Three voters claim ‘Six Californias’ petition fraud

A few voters from different parts of California complain that paid signature gatherers for a ballot measure to split the Golden State into six pieces lied to them, claiming the measure did the exact opposite of what it really does.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper submitted signatures Tuesday to qualify his “Six Californias” measure for the November 16 ballot. Stories about this inspired several voters to reach out with strikingly similar tales of alleged fraud.

signing a petitionThe company Draper paid to circulate his petitions has been accused of skullduggery in signature-gathering campaigns from coast to coast. That company’s owner said Tuesday these are the first complaints he has heard about this campaign, they’re insignificant in the context of about 1.3 million signatures gathered, and past allegations were trumped up by political foes.

Illijana Asara, 65, of Humboldt County, sent an email Tuesday detailing what she believed to be election fraud.

“Within the last two weeks, I was approached in front of the Dollar Store in Valley West shopping center in Arcata, CA, by a young man with a petition who suggested that if I signed the petition, I would be opposing the Attorney General of California’s intention to split the state into six states,” Asara wrote.

“I told him that I knew that there were people pushing this idea, but that it wasn’t the Attorney General and I didn’t sign the petition. As soon as I said that, he walked away,” she said. “There were lots of people signing, so it could be that a lot of people bought his line. I don’t know if this has happened elsewhere, but since there is so little support for this notion, it may have.”

Another Californian, who uses the Yahoo! name Xrich, recounted a similar story in a comment posted to a news story about the measure.

“I was approached by a campaigner at Walmart who tried to get me to sign the petition,” Xrich wrote. “The canvasser said the petition was to oppose the division of California but I read it and said the proposal was in support of dividing California. … I told him to stuff it, but I bet a lot of people signed it thinking they were opposing, not supporting the division of California.”

Deborah Hernandez, 40, of Orange County, said Tuesday that this is “exactly describing what happened to me.” She said she was outside a Target store in Aliso Viejo about a month ago when a signature-gatherer approached her with the same story about the Six Californias measure, and also misrepresented the content of another measure dealing with criminal penalties.

“I read them both … and I said to him, you’re completely misrepresenting what these things are about,” she said. “Then he proceeded to tell me I must not know how to read and understand these petitions correctly.”

She promptly informed him of her degree in literature from UC-Irvine: “I have excellent reading comprehension.”

“I got really mad, I got into it with him,” Hernandez said. “I told him, you can just stand out here lying to people.”

Indeed, California Elections Code 18600 says anyone who circulates a ballot-measure petition and “intentionally misrepresents or intentionally makes any false statement concerning the contents, purport or effect of the petition” when asking someone to sign is committing a misdemeanor.

Lots more, after the jump…

Voters can file complaints with the Secretary of State’s Election Fraud Investigation Unit – either by calling 800-345-VOTE, or by downloading a form and mailing or faxing it in – or with the local district attorney, said Shannan Velayas, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office. But such complaints are kept confidential, so Velayas couldn’t say whether similar complaints have been made about this particular measure.

The Secretary of State doesn’t have prosecutorial authority, but if there’s enough evidence of wrongdoing, it can refer its findings to the state attorney general or a local district attorney, Velayas said. That prosecutor then decides whether or not to press charges.

Six Californias hired Arno Political Consultants – a Carlsbard firm, founded in 1979 by Michael Arno, that has gathered signatures for scores of ballot measures and politicians all over the nation – to do its signature gathering. Campaign-finance reports show Arno was paid $1,317,913 in March; reports for the year’s second quarter haven’t been filed yet.

Arno said Tuesday that he hired more than 1,000 signature gatherers around the state to circulate Six California’s petitions. Told of the similar complaints from various locations, he replied, “That’s the first I’ve heard of it … I have no idea why that would happen. This has been one of the cleaner drives I can remember.”

While he said it’s possible that the allegations are true, “I can’t control all circulators, and I think it’s a very de minimis problem when you figure we collected 1.3 million signatures.”

Arno’s company has faced complaints like this before, many of which were documented in the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center’s 2007 report, “Abusing Direct Democracy: Bad Actors in the Signature Gathering Process.”

“Arno Consulting is known as one of the largest and most successful signature gathering firms in the country,” the report said. “Despite his impressive client list and years of experience, Arno is also known for something else: being accused of deception and illegalities in his signature gathering practices.”

