Allegations of illegal activity by petitioners on campus has turned up inconsistencies in the signature-collection process and raised questions about the validity of the practices at the UCSB campus.
The voter-fraud accusations relate to several independent contractors who tabled in the Arbor yesterday and in front of the UCen on Wednesday, asking students to sign a petition to “help children with cancer.” Once students agreed to sign this petition, they were presented with two or three additional forms to sign. In varying incidents, these additional initiatives, all unrelated to the cancer measure, were sometimes poorly explained or not mentioned at all – a violation of state election code.
History graduate student Steven Attewell contacted the Daily Nexus regarding the alleged signature gathering fraud. Attewell said petitioners approached him asking for his signature on a ballot initiative concerning cancer research at children’s hospitals.
According to Attewell, three additional papers were attached to the children’s hospital sheet. However, Attewell alleged that the petitioners were asking signatories to add their name to the other three petitions without referencing the content.
“They asked me to sign four times for the cancer hospital,” Attewell said. “This took me aback, as there’s no need to sign four times. You never, ever have to sign more than once for a ballot initiative.”
California election code states that it is illegal for any petition circulator to “intentionally misrepresent […] the contents, purport or effect of the petition” which they are circulating.
Nexus reporters sent to investigate had varying experiences with the petitioners. Some were given vague descriptions of the additional measures while others were simply told to sign three times for the cancer initiative with no mention of additional proposals. In one case, a petitioner tried to convince a reporter to add his signature to an initiative regarding eminent domain, despite the reporter’s insistence that he would prefer to research the topic first.
Joe, a signature collector who refused to give his last name but said he worked for American Petition Consultants, denied that he neglected to inform students of the measures they were signing but said the tables were often too busy to talk to every student.
“If that happened, it might have been at a time when we had a lot of people,” Joe said. “I have to tell them [what they are signing].”
Subsequent sections of California election law state: “Any person working for the proponent or proponents of a statewide initiative or referendum measure who covers or otherwise obscures the summary of the measure prepared by the Attorney General from the view of a prospective signer is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
According to Attewell, the four signature sheets were presented to students on a clipboard with the children’s hospital initiative on top. Attewell alleged the titles and summaries of the additional measures were not clearly visible when the pages were flipped due to a rubber band holding the pages together.
“The clipboard is arranged such that a rubber band holding the petitions to the cardboard is positioned on the top of the page, across the actual ballot language in question,” Attewell said. “[The clipboard partially hides] the text of the ballot initiatives on pages two through four unless you actually stop and pull down the top of the page.”
Attewell also said no additional information was verbally given to him about the other papers.
It is a common practice for interest groups to hire firms and individuals to circulate a petition on their behalf in an effort to collect the needed number of signatures.
Kellen Arno of APC – which actually stands for Arno Political Consultants – said the company is not directly involved with its subcontracted employees, but will look into the allegations.
“We are a very, very honest company and we want things done the correct way,” Arno said. “That’s something we don’t take lightly at all. They’re absolutely instructed to never do something like that.”
The main initiative, the Children’s Hospital Bond Act, would authorize the state to sell $980 million in bonds, of which 80 percent would go to hospitals focusing on terminal childhood diseases. The remaining 20 percent of the money would go toward the University of California general acute care hospitals.
Two of the additional measures focused on limiting the government’s use of eminent domain. One of the measures specifically prevents the taking of owner-occupied private property for transfer to private firms while the other more broadly prevents the use of eminent domain on any private property if it will later be sold to private interests. The second measure also outlaws rent control and similar programs.
The final initiative would change the way California divides electoral votes among presidential candidates. Rather than the current winner-takes-all method in which the winner of the majority of votes in the state receives all of the state’s electoral votes, the new method would divide electoral votes based on the majority winner in each of the state’s congressional districts plus two statewide votes.