Measure to Prohibit Bounty Signature Gathering, Passes California State Senate

Thursday, May 31 2018

Sacramento, CA – A measure by that would prohibit the practice of paying signature gatherers on a per-signature basis, was approved by the California State Senate today. Senate Bill (SB) 1394, authored by Fullerton Democrat Josh Newman, passed the Senate on a 24-13 vote.

“Lying about the intent of a petition is already a misdemeanor in California, but it is rarely if ever enforced,” said Newman. “When petitioners are paid per-signature, there is an added incentive to do whatever is necessary to get a voter to sign, and often times that means deceiving voters about the intent of the petition. This not only violates existing law but it puts our democracy at great risk and prevents transparency.”

“I’ve seen firsthand the deception that paying per-signature incentivizes,” said veteran Craig Norris. “Petitioners in my region were gathering signatures by telling voters the measure would ‘save the veterans cemetery’ in Irvine, when in fact it would have prevented that very cemetery from being built. As a veteran I was appalled, and as a voter I was outraged. This bill is critical to protect voters from such blatant and deliberate deception.”

Senate Bill 1394 would prohibit those who employ signature gatherers for the purpose of placing a state or local initiative, referendum or recall on the ballot, from paying petitioners on a per-signature basis. The measure would not prohibit payment for signature gathering, not based on the number of signatures obtained. Signature gatherers could still be paid on an hourly wage or salary.

Employers who violate the provisions of SB 1394 would be subject to a fine $25,000 or $50 per fraudulent signature gathered, whichever amount is greater.  The employer could also face up to one year of jail time.

Five other 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.

 

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