The report detailed a litany of accusations against Arno and its subcontractors in various states. And in California, the center as well as then-Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres complained in 2007 of bait-and-switch tactics used to gather signatures for a Republican-backed measure to change how California allocates its Electoral College votes.

Arno said Tuesday that the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center is a liberal group funded by the Service Employees International Union and billionaire financier George Soros, which had a signature-gathering arm of its own and sought to tarnish his reputation because he worked on anti-labor measures, an anti-gay-marriage measure in Massachusetts and the Electoral College measure in California.

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.

  • Sincerely hope that the Secretary of State takes these complaints seriously and investigates.

  • dc matthews

    Tea in its glory -Financial gains for the few dumping others. Divides
    and conquers the United people of USA for profit This would really
    help their leaderships policy and planning of work towards a 2 CLASS
    USA – NO WAY. Might seem good at first and they hope the voters never
    learn all they are asking for before they vote.

  • Willis James

    OMG, a few falsehoods being put out by signature gatherers…

    Simply shocking. I’m sure the culprits will be rounded up and punished.

    Why all the fuss? The measure won’t pass and even if it did, it is impossible that it will make it over the other hurdles it faces.
    No one thinks California has one chance in one hundred of being split up.

    Me thinks the fuss is over what types of voters it may attract in the 2016 election.
    Sacramento control hacks like Steve Maviglio are concerned they’ll lose their hammerlock on the election and that their other “pet” ballot measures may fail if more alternative voters show up in greater numbers.

    Remember Maviglio, who is heading the opposition to Six Californias, is the same guy who tried to fool the voters into giving up their right to have a citizens commission decide reapportionment.
    Maviglio tried to give that hugely important power back to the power hungry legislature, filled with politicians who would re-configure their districts to benefit themselves. Pure power grabbing greed by Maviglio and his band of control freaks.

    That is the same crew that is up in arms about this new measure.
    They certainly don’t have the voters best interests in mind in anything they do. All they do is to try to retain their control of what goes on in Sacramento and elsewhere.
    The same bunch that brought us the stellar California State Senate where every few weeks a new senator was being arrested or indicted. Their guys on parade.

  • Athena Huong Truong

    I was one of the victim as well. Few weeks ago, there were 2 young people. They were at O.C.C. (Orange Coast College), trying to gather signatures from students. First person approached me and explained to me about the petition. He said something related to against splitting California into different states. He asked me to vote. The other person (or 2nd), he gave me the pen and paper and asked me to sign on it. I asked him again …the purpose to sign this petition. He hesitated a little but moved on…. He told me that the petition is about California education. The petition is for asking the State Senate increase the school money/educational money up more. Because I couldn’t hear what the first guy explained very well… I misunderstood the REAL purpose of the petition, and signed it. After knowing the REAL purpose and story, I’ve regretted signing it.

    So I hope others won’t make mistake like I did.

    P.S. I haven’t registered to vote yet, so I’m not sure that my signature will count.
    Sorry for my bad English.

  • Willis James

    Your signature will not count regardless since you aren’t registered to vote.
    You sound totally mixed up. What you may not realize is that a single signature gatherer, may be carrying 3, 4, 5, or even 6 petitions at once.
    Sounds like you got mixed up in the multiple petitions he may have had and were being promoted. There was one for increasing money for the schools. (There is always one for increasing money for the schools)

    Tell you what.
    #1. Register to vote if you are eligible. Are you a citizen? If so you can register, regardless of your English.

    #2. Read anything you sign. Citizens have only themselves to blame if they don’t at least read the title and summary at the top in bold print.

    #3. This entire dust up over a few inappropriate signature gatherers is laughable.
    It happens with every petition. The folks doing it don’t care about anything but getting paid.
    Just like legislators, they only care about getting votes (getting paid), and they’ll tell just about any old thing in the process.

    In my book, the rate of liars in the petition business is far less than the rate of liars in the legislature.
    You won’t see 3 out of 40 petition gatherers getting arrested, as you recently saw in our revered State Senate.

    As many crooks in the lobbyist crowd as in the petition gathering business.
    Last time I looked, none of the petition gatherers were being arrested for shoplifting $2,500 of clothing while they were working the petition business.

  • Elwood

    Oh, please!

    See previous posts by Willis James.

