Let me explain paid signature gathering – everyone needs to lighten up about it
It’s never been tougher to qualify an initiative in Washington. In 1999, we needed 180K signatures to get our $30 Tabs Initiative on the ballot. For this year’s initiatives, the Secretary of State recommends 350K. That exponential growth over the past 20 years is due to more people voting. That many signatures needed in just a few short months makes paid petitioning a necessity nowadays.
Every year there’s a lot of uninformed discussion about paid signature gathering because few people know how it works (and that lack of knowledge fosters fear and demonization).
Let’s start with the basics:
A paid petitioner who is collecting signatures for an initiative you disagree with is Satan, a paid petitioner working on an initiative you agree with is doing the Lord’s work. We hate the people who help our enemies, we love the people who help our friends. It’s human nature.
What makes this year tough for some people is there are petitions for “good” initiatives getting collected by the same people who are getting signatures for “bad” initiatives.
The anti-gun-rights initiative, the carbon tax initiative, the no grocery tax initiative, and our $30 tabs initiative — most paid petitioners are carrying all of them.
I was on Lars Larson’s radio show earlier this week, and I tried to illustrate the situation with this comparison:
You walk into a grocery store and you’ll find ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and relish sitting side-by-side on the same shelf. Do we trust customers to tell the difference between them? Of we do. Why? Because people aren’t stupid.
It’s no different with initiatives. Paid petitioners are servicing their customers by giving them the chance to sign petitions. Some of their customers will support one of the initiatives, others will support 2, others 3, and some all 4. So a paid petitioner will carry all 4 so that all their customers — voters — have the chance to sign the petitions they want to.
There’s nothing dirty or unseemly or hypocritical about a paid petitioner offering voters the chance to sign all 4 petitions. It’s not about whether the paid petitioner “supports” all 4 — it’s about the customer. When standing in front of a store all day long, a paid petitioner has hundreds of voters walking by and every one of them has a different set of values. Everyone is different. So a paid petitioner — a good one — wants to be able to service each person individually.
Each petition for each initiative spells out exactly what it does. Each petition has a warning on it. Each petition has the ballot title and summary describing it on the front of the petition. On the back is the initiative text.
And what are the best paid petitioners doing? This:
They are offering the absolute most popular initiative ever first: bringing back our $30 tabs.
The worry and concern by some is that voters will sign our $30 tabs petition and then the paid petitioner will offer them the other 3 petitions and those $30 tabs voters will blindly sign the others.
My experience over the past 20 years informs me that voters are discerning and hesitant and skeptical to sign anything. The voters-are-sheep argument falls flat with me. For a voter to take the time to put their name, their signature, and other personal information on a petition requires that person to buy into what they’re signing.
I don’t support the anti-gun-rights initiative, but I accept the reality that other voters do.
I don’t support the carbon tax initiative, but I accept the reality that other voters do.
I support the no-grocery-tax initiative and clearly a lot of other voters do too.
And I support our $30 Tabs Initiative and it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that a lot of voters want to sign our petitions.
So my hope is that everyone will lighten up on this.
We live in a free country where ideas we disagree with are going to be promulgated side-by-side with ideas we disagree with. Let us all have the maturity and the civility to allow all petitioners and all voters to exercise their rights.
What paid petitioners are doing is critical to our state’s constitutional right to initiative. Without them, there is no initiative process in Washington state.
Anyone who has done petitioning will attest to the fact that it is incredibly difficult work.
To me, they are heroic people who deserve our appreciation and our respect:
When it comes to $30 tabs, we know the voters are with us:
But getting 350,000 signatures is really tough. That’s why I sold off my family’s retirement fund and loaned the campaign $500,000. I did that because I believe in this and want this effort to succeed.
But my $500K isn’t enough. We need your help too. I implore you make a donation right away.
Top 5 Contributors: Suzanne Burke, Puget Sound Chapter NECA PAC, Andrew Skotdal, Tim Eyman, Thomas O’Brien