January 17, 2007
A legislative coup to undermine the people's constitutional right of initiative

I recently e-mailed Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), lead sponsor of the bill that would outlaw per-signature payments for initiative petitions, asking her to support the claim that such compensation "increases the possibility of fraud". Her response:

If you contact the Secretary of State's office, Sam Reed has many instances of fraud.
I contacted Reed's top deputy, Steve Excell. He was unable to confirm Appleton's claim. The remainder of Appleton's response demonstrates that the bill is motivated not by a legitimate desire to reduce fraud, but by a political animus against the citizen's right to initiative.

Excell:

Historically, there was no real way to tell which petitions were circulated by volunteers and which were circulated by paid signature gatherers.

So we do not have any historical statistical data that proves that point.

Excell e-mailed again after checking further with his staff, and reported that some felt there was "anecdotal" evidence that paid signatures had a higher rejection rate than signatures collected by volunteers, but acknowledged that this wasn't based on particularly reliable information. Excell offered no information to suggest that signatures collected with per-signature compensation have been any more prone to fraud than paid signatures collected with other forms of compensation. He also suggested I look at Oregon's Measure 26, which similarly banned per-signature compensation and survived a 9th Circuit Appeal. I did. There was never any serious evidence that per-signature payments produce more fraud than other forms of compensation, but the 9th Circuit upheld the political decision to ban such compensation regardless. And the ban has only made it more difficult for citizen initiative campaigns, without preventing fraud.

Appleton continued:

The whole issue behind Initiative and Referendum is it belongs to the people. The framers of the State Constitution envisioned citizens who were passionate about issues - either enacting legislation or repealing what the legislature had passed - to go out to the general public and gather signatures. It was not supposed to be an easy process - we do not have direct democracy but a representative democracy.

It was not supposed to be big business, but a heartfelt response to what action or inaction in the legislature.

Like I said, the bill to outlaw appropriate compensation for signature gatherers has nothing to do fraud control and everything to do with certain legislators' preference to incapacitate the citizens' constitutional right to initiative, which they feel is an inconvenient challenge to their own power.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at January 17, 2007 11:10 AM | Email This
Comments
1. How is paying per signature for an initiative any different than paying a campaign consultant to help build support for any other issue or candidate?

Posted by: Chris on January 17, 2007 11:01 AM
2. how 'bout outlawing paid gatherers if we can gather online with verified signatures?

Posted by: eastkingcountyrednecklogger on January 17, 2007 11:04 AM
3. Notice how the Dem's want to ban paid signature gathering for initiatives, but not ban paid signature gathering for voter registration (which has been proven to be way more fraudulent).

Posted by: TrueSoldier on January 17, 2007 11:06 AM
4. right, true--but--let's attach a point to the bill for no driver licenses for illegal aliens & no benefits at all for the same illegals. the illegal immigrant rights protesters and activists are all unlaid? hah.

Posted by: jimmie-howya-doin on January 17, 2007 11:14 AM
5. 3 & 4: I meant "unpaid" not unlaid. (sorry, leftie activists--slip of tounge--i must have been reviewing the latest WA public education initiatives from pressure groups.)

Posted by: jimmie-howya-doin on January 17, 2007 11:17 AM
6. If this damn thing fails to pass, and I hope it does (typing with crossed fingers here), we may need another initiative. That would be the banning of paid campaign consultants for both issues and political office. Seems to me that both of those are pretty big business too.

I'm sure the original framers of the state constitution envisioned legislators who were passionate about issues and wanted them enacting legislation or repealing what the people really wanted by going to the general public and gather the support in person without help from uninterested or hyper interested outside persons.

Posted by: G Jiggy on January 17, 2007 11:25 AM
7. A bit off topic, but related to initiatives and referendum... Anyone want to bet if we will ever see a legislator with the guts to ban or limit the use of emergency clause in legislation?

Posted by: C. Oh on January 17, 2007 11:32 AM
8. The left hates the initiative process because they have the courts locked-up in this state and initiatives can get around that control. But beyond that:

All this breathless gasping by the elites in Olympia shows the disrespect that they have of voters. The gathering of signatures for an initiative essentially means nothing legislative-wise. It is the voting that carries the weight. For example: I will sign any initiative no matter if I'm agin it or afor it. Because I know that it is the voters who will decide. I trust them.

You can sign all the initiatives in the world and if they are bad ideas that the people don't like or want, they won't become law. The initiative is a step in the process, just like a it's supposed to work.

