‘No On SB 5’: Training And Signature Gathering

The signature gathering effort to put the citizen veto of SB 5 on the ballot in November is finally in full swing. Petitions are printed and activists are working. It is being done in the face of what has become the standard Republican attack on democracy.

By “attack” I mean the systematic and methodical efforts to keep citizens from participating. The most obvious example is vote suppression, which has a long history. The right has tried to keep vote numbers down for years (also see this from digby and this from her former co-blogger Dave Dayen).

It is playing out now in Ohio in the form of a new voter ID law. As is usual for these efforts, they seize on an irrelevant data point – such as the number of dead people on voter rolls – and imply it is a grave (har!) problem. They then use the non-problem to create real problems. Not only does the new law disenfranchise young people, minorities and basically anyone suspected of not being sufficiently reactionary, it may very well gum up the works on election night.

(This is all of a piece with the Republicans’ loathing of government. They don’t want anyone to expect it to provide competent disaster response, consumer protection, or anything else of value. They want to eliminate regulation, eliminate agencies, and leave citizens to the tender mercies of the plutonomy. Governing well is hard work, and conservatives want no part of it.)

How is this contempt of the governed playing out on the SB 5 referendum? Two ways. The first is something that surprisingly hasn’t gotten much coverage:

April 15, 2011
SB 5 CITIZENS’ VETO-PETITIONS. We just received word that the Attorney General’s office has accepted the SB 5 summary petitions which means the petition booklets will be printed and petitions can be circulated. By law, each petition booklet must include the full text of the voluminous bill. In order to accommodate the number of pages required for each petition booklet, they will be bound, so it will be several days before we have petitions available to members.

The entire text of the bill must be included with the petitions. Not the summary, the whole thing. As noted above, that means petitions pretty much have to go to a printer. Here is a picture of the petition page; note the binding at the top, and keep an eye on the format too:

Here is a side view – note how many pages have to be included:

If you want to go door to door you can’t just print off some petition pages and a 1- or 2-page summary, staple it and get on your way. Instead you have to print out the entire text of the bill and get it bound. It is substantially more time consuming and expensive for an individual than it needs to be, and it shows just how much Republicans want to prevent ordinary citizens from participating in civic life.

The petitions themselves are pieces of work too. They appear to be designed to be deliberately confusing, in the hope of creating mistakes and invalidating as many petitions as possible. First note the two sets of headers with essentially duplicate columns. There is no need for the first one, nor for the convoluted instructions.

The duplicate columns also mean two big ol’ boxes reading “Signature” which are not to be used for signatures and which will invalidate any ones put there. The actual signatures go underneath. Look at the tiny type used for “Print” and “Sign.” These petitions were not designed to be intuitive – they were designed to place traps in in the way of those who want to get repeal on the ballot.

Fortunately, are a lot of people willing to go to the trouble. Last Saturday I attended a training session where folks were shown the ropes and picked up petitions. Many were signing up:

It filled almost the entire hall:

There was a presentation from a local party leader:

And a union representative:

Since petition circulators cannot sign their own petitions, there were people to collect signatures from the activists themselves:

Circulators then went out to start collecting. Last night we had one at a local village lodge. With relatively short notice and light publicity we gathered about a hundred signatures, and there was a steady stream of traffic right up until the end. Republican attempts to keep this off the ballot don’t seem to be working, and as word gets out about their cheap tactics it may even have the opposite effect. People are pissed off about this, they know about the maneuvering, and they aren’t allowing it to turn them away. They are standing up and making sure their voices are heard.

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