We’re checking to confirm this but West Seattle CoolMom.org leader Abby Suplizio tells WSB there’s word the grocery/chemical-industry-backed (references here and here) bag-tax referendum petition drive already has enough signatures to get it before voters next year, less than two weeks after they started circulating petitions (here’s our report from the Thriftway sighting August 10th). We’ll update this item when we hear back from the organizers. The bag-fee battle was featured on National Public Radio yesterday (Suplizio gave us this link, where you can find the audio) — says the Sierra Club “is organizing a campaign about the petition gatherers misleading people all over Seattle” and asking people to send their stories to email@example.com – here’s what she sent about a West Seattle encounter (followed by some other info we found):
The petition gatherer at the Jefferson Square Safeway approached me and asked if I wanted to “sign for the bag tax” so I asked what about it – he said “so it can be voted on”. (If I wasn’t already savvy that it had passed, I would have probably signed it at this point because, of course, i want it to be voted on). I said that it already got voted on and that the Council approved it. Hmmm. That’s when he said it was to repeal that. I then had about a 20 minute absolutely illuminating discussion with him -at which time he got NO other signatures :)
He confirmed that there were about 20 of them hired from California from American Ballot Co.?? He said that maybe next time I saw him it would be for something I agreed with instead of opposed to. They travel all around the country (their next stop was Nevada) for getting signatures for different referendums. This event, they were getting $2 per signature. He said his best event was when they got $10 per Republican that they got registered to vote- he said it was some place that they didn’t have many Republicans. Real nice. He said the whole signature gathering thing is TOTALLY unregulated and some people will say anything (not him of course) to get people to sign. AND it’s not illegal, because technically when people sign, they are signing a document of what they read. In most of these cases, people streaming in and out of shops, generally just listen to the people and sign away without reading. He said Oregon is the only state that has any type of regulation and that they pay by the hour instead of by the signature. Of course, if they get more signatures they get a higher hourly rate so even that is in question. He also said that one guy who did get “found out” and punished with a misdemeanor, had two petitions and was telling people that they were for two different referendums so he was able to get twice the signatures when it was really for the same referendum. That time he got caught, but what about other times??
This was all very enlightening and I hope that by sharing this, we ALL pay better attention to what we sign at grocery stores in the future!
We couldn’t find an “American Ballot” listed in online references about signature-gathering companies; the only company with “ballot” in its name that’s listed in the Seattle business-license database is National Ballot Access (bare-bones website here). Side note — On the Secretary of State‘s website, we found an initiative submitted this year by our state’s most prolific initiative backer, Tim Eyman, which would have loosened regulations on signature-gatherers, among other things (it’s not on the ballot because “no signatures were gathered” but you can still read it here).