Posted by: G Jiggy on January 17, 2007 11:39 AM
9. A bas le HB 1087!

Posted by: Michele on January 17, 2007 12:04 PM
10. Bitterly ironic, no?

Democrats (capital D) taking action to limit the workings of democracy (lower-case d).

Posted by: ewaggin on January 17, 2007 12:07 PM
11. Also, notice how the bill intent language (in Section 1) talks about similar measures being upheld in Oregon, New York, and North Dakota cases. Appleton conveniently fails to mention, however, that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Colorado ban on signature payments (Meyer v. Grant, 1988), and just a couple months ago a federal district court struck down a per-signature payment ban in Ohio (Citizens v. Deter).

Posted by: Jonathan on January 17, 2007 12:11 PM
12. What "fraud" would that be? Duplicate signatures? Non existant addresses? Signature doesn't match voter registration? Signer not a registered voter?

We accept all of this "fraud" as a matter of course for registration and voting, why should it be a larger - legislation required - issue with gathering signatures?

As G Jiggy points out, the signature gathering DOESN'T matter - the actual vote matters. I-912 gathered gazillions of signatures, but the vote shot it down. One of Eyman's last initiatives gathered lots of signatures, but not quite enough to get on the ballot.

Again, what "fraud" is being perpetrated?

Posted by: SouthernRoots on January 17, 2007 12:15 PM
13. It's because we don't know what we are voting on, dontcha know. We are not smart enough to evaluate complex issues of state taxation.

This is the prevailing attitude of those in state government, and it shows a complete contempt for the voters.

Posted by: Palouse on January 17, 2007 12:37 PM
14. I have already sent an email to Rep. Appleton & Rep. Eddy in the district where I live, to express opposition to this bill. I hope all voters will do the same.

Posted by: CleanHouse on January 17, 2007 12:51 PM
15. Stefan said "Like I said, the bill to outlaw appropriate compensation for signature gatherers has nothing to do fraud control and everything to do with certain legislators' preference to incapacitate the citizens' constitutional right to initiative, which they feel is an inconvenient challenge to their own power."

TOTALLY false. It's to prevent RICH people from creating laws OUTSIDE the basic democratic values upon which this country was founded.

Only those that want the RICH to control everything would like paid signature gatherers to remain. Stefan...it's good to know where you stand -- buying law is much better than the hard work of enacting it democratically!

Posted by: StefanisWrong on January 17, 2007 12:52 PM
16. Hey CleanHouse...why not just PAY everyone who sends an email..seems you like to BUY results if you are against the bill.

Time to put your money where your mouth is...perfect timing for it....PAY AWAY

Posted by: StefanisWrong on January 17, 2007 12:54 PM
17. The only Reason the poster at #15 and 16 has said this, is because he knows that it is the Democrats who like to buy votes in the election when voters actually vote on the initiative. Thanks for making it clear.

Posted by: TrueSoldier on January 17, 2007 12:58 PM
18. #15, whoever you are (I am not going to call your false name out), name one initiative that was put to a vote because RICH people bought the signatures? Other than the special election that Paul Allen bought for the construction of Qwest Field, which wasn't even an initiative, I can't think of one. So, there you have it. There is already a way for a super rich guy to buy an election and a special interest legislation, but no initiative had ever been put to a vote because of a few rich people desiring a certain outcome.

Posted by: C. Oh on January 17, 2007 12:59 PM
19. creating laws OUTSIDE the basic democratic values upon which this country was founded.

Initiatives are part of our state constitution, ya know, that document by which this sovereign state was founded? You can get rid of them by getting a constitutional amendment passed. Good luck with that.

Posted by: Palouse on January 17, 2007 01:05 PM
20. Yeah #15, those nasty people paying for signatures. They should be banned. Get rid of those notoriously fraudulent signature gatherers - ACORN, that right wing group full of rich guys!

Posted by: Right said Fred on January 17, 2007 01:41 PM
21. Another example of "dehorning the cows during the egg strike". If Appleton and others are really that intent on cleaning up voter fraud, they should start with the messed up voter rolls, which abound with examples of fraud. If she wants to do something truly meaningful for the citizens of this state, she would advocate eliminating the current voter rolls and have all eligible voters re-register. But, no, we won't see anything that sensible come out of Olympia.

Posted by: Burdabee on January 17, 2007 01:46 PM
22. Keep it up, fellers, and way to focus on the base issues.

As long as you have Timmy, Smirky, Cheney, Rummy, Condoleezza, DeLay, Scooter, and the rest on the front page, life is easier next election.

