SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Supporters of the state’s plastic bag ban, collectively calling themselves “California vs. Big Plastic,” today filed a complaint with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen calling for “an investigation of the signature gathering by the law’s opponents, citing numerous examples of deceptive signature gathering.”
“To ensure the integrity of the state referendum process is not tarnished by criminal behavior, we request an immediate investigation into these disturbing reports of voter fraud during circulation of the ‘Referendum to Overturn Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags’ petition,” wrote attorney Lance Olson of California vs. Big Plastic, the group supporting the law and opposing the referendum.
California law makes it a crime for the proponents of a referendum, and those whom they hire to circulate a referendum, to engage in certain improper signature-gathering tactics.
The law’s supporters submitted dozens of examples from across the state where petition gatherers misrepresented the petition they were urging voters to sign. In several cases, voters were urged to sign petitions to “save” the ban. But, in fact, the referendum would overturn the ban.
“We have had hundreds of volunteers out in the street monitoring and documenting the activities of the paid signature gathers,” said Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste. “It’s clear that the paid signature gatherers are doing and saying anything to mislead voters into signing these petitions.”
Signature gatherers are now being paid $3 per signature, double the amount they were originally paid when the referendum was announced in late September. Roseville, Calif.-based National Petition Management has been contracted by the American Progressive Bag Alliance, the plastic bag industry’s committee bankrolling the referendum attempt. More than $3 million has been raised so far by the industry for the referendum. According to the Secretary of State, 98 percent of those contributions are from outside of California.
The industry has until December 29, 2014 to file 504,760 valid signatures to put the law on the November 2016 ballot.
Text of the letter:
December 11, 2014
VIA MESSENGER DELIVERY
The Honorable Debra Bowen
California Secretary of State
RE: REQUEST FOR IMMEDIATE INVESTIGATION OF VOTER FRAUD DURING CIRCULATION OF THE “REFERENDUM TO OVERTURN BAN ON SINGLE-USE PLASTIC BAGS”
Dear Secretary of State Bowen:
Our firm represents “California vs. Big Plastic” (FPPC #1372900), a coalition of environmental, business, and nonprofit organizations formed to oppose a proposed statewide referendum to overturn SB 270’s ban on single use plastic bags.
We write today to bring to your attention numerous instances of voter fraud that reportedly occurred during the circulation of the “Referendum to Overturn Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags” petition. On behalf of California vs. Big Plastic and other concerned California voters, we request your immediate investigation of these allegations.
As you know, California law makes it a crime for the proponents of a referendum, and those whom they hire to circulate a referendum, to engage in certain improper signature-gathering tactics. Specifically, California Elections Code section 18600 provides in relevant part:
Every person is guilty of a misdemeanor who:
(a) Circulating, as principal or agent, or having charge or control of the circulation of, or obtaining signatures to, any state . . . referendum . . . petition, intentionally misrepresents or intentionally makes any false statement concerning the contents, purport or effect of the petition to any person who signs, or who desires to sign, or who is requested to sign, or who makes inquiries with reference to it, or to whom it is presented for his or her signature.
(b) Willfully and knowingly circulates, publishes, or exhibits any false statement or misrepresentation concerning the contents, purport or effect of any state . . . referendum . . . petition for the purpose of obtaining any signature to, or persuading or influencing any person to sign, that petition.
Since the circulation of the “Referendum to Overturn Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags” petition, it has come to our attention that a number of California voters have experienced instances in which persons involved in the circulation of the referendum petition blatantly misrepresented the referendum’s “contents, purport or effect” in violation of Section 18600.
For example, an individual reported a signature gatherer in Sacramento repeatedly insisted that the referendum was intended to “save” the bag ban, when, in fact, the referendum seeks to overturn the bag ban. In other instances, numerous individuals from across California have come forward stating that signature gatherers were misrepresenting SB 270, the bill subject to the referendum, by describing SB 270 as a “tax” or “double tax” on shopping bags. We have attached a spreadsheet which includes these allegations along with many other purported violations.
To ensure the integrity of the state referendum process is not tarnished by criminal behavior, we request an immediate investigation into these disturbing reports of voter fraud during circulation of the “Referendum to Overturn Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags” petition.
Very truly yours,
# # #
About California vs. Big Plastic:
California vs. Big Plastic is a coalition of environmental, business, consumer, labor groups and citizens opposed to the referendum campaign led by out-of-state plastic bag companies to overturn SB 270, California’s pioneering plastic bag ban.
Steering Committee Members:
California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV)
Californians Against Waste (CAW)
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Sierra Club California
More information on the group, “California vs. Big Plastic” – http://cavsbigplastic.com/