Plebiscites are bad. Elected officials shouldn’t sponsor ballot initiatives.

But there are advantages to the fact that so many California politicians have sponsored measures. At the very least, they understand how the process really works.

That’s the best explanation for Gov. Newsom’s veto of a bill (AB 1451) to bar paying petition circulators for every valid signature they gather on initiative, referendum or recall petitions. Per-signature pay is how the California system works. But backers of the legislation say such pay is corrupt.

Of course, banning such pay would only make qualifying measures even more expensive than it already is. And it’s gotten nearly impossible to qualify measures. 

The governor understands this. “I am a strong supporter of California’s system of direct democracy and am reluctant to sign any bill that erects barriers to citizen participation in the electoral process,” Newsom wrote in his veto message.

The governor said it would be nice to have more grassroots participation in the process. But that would require making qualification easier—through adding to the time to qualify, lowering signature standards, or creating a whole new way of qualifying measures.