Unfortunately for you guys, it's a broad brush and you can't escape.

Posted by: Jim on January 17, 2007 01:56 PM
23. Jim @ #22: What?

Posted by: G Jiggy on January 17, 2007 02:06 PM
24. 22# That didn't make a heck of a lot of sense.

First off, none of those people has anything to do with the state initiative process.

Second off, I don't think a single name on that list is going to be up for next election cycle.

Final point, your side has Teddy, Turban Durban, Cantvotewell, the weak thinker from West Seattle, and a push for a state income tax on the table, and the session isn't even a month old.

(And lets not forget Obama - who is already becoming a gaffe machine and hasn't even formally announced his run for the presidency. A few months from now he's going to WISH the press was only talking about his big ears. He's already admitted coke and pot use in his own books. How's that going to play out in the square states, huh?)

Two years is a long, long time.

Posted by: johnny on January 17, 2007 02:19 PM
25. It's been interesting to observe the "neener,neener,neener!" character of so many leftist posters since the election.

They're amusing to read, and confirm my belief that many lefties have roughly the maturity of middle school students.

Posted by: Bill Cruchon on January 17, 2007 02:59 PM
26. US Constitution 1st amendment:
Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech...

Washington State Constitution Article 1, section 5:

Every person may freely speak, write and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse
of that right.

Article 2, section 1:
The first power reserved by the people is the
initiative.


Looks like the legislators could use a course in basic education and elementary reading. Of course, wanting to limit the voice of the people in order to pay our special interests with reckless abandon and to hell with the people is what the d's are all about.

"Constitution, we don't need no stinking Constitution!"

Posted by: drw on January 17, 2007 03:11 PM
27. C. Oh @ 15 says:

"name one initiative that was put to a vote because RICH people bought the signatures?"

Your memory is pretty short, C. I-920, pimped by Frank Blethen and Martin Selig, and I-933, bankrolled largely by Howard Rich, both used paid signature gatherers.

These are two prime examples of why Rep. Appleton's bill, which I support, will become law. The vast majority of voters in this state don't want a repetition of that.

Nothing stops anyone from gathering signatures for an initiative with volunteer labor. So the notion that this is an attack on the initiative process is just more of Stefan's BS, which you lot are only too eager to swallow.

Look on the bright side. "The left" can't pay signature gatherers for initiatives either. So quit your whining and come up with some public policy that people will support.

Posted by: ivan on January 17, 2007 03:44 PM
28. Ivan,

I-920 was opposed by the RICH too and they paid to try and get people not to vote for it. That is fine with you, but not the effort to actually get it on the ballot so people can vote against the "emergency" that isn't.

I don't understand. Do you believe Unions should spend "their" money and money that isn't on causes? Isn't that the RICH buying stuff? They bought the GOV, isn't that bad?

Posted by: Dengle on January 17, 2007 04:02 PM
29. Mike Sells response (warning, not for the feint of heart or anyone with a brain):

"The initiative process has been increasingly usurped by those who have money to pay signature gatherers. I want to make sure that the process is returned to the people of the State of Washington, as I believe it was originally intended. Secondly, when you have people collecting signatures to earn money off of those signatures the incentive for fraud is increased. The ability to get an initiative on the ballot should not be for sale to the highest bidder, and should rely on the merits of the idea, as opposed to the ability to buy a way onto the ballot. I do not believe it is an abridgement of freedom of speech to make the initiative process a level playing field for all our citizens. You are still
capable, as will be any citizen, to circulate and gather signatures on a petition."

What a load of hooey!


Posted by: drw on January 17, 2007 04:27 PM
30. Ivan, the US Supreme Court has held that this IS an attack on the initiative process and is against the 1st and 14th amendments.

The USSC held:

The statutory prohibition against the use of paid circulators abridges appellees' right to engage in political speech in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