  • Athena Huong Truong

    I did try to take all papers and read them, but then those people hid them away from me and other students. They just wanted to explain by their mouth. The told us that those paper for other purposes.
    I will take your advice 🙂 Thank you.
    It was my first time to sign a petition (or vote) like that, so I guessed I was too naive ^-^

  • aanthony48

    I just left this comment on SF Gate under my username PJWolfer and will leave it here as well:

    The signature gatherer I encountered absolutely tried to trick me into signing. He told me to sign if I OPPOSED the idea of splitting the state up. Well, I know that you don’t gather signatures to keep a proposal OFF the ballot, but I played along and read the text, refused to sign and then called him a LIAR to his face before walking away in disgust.

    If someone could let me know the contact information for OneCalifornia, I would love to help them out. I wasn’t duped, but I can attest to the attempt.

  • Willis James

    Look, none of this is gonna keep the measure off the ballot. One California is just as crooked as Six Californias.

    Were you equally as disgusted with the leader of OneCalifornia, Steve Maviglio when he tried to overturn the Citizens Reapportionment Committee and attempted to fool the voters into returning that power to corrupt politicians in the legislature. Where they would then go back to drawing up there own favorable district lines.

    If you don’t understand that power grab by Maviglio and his pals, then you should look up “gerrymander” so you can understand the nature of those guys.

    Finally Six California’s is never going to become law.
    If you don’t understand why, then time for you to understand the process necessary for that to come about. Chance of it happening 1 in 10,000.

  • angryaboutballotfraud

    Mike Arno is scum, and he hires scum and felons. Proof: http://www.pinterest.com/amouse1347/bad-actors-in-the-political-world/

  • angryaboutballotfraud

    If Arno not only fails to screen his employees for fraudulent behavior, but goes out of his way to hire and prop up criminals, is he not responsible for the misrepresentation? http://norauner.com/2013/11/10/more-on-the-company-rauner-hired-to-get-petition-signatures/comment-page-1/

  • Willis James

    angryaboutballotfraud… Seems the newly minted opposition to this ballot measure is as contrived as those who are promoting it.

    Brand new poster, angryaboutballotfraud.

    Funny, these same folks don’t question the leader of the opposition, Steven Maviglio, a top Sacramento insider and aid to John Perez.

    Maviglio is the leader of One California, opposing the ballot measure.

    Remember, that same Maviglio was the guy who led the fight to pass Prop 27, back in 2010, a measure that would have taken away the right of a citizen’s commission to do fair redistricting in California.

    Prop 27, would have given that crucial power back to the legislators, allowing them to draw their own crazy district lines. Where politicians choose the voters, rather than voters choosing the legislators.

    The people of California saw through that fraud and told Maviglio and his insider pals, to stop trying to fool the voters into giving all that power back to political hacks.
    Here is the falsehood that Maviglio tried to fool voters with–
    ““[Prop 27] will allow elected officials who are voted on to make those decisions,” Maviglio said. “We should keep politicians accountable, and we can always vote people out of office.”

    What a joke… he fails to tell the voter that redistricting only happens once every 10 years and it was the power that kept the power firmly entrenched. Maviglio was making a last gasp effort to return to the old corrupt ways drawing arcane district boundries… selecting pockets of voters here and pockets there.
    At one point, John Burton’s congressional district had him in San Francisco, with a tiny pocket of friendly voters 20 miles away in Vallejo…

    So when you see “angryaboutballotfraud” suddenly popping up, think about Maviglio at work. A person who has shown over the years that he cares little about true democracy.
    Sure, the folks who gather signatures are crooked, but those now expressing outrage have their own history full of attempts to corrupt our voting rights.

  • angryaboutballotfraud

    That was a long, well-thought response, just to shoot the messenger. I have a short reply. Many circulators used a plebiscite to mislead the voters into signing Six States (fact). Arno printed, delivered and paid for the plebiscite (fact), SUPPOSEDLY with money separate from the Six States petition. Was it separate money? Or was it a price increase from Draper that was supposed to be used for the petition itself? That’s what I demand to know. The fact that Arno hired out of state circulators toward the end of the initiative and paid them the extra money for getting the one Six States signature when others who were already working on it in-state had to get the plebiscite signature and the Six States signature for the same price is indicative of shenanigans. It wasn’t just a travel bonus. Those are calculated separately and paid for based on performance. Is it possible that instead of paying the in-state circulators more money with a price increase, Arno had them collect the fake signatures for an extra buck because he wanted the circulators who were already under-performing to use the well known tactic for an unpopular initiative that he has been busted for time and time again? Bait and switch. They told the circulators who were having difficulty to lead with the plebiscite, printed it, delivered it to the coordinators, and then refused to pay the in-state under-performing circulators the full price that other circulators were getting unless they got signatures for both. It’s not like Arno has been caught using the bait and switch tactic before is it? But this time, there is clear evidence of him providing both the tools and the financial incentive to do so based on the circulator’s performance. What is the penalty for providing the tools and the financial incentive for circulators to commit mass voter fraud? Check and mate.
    P.S. By the way, maybe I’m not a paid shill for the opposition. Maybe I’m just a pissed off circulator with an ax to grind because I tried to do my job honestly and got punished in every way possible for it. Some of us truly want the system to improve.

