Assembly Bill 1451 is an Attack on Direct Democracy

The tools of direct democracy — initiative, referendum and recall — are a powerful check against intransigent or corrupt politicians. These powers are enshrined in the California Constitution for reasons that are just as compelling in 2019 as they were in 1911. That’s when Governor Hiram Johnson, seeking to constrain the absolute control the railroads had over the state Capitol, pushed to give ordinary citizens a “legislative battering ram” — using the language of the Supreme Court — to address issues that for whatever reason the legislature refuses to address.

Political elites abhor direct democracy. From their perspective it allows the great unwashed and unsophisticated to deal with matters such as taxation, victims’ rights, insurance and most importantly political reform. These are issues over which politicians strongly desire to exercise a legislative monopoly. The latest assault on Californians’ rights to initiative and referendum is Assembly Bill 1451, introduced by Asm. Evan Low, D-Campbell, which has already cleared both houses of the California Legislature. Gov. Newsom should veto it.

AB1451 erects roadblocks to initiative qualification by requiring that at least 10 percent of the petition signatures come from unpaid sources and also by banning paid signature gathering on a per-signature basis. While backers claim that this will reduce fraud, this justification doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

According to the Secretary of State’s Election Fraud Investigation Unit, between 1994 and 2010, the EFIU opened 240 cases for falsifying petitions, of which 46 were sent to district attorneys for prosecution, resulting in less than 35 convictions. During that same timeframe, over 100 initiatives were placed on the ballot requiring tens of millions of signatures.

Supporters also argue that eliminating paid-per-signature gathering and moving to compensation based on an hourly rate will help decrease money in politics. The opposite is true. By removing the financial incentive to collect signatures in the most efficient manner possible, the initiative process will further be skewed to special interests. …

To read the entire column, please click here.


  1. Politicians are afraid of Direct Democracy. They say they represent you but they may not. We should not put chains on our ability to act.

  2. This does not surprise me, the SOCIALISTS NAZI DEMOCRATES want to make it HARD FOR YOU TO VOTE THEM OUT. You see they like that power and getting rich…..They are nothing but CORRUPT SCUM

  3. The People do not want fraud in any area of our society but there will always be a debased percentage of our people. Some fraud in putting an initiative on a ballot is not nearly as important as fraud at the ballot box —- in my opinion. There is where penalties have to be ultra strict — no slaps on the wrist for those who have subverted our democratic system, the very core of our freedom. No intimidation at the polls like what happened with the Black Panthers who Holder set free. We also need to stop activist judges from overturning the will of the people as was done to Prop 8 which would have same sex “marriages”.

  4. Sounds to me like there are a LOT of misinformed people in California and there is a real need to go back to school and re-take civics classes. Our founding fathers were hell bent on preventing direct democracy because it’s nothing more than mob rule, that’s the reason that they created a republic form of government where everyone’s voice is equal. As usual California gets it wrong again! Glad I left this hell hole when I did!

  5. California needs to establish a electoral collage mechanism for statewide
    elections.This would provide vote equality through out the state. The
    current system gives overwhelming control to urban areas.

  6. Whe you have armies of tax-dollar funded government employees in this state “unpaid” collecting signatures for any initative that benefits themselves, you have an unfair playing field.

    How about a conflict of interests clause – if you obtain a direct government benefit from the petition, you cannot solicit signatures?

    Bye bye public sector unions – this is just one more end run by the massive public sector unions in this state -starting with the CTA which needs to be banned.

  7. Government employee union members = unpaid signature collectors.

    Sure, get rid of paid signature collectors, and let only government employee unions call all the shots.

    This is what a super-majority state in free-fall looks like. Term limits only created a power vacuum quickly taken over by government employee union interests. That is where we went wrong – even Willie Brown was never this greedy or arrogant.

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