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February 22, 2006

Educational Campaign Against Signing Initiatives?

Carla at Loaded Orygun has started writing about the sneaky operating procedures of signature gatherers in Oregon. She has a couple of stories about paid signature collectors misrepresenting the nature of the initiative in a blatant attempt to get signatures for crummy initiatives.  And then she says:

When a person asks you to sign their petition--if it sounds like they're selling you a bill of goods--they probably are. And while you've got them, find out how they're being paid. Is it hourly? Is it minimum wage ($7.50 per hour)? Are they docked pay if they don't meet a minimum signature amount?

The initiative signature gathering frenzy for the November elections will be getting underway shortly. Affixing your signature to an initiative just to get the guy out of your face is what makes these guys effective. And its also what gets these bullshit measures on the Oregon ballot.

It makes me wonder if we couldn't start a widespread, two-state "Be Careful What You Sign" campaign to educate voters about these stupid and costly initiatives.  Washington State voters defeated 912 handily but in the process we spent a lot of unnecessary money and energy.  In addition, the costs of the delayed transportation projects was pretty high, $66 million as I recall.  We also defeated the two very costly competing medical malpractice initiatives, 330 and 336, and now have a compromise bill sailing through to passage and signature. 

Folks might be ready for this - if we can set out some clear guidelines for what is signature-worthy and what is not.  I can see a tee-shirt on it right now: "Don't Waste Our Money" on one side and "Be Careful What You Sign" on the back. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 22, 2006 at 10:58 AM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink


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We've previously posted on the MajorityRulesBlog that people need to exercise their First Ammendment Rights of free speech when it comes to trying to stop bad initiatives. There have been several successful efforts in this state, including stopping Eyman's I-864 from getting on the ballot. In that case librarians and state employees who faced the loss of their jobs because he proposed cutting local property taxes 25% across the board, were among those involved who went out and talked to voters where petitioners were trying to get signatures.

When you see someone collecting signatures you don't need to wait for someone else to do something. You can engage potential signers
in conversation and urge them not to sign the petition if you don't support it. Urge people to read the petitions before they sign. Tell them you oppose the initiative and why. Urge them not to sign. Tell them others oppose the initiative and give names of organizations. Tell them the initiative is controversial and to read it before they sign. There are many things you can say but the point is you do not have to passively watch people sign the petitions. You can exercise your right of free speech.

Petitioners are often not the best source of information on what the initiative does. Even the petition itself can misrepresent what the initaive does. Several years ago Tim Eyman printed across the top of an initiative the words "No State Income Tax". The measure itself had nothing to do with an income tax and no mention of an income tax could be found anywhere in the initiative text.

Petitioners are usually paid a dollar or more a signature. The petitioners are probably not even voters in this state as they go from state to state like migrant farm workers do, going wherever the crop is ripe. I remember one petitioner telling his fellow worker that he was actually registered to vote in several states because some states have passed laws that only a registered voter can collect signatures. Washington does't have such a law but it should.

As long as you do not harrass people or the petitioner or stop people from signing if they want to, you have as much right as the petitioner does to talk to people. There aren't any "NO Free Speech Zones" surrounding a petitioner.

Posted by: Steve Zemke at MajorityRulesBlog | Feb 22, 2006 2:14:29 PM

Yes, such a public education campaign would be good -- and could be combined with other "decline to sign" efforts. If people are already out there to educate people against signing a given petition -- they could also have general information on petitions -- how to avoid being snookered, hoodwinked.

Posted by: Noemie Maxwell | Feb 22, 2006 3:10:45 PM

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