It is too early to know which initiatives will qualify for the November ballot; some measures have not even received their titles and summaries from the attorney general yet. But we know that money goes a long way in helping to qualify ballot measures using professional signature gatherers. It is conventional wisdom that money can almost assuredly qualify a measure for the ballot but money is not a magic bullet for getting measures approved by voters.

The per signature cost varies and tends to increase closer to the qualification deadline.

Still it is interesting to see what measures have resources behind them in the qualifying stage and I will use a rudimentary yardstick on that point.

Just before Christmas in front of a Southern California WalMart, a signature gatherer was trying to gather signatures on petitions. He was not passionately working on one measure near and dear to his heart. He carried six different petitions seeking signatures on each one.

To help citizens distinguish between his “wares” he had hand written on a poster board the initiatives he was pushing that day. The order of the initiatives on the list might have indicated at that time how much each signature was worth. Professional signature gatherers will usually put the measure that pays best on top so if a potential petition signer has little time and is only willing to stop to sign one petition, at least for the signature gatherer, it is the most profitable.

That December day the signature gatherer’s poster carried this order, with short explanations in parenthesis:

  1. Clean Water Act (Another water bond)
  2. Kidney dialysis cost limit (continuing the fight of health care unions to unionize workers)
  3. Three states (Tim Draper’s second attempt to cut up the Golden State)
  4. Stop the gas tax (Repeal the recently passed gas tax)
  5. Senior property tax (Permitting seniors to carry lower property taxes to new residences)
  6. Caged animals (New protections for farm animals)

Given the order one would assume the initiatives higher on the list paid more. But circumstances constantly change in the competitive business of signature gathering.

Most signatures are currently running at $1.50 per, but word is that the California  Association of Realtors is paying about twice that in a push to qualify the property tax measure.

Of course, there are other initiatives out there (our WalMart signature gatherer was not working for all those in circulation—about 50 or so have been filed) so the cost per signatures will change as we get closer to the qualifying date for the November ballot.

As the competition to qualify various measures goes up so does the cost of signatures, especially for measures that start late and have to close fast to make the ballot. In such circumstances, 5 bucks a signature would not be a surprise.