As of February 1, 2019, three citizen-initiated statewide ballot measures have qualified for the election on November 3, 2020, in California. The signature drives for the ballot initiatives cost between $2.05 million and $3.49 million.
Campaigns behind ballot initiatives often hire companies that specialize in signature drives to circulate petitions. Since Ballotpedia began tracking signature drive costs in 2010, none of the 51 citizen-initiated measures that appeared on statewide California ballots relied exclusively on volunteers to collect signatures; each hired a private firm to collect some or all of the required signatures.
In 2018, the average signature drive cost in California was about $2.56 million, or $6.07 per required signature. The ballot initiatives that have qualified for the 2020 ballot thus far had the same signature requirements as those on the ballot in 2018. However, any future 2020 ballot initiatives will require 70.3 percent more signatures due to voter turnout in 2018, which will likely increase the spending on signature drives. From 2010 to 2018, the cost-per-required-signature has ranged from $1.18 to $11.31 in California.
Summaries of California’s three 2020 citizen-initiated measures are below:
*Criminal Sentencing, Parole, and DNA Collection Initiative: The ballot initiative would amend several criminal sentencing and supervision laws that were passed between 2011 and 2016. The Keep California Safe PAC, a project of the California Public Safety Partners, is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC spent $2.05 million to collect the 365,880 valid signatures required to put the initiative on the ballot, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $5.59. Arno Petition Consultants was hired to collect signatures, receiving 96.7 percent of the spending on the signature drive.
*Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Veto Referendum: The veto referendum was designed to overturn Senate Bill 10 (10). SB 10 was designed to replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects awaiting trials. The American Bail Coalition, a nonprofit trade association, organized the political action committee (PAC) Californians Against the Reckless Bail Scheme to sponsor the veto referendum petition and advocate for a “no” vote. The PAC spent $2.78 million to collect the 365,880 valid signatures required to put the referendum on the ballot, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $7.59. National Petition Management, Inc. was the largest recipient of the spending, receiving 99.1 percent.
*Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative: The ballot initiative would require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than their purchase price. As of 2019, commercial and industrial properties, like residential properties, are taxed based on purchase price. The additional revenue from the change would be allocated to local governments and school districts. The Schools and Communities First PAC is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC spent $3.40 million to collect the 585,407 valid signatures required to put the referendum on the ballot, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $5.96. Kimball Petition Management, Inc. received 99.0 percent of the spending on the signature drive.