The group pushing the referendum to overturn California’s recently enacted law to open school showers, bathrooms and locker rooms to members of the opposite sex took a huge step forward yesterday when it was announced that a random sample of signatures submitted showed they have collected enough valid signatures to advance to the next stage of the verification process – a full check of every signature submitted.

The leaders behind Privacy for All Students (PFAS) have quite literally been fighting “city hall” from the beginning. Many pundits and media representatives dismissed them outright, saying there was no way that a group relying primarily on volunteers could qualify a referendum in California. After all, it takes over half a million valid signatures to qualify, and they must be collected in about 80 days – a herculean task.

Conventional wisdom was that the coalition backing the referendum would have an extremely difficult time raising money. But they’ve raised over $600,000 so far.

Conventional wisdom was that voters wouldn’t really care much about the issue. But PFAS conducted a poll showing that an overwhelming percentage of voters want the co-ed bathroom law repealed.

Conventional wisdom was that a depressed and demoralized church community would not get mobilized to collect signatures. But hundreds of churches participated in the signatures gathering effort and 400,000 signatures were collected by volunteers.

PFAS and its leaders have proven the naysayers wrong at every turn. They not only were able to collect and submit nearly 620,000 signatures, they’ve successfully been fighting “city hall” so far throughout the verification process.

Yesterday, the leftist groups backing the law that mandates access to school bathrooms and other facilities based on an undefined “gender identity” and not a student’s actual biological sex were poised to declare victory and call the referendum effort a failure. Instead, the referendum is very much alive and kicking.

While some have been dismissive, a few have been downright hostile. Secretary of State Debra Bowen, for example, has thrown up roadblocks from the very beginning, refusing to timely provide the referendum campaign access to an up to date voter list, and then refusing to count signatures timely filed with two counties. The PFAS campaign had to sue her to force her to do her job. Amazingly, she told the court not to bother dealing with the merits of the allegations advanced by PFAS because the referendum would undoubtedly fail yesterday when the random sample was completed! Fortunately, the judge ignored Bowen and forced her to count the disputed signatures. Bowen now has egg on her face.

Not only didn’t the referendum fail to qualify as Bowen suggested, it took a huge step forward and now is on a path that could well lead to the qualification of the referendum for the ballot this November.

Let’s go through the numbers. Referendum proponents need 504,760 valid signatures to qualify the issue for the November 2014 ballot. The state projects that referendum proponents have obtained 482,582 valid signatures out of the approximately 619,000 they submitted – seemingly 22,000 signatures short of what is needed. But the state’s projection of valid signatures is undoubtedly low. This is true for a couple of reasons.

First, the sampling method employed by the state is prone to error, especially in how it handles duplicate signatures. They employ a complicated formula that heavily penalizes duplicate signatures found in the sample, especially from larger counties.

For example, there were three duplicate signatures found in Amador County, which depressed the validity rate for that county by only half a percent because it is a small county. But because of the obscure formula, the three duplicate signatures found in Fresno County was projected to result in thousands of invalid signatures and dropped the validity rate in that county by over 17%.

PFAS Executive Committee member Karen England told FlashReport, “A full check of signatures will correct that anomaly in Fresno County, and elsewhere. We expect to pick up several thousand more signatures just on the duplicate issue alone.”

Another reason the projection is likely low lies in the basic process of sampling, which entails an inherent margin of error. A full check eliminates the error margin involved in projecting because every signature is checked and there are no projections involved. For example, in the 14 counties where all the signatures submitted have already been completely checked (because the raw number of signatures submitted was 500 or less), the average validity rate was 86%. Yet the state projects an overall validity rate of just under 78%. If the actual validity rate matches the rate in the 14 counties checked thus far, the referendum would easily qualify.

Gina Gleason, the referendum proponent, told me why the PFAS validity rate is so high: “The core of our qualification effort relied on trained volunteers. We carefully trained volunteers, and we utilized experienced people who’ve done this before. When signatures came into our offices, we carefully screened them and scrubbed petitions of obvious errors. The steps we took to scrub the petitions paid real dividends as our validity rate is tremendously high.”

To qualify the referendum to the November 2014 ballot, the referendum proponents need an actual validity rate of 81.5% – or 4.5% less than what they are experiencing to date in the counties where there has already been a full check of signatures. In other words, the information thus far is that the referendum could certainly qualify for the ballot.

We’ll have to wait and see how this process plays itself out, but the very fact that PFAS has gotten to this point is a testament to their tenacity, dedication and hard work. It shows that a committed group of citizens can actually fight “city hall.”

The co-ed bathroom law is one example of terrible legislation coming out of the uber-liberal Legislature and the administration of Governor Brown, but it is by no means the only example. Perhaps the effort that PFAS has mounted will encourage others to come together and challenge other bad ideas passed by the politicians in Sacramento.
Cross-posted at FlashReport.