California Initiatives

Notes about getting California statewide initiatives on the ballot

  1. Draft the law. Just like what the legislature would provide. Must withstand legal challenges.
    • Need 25 or more citizen proponents.
    • Can ask legislative counsel to draft it for you, if you have a minimum number of citizen proponents, at their option.
  2. Submit to Attorney General's office
    • Cover letter is 1/2 page in set format.
    • Page fee, $200 in 2015.
  3. Respond to what they tell you to do, change, etc.
    • 50 day period
    • Legislative Analyst creates fiscal review summarizing how it affects local and state govts.
    • Bullet points are created to summarize it. This is what is provided on petitions at the top.
    • AG summarizes it in 100 words or less. This goes on the top of petitions.
    • New law just changed -- comments allowed from the public on the proposed initiative for 25 days and proponent is allowed to make changes based on those comments.
  4. Print petitions. Do not have to submit for approval but they can be challenged if they are not exactly right.
  5. Gather signatures.
    • Proponents are allowed a maximum of 150 days, from the official summary date, to circulate petitions and collect signatures.
    • initiative measure must qualify at least 131 days before the next statewide election
    • Number of signatures is based on the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election.
      • Initiative Statute: 5% of votes cast for Governor.
      • Initiative Constitutional Amendment: 8% of votes cast for Governor.
    • Our last gubernatorial election had record low turnout, so number of signatures is low to get on the ballot. So this is a good opportunity to get an initiative through.
      • Total votes for Governor Nov, 2014 = 7,317,581
      • 5% = 365,880 (This is almost 200K fewer than in the prior election) (Should seek to get about 400K signatures).
      • 8% = 585,406
    • If proponents gather 1/4 of the signatures needed in 1/4 of the time, then they can request legislative hearings on the issue.
    • Should try to get at least 10% more signatures needed.
  6. Turn in Signatures
    • Once the requisite number of signatures has been collected, they must be filed with the appropriate county elections official(s). Petitions may be submitted in sections; however, all the sections submitted in a single county must be filed at the same time.
  7. Counts and Verification
    • County officials take a raw count and send in to the Secretary of State within eight working days. If signatures are too few, proponents are notified and it dies on the vine.
    • If at least 100% are provided, county officials sample 3% (at least 500) signatures and check them for validity.
    • Counties then send in the counts in their respective counties based on the sample.
    • If < 95% of the required count, they are deemed unqualified with no further inquiry.
    • If >110% of the required count, they are deemed qualified with no further inquiry.
    • Between 95% and 110% -- a full count is performed within another 30 days.
  8. A committee that is supporting an initiative that collects more than $1000 must file a statement of organization (Form 410).
    • This form is sufficient to set up a bank account with taxpayer ID, which is free and quickly available.
    • Reports are required throughout the campaign.

Funding required

  • $200 to file.
  • Print Petitions: Assume 10 signatures per petition, $0.04 per print, efficiency assume is 80% = 400,000 * 0.04 / 10 / .80 = $2000
  • Cost for signatures gatherers at $1 per signature = $400,000
  • Cost for ballot statements: Not sure about this one.
  • Promotion -- may require $millions if TV ads are required.
  • Campaign staff: volunteer coordinator is a very hard position and cannot be a volunteer, typically.
Topic revision: r2 - 20 May 2015, RaymondLutz
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