Did Pot-Legalization Actually Receive Enough Signatures to Get on the Ballot? At Least One Initiative Expert Thinks So

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Backers of the marijuana legalization initiative, I-1068, threw in the towel last week, a day before the deadline to submit signatures to the Secretary of State. Organizer Douglas Hiatt told the AP that his group fell about 40,000 to 50,000 signatures short of the 241,000 necessary to make the ballot.

But is it possible that the initiative actually had that many signatures (and more)? At least one initiative expert thinks so.

As we noted last month, organizers of I-1068, had no money to pay professional signature-gatherers, and had to rely primarily on volunteers--but they still got plenty of help from the pros.

I-1068 was frequently used by signature-gatherers as a come-on to get people to stop--at which point they'd be hit up for other measures too, like privatizing liquor sales. Backers of those other measures were paying as much as 3 bucks per John Hancock.

Of course, the pros only get paid if they turn their petitions in. And in the case of the marijuana initiative, with no payment in the offing, they had no incentive to do so.

As a result, political consultant Cindi Laws, who did some work on the I-1068 campaign and has worked on numerous other initiatives, thinks there are plenty of signatures out there--and plenty of people who thought they were helping the measure get on the ballot--who were never seen or heard.

"Where ever I went in the state," Laws told the Weekly today, "I saw packs of paid signature gathers, all with I-1068 at the top of their piles. When I questioned these people, they admitted that the pot initiative was the gateway to the other issues. After working on more than a dozen initiative campaigns, I've never witnessed an easier signature to get. I have no doubt that I-1068 had enough signatures gathered; but bounty hunters want to be paid, even when they made bank on the backs of I-1068."

Meanwhile, it's unclear whether I-1068's last-ditch strategy of spending donor money to insert copies of the petition into a June issue of the Stranger had any positive impact. Asked today how many of those petitions ever came back to him, I-1068 organizer Philip Dawdy refused to say.

Asked whether he would recommend the strategy to other initiative-organizers looking to get on the ballot, he said only that since most other campaigns pay professional signature-gatherers, "the question is pretty much moot."

 
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