Buying Democracy: Ballot Initiative Edition
February 10, 2016

Californians had planned to put a second water bond initiative on the ballot for the 2016 election, but they've abandoned the effort.

A 2014 measure is helping to alleviate some of the water issues in the state, but a second one was promoted as a way to build badly-needed water infrastructure in the state. Most of the current infrastructure was built when Governor Jerry Brown's father, Pat Brown, was governor.

So did they abandon the effort because there was no support for the measure? Apparently not.

But money — the campaign kind in what's shaping up to be a huge year for ballot initiatives — was also a key factor.

"The cost of gaining a place on this November’s ballot has risen dramatically in the last few weeks," wrote the two men in their recent letter. "An extraordinary eleven initiatives are in circulation today, with several more about to enter circulation. This has driven the price of [voter] signatures to a very high level."

Apparently the market for petition signature gatherers is at record levels, and without a built-in volunteer effort, those signatures come at a cost. In 2012, initiative campaigns were paying shady signature gatherers upwards of $10 per signature, with a bonus for voter registration. Apparently now the price has gone sky-high.

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