(a) The statute is subject to exacting scrutiny, since the circulation of an initiative petition seeking to deregulate the Colorado trucking industry necessarily constitutes "core political speech," for which First Amendment protection is at its zenith. The statute burdens such speech in two ways: First, it limits the number of voices that will convey appellees' message and the hours they can speak and, therefore, limits the size of the audience they can reach. Second, it makes it less likely that appellees will garner the number of necessary signatures, thus limiting their ability to make the matter the focus of statewide discussion. The statute's burden on speech is not relieved by the fact that other avenues of expression remain open to appellees, since the use of paid circulators is the most effective, fundamental, and perhaps economical means of achieving direct, one-on-one communication, and appellees' right to utilize that means is itself protected by the First Amendment. Nor is the statutory burden rendered acceptable by the State's claimed authority to impose limitations on the scope of the state-created right to legislate by initiative; the power to ban initiatives entirely [486 U.S. 414, 415] does not include the power to limit discussion of political issues raised in initiative petitions. Posadas de Puerto Rico Associates v. Tourism Co. of Puerto Rico, 478 U.S. 328 , distinguished. Pp. 420-425.
(b) The State has failed to sustain its burden of justifying the statutory prohibition. The argument that justification is found in the State's interest in assuring that an initiative has sufficient grass roots support to be placed on the ballot is not persuasive, since that interest is adequately protected by the requirement that the specified number of signatures be obtained. Nor does the State's claimed interest in protecting the integrity of the initiative process justify the prohibition, because the State has failed to demonstrate the necessity of burdening appellees' ability to communicate in order to meet its concerns. It cannot be assumed that a professional circulator - whose qualifications for similar future assignments may well depend on a reputation for competence and integrity - is any more likely to accept false signatures than a volunteer motivated entirely by an interest in having the proposition placed on the ballot. Moreover, other statutory provisions dealing expressly with the potential danger of false signatures are adequate to minimize the risk of improper circulation conduct. Pp. 425-428.


Sorry Ivan, but you're the one shoveling BS around here.

Posted by: drw on January 17, 2007 04:30 PM
31. BTW Ivan, both I-920 and I-933 failed. So the integrity of the election system is maintained without the need to violate the citizens' rights.

Posted by: drw on January 17, 2007 05:11 PM
32. Paying someone to gather signatures isn't a crime. Paying someone to sign a petition is the crime.

Paying someone (or not) to harass people into not signing a petition, or harassing signature gatherers into not gathering signatures is also the crime.

If you contact the Secretary of State's office, Sam Reed has many instances of fraud.

If all Sam sees are signatures, names/addresses, and voter registrations, what are the "many instances of fraud" that they see? Can't be any worse than what counties see at election time ....


Posted by: SouthernRoots on January 17, 2007 05:34 PM
33. How about outlawing paid legislators, Rep. Sherry Appleton?

Do tell me this is one of your most important feats this year.

To take away the initiative process from the people of this state.

While you eagerly accepted a 16k raise in your legislative wages

And want it to be a full time job so you can collect even more

And I suspect you want an income tax to boot

Your type shold be shown the door!

Posted by: GS on January 17, 2007 06:43 PM
34. "Stefan said 'Like I said, the bill to outlaw appropriate compensation for signature gatherers has nothing to do fraud control and everything to do with certain legislators' preference to incapacitate the citizens' constitutional right to initiative, which they feel is an inconvenient challenge to their own power.'

"TOTALLY false. It's to prevent RICH people from creating laws OUTSIDE the basic democratic values upon which this country was founded.

"Only those that want the RICH to control everything would like paid signature gatherers to remain. Stefan...it's good to know where you stand -- buying law is much better than the hard work of enacting it democratically!"

Posted by: StefanisWrong on January 17, 2007 12:52 PM

RICH people like the public employee unions who ran I-728, I-732, I-884 and I-790, Mr. StefanisWrong?

Posted by: ram on January 17, 2007 07:55 PM
35. How about a tradeoff - more time allowed for collecting signatures for petitions in turn for no paid signature gatherers ? That is still probably not fair.

I have a problem with this - namely More government control over this process. Isn't this a shot at incrementalism (a tool used by the left) ? Careful how this story is stated - It is not about eliminating the initiative process as I once heard earlier. It is a step in that direction, but a ways from it. So how are the Republicans going to oppose this - passively or actively ?

Posted by: KS on January 17, 2007 07:59 PM
36. Stefaniswrong: The signature gatherers are paid. The signers are NOT, nor are the voters once it comes to a vote, which, by the way, is called DEMOCRACY. Get your facts and civics straight before you bloviate.

Posted by: katomar on January 17, 2007 08:55 PM
37. ivan is clueless, so I'm not surprised that he got it wrong.

The proposed legislation doesn't ban paying people to gather signatures. It only bans payment on a per-signature basis.

If this anti-democratic measure were to pass, some other method of payment that approximated per-signature would evolve.

It would be less efficient, and that would make the signature gathering process more expensive.

And that wouldn't do a damn thing to discourage people with money to burn from using the initiative process.

