bill to ban per-signature pay

An East Bay lawmaker’s bill to ban per-signature pay for ballot-measure petition circulators has been vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

SB 168, by state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, would have forbidden paying ballot measure petition signature gatherers on a per-signature basis, which she said would reduce fraud by reducing the temptation to pad out petitions with bogus names.

In his veto message, Brown wrote he understands the potential abuses under the current system but sees two flaws in Corbett’s bill. First, it would bar groups from even setting targets or quotas for signature gatherers; he said making productivity goals into a crime seems impractical.

And second, per-signature payment often is the most cost-effective way to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, he wrote: “Eliminating this option will drive up the cost of circulating ballot measures, thereby further favoring the wealthiest interests.”

“I am not persuaded that the unintended consequences won’t be worse than the abuses the bill aims to prevent,” Brown wrote.

The bill’s opponents had said there’s little evidence of such fraud, but Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the state’s chief elections officer, was among those who had endorsed the bill.

The state Senate passed SB 168 in May on a 23-15 vote, and the Assembly passed it in July on a 48-28 vote.

UPDATE: Read the full story, updated with Corbett’s comment on the veto, here.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • crystal

    Is it illegal to pay people for their signature to get another person’s name on a ballot to run for office? Thanks

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    Crystal, It is legal to hire people to gather signatures on ballot initiative petitions. It is how it is done in California given the large numbers of voters that proponents must obtain to qualify to put a measure on the ballot. Lisa v.

  • Rick K.

    I wonder how much Jerry Brown and his public employee union allies are paying people to collect signatures for the tax increase measure that they are trying to put on the November 2012 ballot? Then Gov. Brown was looking out for his own self interest when he vetoed this bill! Let’s all be honest about this — the tax increases are necessary to ensure that “public safety” continues to enjoy its overgenerous “3% at 50” pension scheme that allows many state public safety workers to retire at age 50 and receive a guaranteed $100,000+ per year for life. California public safety workers have little incentive to play “Mega Millions” — they’ve already hit the jackpot! Why should I pay higher sales and income taxes so that some retired government workers enjoy a long, long retirements in luxury? Come on, they’re the ones that are paying the signature gatherers, not Gov. Brown (who is just their puppet/figurehead). Unless there’s meaningful pension reform in Sacramento immediately, citizens have a duty to refuse to sign the tax increase ballot measure petition.

  • John W.

    Re: #3

    Kudos to Ellen Corbett (Democrat) for trying. Maybe we could have a ballot initiative for a special surtax to cover the unfunded pension and retiree health care obligations. I’m sure it would attract broad support from the electorate, so long as only millionaires have to pay it.