The state legislature is full of proposals to make the
onerous and expensive process of signature gathering more onerous and
expensive. One bill would mandate special badges for gatherers. Another would
change how they are paid – from per signature to hourly – in a way that would
add to costs and reduce the number of measures.

proposals are divorced from the realities of signature gathering. And that
central reality is that it’s getting more difficult to gather signatures.
Because there are fewer places to gather.

because private companies and public agencies alike have worked to restrict the
use of public space. Signature gatherers now find it harder than ever to
circulate petitions outside of grocery stores and big chains. The post office,
which should be a place for signature gathering, has fought for years to limit
petition circulators. And while old court decisions protect the right to gather
at traditional malls, those traditional malls are dying, and their
replacements, town square-style places like the Grove, bar signature gathering.
So do big-box stores like Costco (except, of course, when Costco is behind an
initiative, like Gov. Schwarzenegger’s 2004 workers compensation reform.
Hypocrisy, it seems, also comes in family-size packages).

The result:
petition circulators have had to grow more aggressive, chasing after people in
parking lots or on the street.

your government is a fundamental, constitutional right. But it’s not much of a
right if petitioning is barred in places where people gather.

The backers
of the new legislation on signature gathering say they merely want an honest
and clean process, and are not trying to limit the process. That would be
easier to believe if they also introduced legislation to make clear that
petition circulators have a right to operate in front of any post office,
voting station, public building, shopping center or any other place where
people gather in California.

How can we have public engagement
if our public spaces don’t have room for those who seek to petition the