Pay-per-Signature Gathering would be Prohibited under SB 1394

Friday, February 16 2018

Sacramento, CA – Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) today introduced SB 1394 to prohibit paying signature gatherers on per-signature basis in the state of California. The measure would prohibit the practice for state or local initiatives, as well as referendum and recall petitions.

“Petitioners who are paid per-signature have a powerful incentive to do whatever it takes to get voters to sign,” said Fullerton Democrat Josh Newman. “Too often this includes misrepresenting the purpose of the petition or straight out lying to get voters to sign. This is fraud, plain and simple, and it damages the integrity of the process. Voters have a right to know that what they are signing is actually what they will be voting for on the ballot.”

Under current state law, intentionally misleading a voter about the intent of a petition or failing to disclose that you are a paid petitioner is already a misdemeanor, but the penalties are rarely enforced.  SB 1394 would impose a fine of $25,000 or $50 per-signature gathered, whichever amount is greater, on the organizations that employ signature gatherers who are paid on a per-signature or ‘bounty’ basis. Signature gatherers themselves could be fined up to $1000 for participating in the practice, which has been shown to encourage and reward misleading voters.

SB 1394 would also allow an individual to bring a civil action for violations if the Attorney General does not. This would empower voters who witness fraud firsthand to be whistleblowers and protect the transparency of elections at the local level.

SB 1394 would not prohibit payment for signature gathering, only the payment of per-signature bounties. Employers could still pay their petitioners hourly wages or on salary.

Eight states, including Oregon, Colorado, Nebraska, and Arizona, have already adopted laws to ban paid signature gathering. Signature gatherer workers in these states instead earn an hourly wage.