What it would do is make it harder for a grass-roots organization, operating on a shoe-string, to participate.

Posted by: ewaggin on January 17, 2007 09:52 PM
38. When have facts and data ever meant anything to democrats? Facts get in the way of what they really want to do. Facts serve no purpose to them because they can only push forward their idiotic ideas by either ignoring facts or, as in this case, creating "faux facts". Hmmm, reminds me of the global warming debate... Oh that's right, "the debates over". I forgot.

Posted by: Scott C on January 18, 2007 10:50 AM
39. ewaggin is correct in that the bill DOES NOT ban paying signature gatherers, but paying by the signature would be a felony. But the point is that the USSC did not make that distinction, they shot down the whole outlawing payment at all using the logic that circulating petitions is by definition "core political speech" and the statute would violate that by 1)limits the number of voices conveying the message and 2)makes it less likely to gather enough signatures thereby limiting their ability to bring a statewide discussion on the topic.

So the method of payment is irrelevent. Outlawing payment is illegal and unconstitutional. But like most dems, they won't let a little thing like the Constitution get in the way of their power! Let the state spend millions of dollars defending the indefensible. By the time it reaches the USSC, there will be many initiatives that didn't intrude on their power trip.

Posted by: drw on January 18, 2007 11:09 AM
40. Come on drw, the constitution is a 'living document'. Anytime a progessyve cause is questionable it grows another meaning. Anytime a conservative issue comes up it is written in stone. Could that be because things grow better in manure?

Its a pity inconsistency isn't unconstitutional.

Posted by: Right said Fred on January 18, 2007 12:00 PM
41. hearing on this bill January 26

http://www.leg.wa.gov/legislature/showagenda.aspx?id=11174&Acronym=SGTA

Posted by: anon on January 18, 2007 12:57 PM
42. Those in politics for a few years know Appelton is a no holds bared politcal animal . She plays the game of the liberal tolerance , co sponsoring the homosexual marriage act this year also by the way .

When Ellen Craswell was the republican Senator in North Kitsap , Appelton took a shot at her in the Primary . As a republican , right before the Primary note she took out a politcal advertisement condemning Craswells religious beliefs .. What a smuck ... She since became a democrat , they just love her for it . But this concern of all people is bogus , its whoever is in her idealogue belief system .. Socialism is part of Washington State , get use to it .. Just be ready to jump in when it fails , many people will be hurting .

Posted by: Mick on January 18, 2007 11:04 PM
43. "Coup"? Isn't this a way to protect initiative campaigns from unscrupulous people who take payment for collecting signatures that later turn out to be invalid? How is it "less efficient" to pay gatherers by the hour than by the signature? I bet the hourly rate would actually be lower than a good gatherer could make per signature. If that's true, there's a lot of ranting here over nothing. How does it become more difficult to get an initiative on the ballot, if hourly pay would save money? How does limiting fraud infringe on the free speech rights of people who propose initiatives? Honestly, I don't understand what all the fuss is about.

Posted by: Bob Koerner on January 18, 2007 11:27 PM
44. To: Bob Koerner (post #43)
From: Tim Eyman

HOUSE BILL 1087 RADICALLY INCREASES THE COSTS OF GETTING AN INITIATIVE QUALIFIED FOR THE BALLOT. A person who gathers signatures with a table at a park or a movie theatre can earn $30 or $40 per hour when lots of voters choose to voluntarily sign petitions. Requiring hourly payment means the initiative campaign must pay $30 - $40 per hour REGARDLESS OF HOW MANY SIGNATURES ARE GATHERED. This radically increases the cost of qualifying an initiative for the ballot. This won't impact the big guys -- doctors, lawyers, teachers' unions, and other special interest groups -- they've got the money to overcome this radical cost increase. Who's affected? Small, grassroots campaigns that can?t afford the higher costs.

Posted by: Tim Eyman, co-sponsor Taxpayer Protection Initiative on January 19, 2007 09:40 AM
45. Bob Koerner...did you read the USSC decision in Meyer that was posted above?

First of all, there's nothing in this bill that would limit fraud. If Oregon is any indication, it would actually INCREASE fraud. Second, it would infringe on the 1st and 14th amendments because:
1)it would limit the number of voices conveying the message and 2)makes it less likely to gather enough signatures thereby limiting their ability to bring a statewide discussion on the topic.

and since initiatives are by definition "core political speech" this method is a CLEAR violation of 1st amendment protections.

Posted by: drw on January 19, 2007 11:13 AM
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