  • Elwood

    Tempest in a teapot doesn’t begin to describe this conversation. Much ado about nothing.

  • angryaboutballotfraud

    The fact that it only took you a matter of minutes to reply on a six day old article says otherwise.

  • Willis James

    Look, as you indicate, Arno has a long history of shady dealings. It a business and he is only in it for the money, as are 98% of the signature gathers.
    It is normal to have a fair degree of misinformation in the process.
    Signature gatherers are often treated unfairly.

    However none of that is going to materially affect the issue getting on the ballot.
    The current screaming has much more to do with the One California crew and their own agenda.

    I’m just saying that the One California leadership is no better than Arno and his gang.
    The One California gang has show over and over they don’t care about democracy for the voters. They just want to hang onto power (money)… Very similar to Arno (money).

    We know this SixCalifornias will never become reality, so this is all about each side’s hidden agenda and the effect on the 2016 election cycle that the measure would have by being on the ballot.

  • angryaboutballotfraud

    A lot of those petition circulators are felons Athena. The one you are talking to right now may even be one of them. I know of one felon gatherer in particular who is a CONVICTED FELON for defrauding elderly people of their retirement accounts. He has also been arrested multiple times and accused of serious violent crimes against women. I would think twice before I register to vote with one of these people. They could turn out to be a criminal or a stalker, and when you register to vote, you give them your name, address, signature, last four of your social or driver’s license. Everything they need to steal your identity or stalk you. It’s not a chance I would want to take with a stranger who hasn’t even had a background check from his employer, and especially not on a petition where the employer goes out of their way to hire felons. Danger! If you want to register to vote, do it on line or with the registrar. If you want to sign a petition, ask who the proponents are and then call the proponents to tell them you want to sign. They will accommodate you. They would prefer to do it this way instead of paying some possibly criminal joker to do it. Especially if it means they might be responsible for the criminal’s behavior if he harms you. http://www.freep.com/article/20140509/NEWS01/305090024/John-Conyers-petition-circulator-wanted-fugitive Some of these people are even convicted rapists or child molesters. Stay clear.

  • Elwood

    Omigod, the sky is falling! We’re all doomed! Run for your lives!

    I have read some ridiculous BS in my time, but this ranks right up there near the top.

  • Willis James

    I see, everyone run for your life.
    Never, under any circumstance, sign a petition to get anything on the ballot.

    I guess we should just outlaw the entire process and leave it up to our intelligent and well meaning legislators to place important issues on the ballot.

    Seems angryaboutballotfraud would just love to see that.
    Let the pros in Sacramento do our thinking.

    The process is imperfect and filled with flaws. But that is not even close to a good reason to throw it overboard.
    The legislature is bought and sold to the highest bidder. We don’t want them in control of everything.

  • angryaboutballotfraud

    That is not at all what I said. Sarcasm doesn’t become this discussion. We have just made the very clear point together that our initiative process goes to the highest criminal bidder as well. So what’s the difference between it and the legislature in its current form. I said, contact the proponents to prevent sharing your name with criminal circulators. It’s not as if the voters are so helpless that they have to depend on criminals and derelicts to help them register to vote or sign an initiative. And I DO want the process revamped. It’s dangerous as is. We can start by screening out felons who have been convicted of violent or financial crimes, or fraud, like Arizona does 🙂 Oh, I wouldn’t prevent them from being involved in the process, just from receiving any financial gain from it. There. Takes away the incentive for fraud while not denying them there right to the ballot. Sounds like a perfect solution. And since Arno will probably be on that list of felons soon, well..that’s just a tidy solution to the whole mess. California might have a good petition process after that kind of a thorough clean-up.

  • angryaboutballotfraud

    Shouldn’t you be at a grocery store lying to the voters for your beer money Elwood?