Payment-Per-Signature: Are Legislators Getting the Message?

Thu, Mar 18 2010 by Anonymous

While banning campaign workers from being paid based on how many signatures they collect on a petition has been struck down as unconstitutional in five different states, eight states still have such bans or other restrictions in place. Payment-per-signature allows citizens greater certainty in judging the cost of a petition effort, and states that have enacted bans have seen the cost of qualifying an initiative rise considerably. Because these laws hurt citizens trying to exercise their petition rights, pro-initiative activists and groups - including Citizens in Charge Foundation and our partner organization Citizens in Charge - have spoken out against them. It seems legislators may be taking notice.

During 2009 eight states - Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Missouri and Virginia - all saw attempts by legislators to enact payment-per-signature bans. Luckily, thanks to the efforts of citizen activists, only Colorado’s ban passed, and that law has recently been challenged in court.

Much of that activism involved pointing out the fact that such bans are unconstitutional violations of voters’ First Amendment rights, and it looks like those arguments may have started to sink in: in 2010 only one state - Missouri - has seen an attempt to restrict campaign worker pay.

Unfortunately, restrictions on compensation are only one tool used to silence the people, continued activism is the only thing that will ensure an open and accessible initiative process.