There’s been quite a hubbub in Washington around initiative signatures in the last few days, so it only seemed right to throw a little extra twist onto the story: apparently, you can remove your name from petitions you’ve already signed.
Let me just say that again: you can sign a petition, and then the next week contact Sam Reed, our Secretary of State, and have your name removed from that very same petition.
So why does that matter? Simple: up to ten initiatives may make it onto the November ballot, and a handful of campaigns are already popping up to try and keep those initiatives off. To boot, in addition to more the more traditional “decline to sign” approach, campaigns are using the power of these interwebs to encourage signers to de-sign.
This is a signature-saturated environment, and signature-gatherers often carry up to four initiatives at a time, leading to a lot of confusing information, and that may result in voters putting their names down next to issues they disagree with.
The opposition campaigns are hoping that a significant percentage of signers, given more information about the bills, will change their minds and look to remove their signatures. It’s an uphill battle to hit numbers that would flip an initiative, and requires a high number of voters to be highly proactive.
The most aggressive campaign working this approach is No on 1107 (1107 is a Tim Eyman beverage industry-funded initiative that would roll back new funding sources from soda, candy and beverage taxes), who have set up an easily-downloadable retraction form and have organizers gathering them back up and submitting them to the Secretary of State’s office (speaking of which, check out the SoS’s initiative website to get more info on all the initiatives that have been filed in 2010).
UPDATE: via David Ammons from the Secretary of State’s office, and our very own blog comments, here’s the SoS’s response to the de-signing process:
We offer this important response to this blog post and to efforts by some of persuade people to withdraw their initiative signatures from amongst the thousands that are submitted by sponsors to the Secretary of State for checking. While allowing withdrawal of signatures might seem like a logical and easy practice, in fact we do not remove signatures.
Individuals who signed a petition may send a note to our office indicating that they did not mean to sign the petition, thought they had signed a different petition, were mislead, changed their mind, etc. We will keep these on file as part of the public record for the ballot measure in question.
We have no mechanism for searching among over 300,000 names to find one specific voter who wishes to withdraw his/her name. That could take hours or days to go through 20,000 or more petitions — literally needle in a haystack. The July deadline for submitting initiatives is in the Constitution and begins a time-crunch leading up to publishing and sending ballots.
There is an old Attorney General’s Opinion that says we MAY establish rules for withdrawals, but it does not say we are REQUIRED to accept withdrawals. We don’t.
Aha – this is an important distinction: that you contacting the State means you’re on file in case of a legal challenge, it isn’t a one hundred percent guarantee. Super huge, and thanks to the good folks at the SoS for the clarification!
How effective will it be? Time will tell – but regardless, it’s an interesting strategy, and certainly a light bulb going off in the head for this guy. Plus, how could we not use that post title?