California’s initiative process has long been a thorn in the side of the state’s labor unions and their allies in the Democrat Party. While they have occasionally utilized ballot measure to coax more money out of taxpayers, overall progressives have viewed ballot initiatives as the one aspect of the state’s government that they cannot fully control.
Their stranglehold on the legislature and deep pockets for election spending ensure their domination as California’s most powerful political influencer. For besieged conservatives and businesses, bypassing the union-controlled legislature and appealing directly to voters has been a saving grace and has slowed, if not halted, the state’s drive off the economic cliff.
Since the passage of Proposition 13 and its property tax protections in 1978 as part of the storied California tax revolt, unions and Democrats have sought to curb the influence and freedom of the initiative process. In the last few years alone, a dozen legislative bills have tried to wrest control of the initiative process from the people and place it within the capitol.
From disallowing payment for signature gathering (a necessity in a state as large as California), to increasing the number of voter signatures required, to mandating all initiatives receive two-thirds approval from the legislature, every angle has been played in curtailing the people’s ability to vote on measures via the ballot box. But none of these attempts have been as devious or anti-democratic as the latest union tactic.
Radio listeners were recently bombarded with ominous-sounding ads warning them against signing any initiative petitions for fear of their identity being stolen. These ads feature a husband admonishing his wife for submitting to the “pushy” signature gatherers outside the local grocery store, and warning her that they will have to watch their credit reports now because of her carelessness.
Examined for their veracity by newspapers and political professionals, the ads were deemed laughable and erroneous. They were simply designed to scare voters into bypassing signature gatherers and therefore torpedo the chances of their petitions qualifying for the ballot. For decades the initiative process has allowed the gathering of voter signatures and the information collected on petitions is no different than that already public in voter registration records.