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California Democracy Act Fails to Collect Enough Signatures for November Ballot

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 08:57:00 AM

The California Democracy Act hasn't gathered enough signatures to guarantee a place on the November ballot, an e-mail message from campaign volunteers announced Wednesday. 

Titled “the campaign for the California Democracy Act thanks you,” the e-mail informed supporters that the first version of the 

California Democracy Act had been withdrawn. 

Written by UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff, the Democracy Act sought to have all legislative actions on revenue and budget decided by a majority vote.  

California is the only state in the nation to give a 34 percent minority of its state lawmakers direct control over all such legislation—which some say is responsible for the current fiscal crisis. 

Lakoff sent his own message to supporters, telling them that he had submitted a second “more detailed” version to the Attorney General’s office, for which signatures would need to be gathered by June 24. 

“Our job is not over,” Lakoff said. “The citizens of our state need to know that this is the only state in America whose legislature is completely under minority rule. They need to know that an overwhelming majority of our legislators [67 percent] are acting responsibly and are not to blame for the legislative dysfunction. They need to know that it is the ultra-conservative minority, acting out their ideology, that is to blame.” 

The campaign e-mail also told recipients that the April 8 “sorting party” for the Democracy Act in Concord had been canceled. 

“You are the first to receive this announcement, since you are the volunteers who gathered those signatures,” it said. “Although it is disappointing after all your hard work to discover that we have come up short, we hope that you feel as good as we do about what we’ve accomplished.” 

The e-mail detailed how a five-month-old grassroots level organization was able to start an “educational and promotional” effort by discussing various issues with voters, collecting tens of thousands of signatures.  

“Many learned about the 2/3 rules for the first time,” it said. “We’ve personally learned that the measure is supported by a huge percentage of voters when we told them about it and asked them to sign.” 

More than 10,000 students marched to Sacramento March 22 to lobby lawmakers in the Capitol. The 10-campus University of California and the California State University system are both facing enormous deficits and fee hikes because of the state budget cuts. 

“We were poised for success when the clock ran out,” said the e-mail from field coordinator Ellis Goldberg and campaign manager Chandra Friese, urging people to consider other initiatives geared toward changing California governance. 

In the past, initiatives which have raised over a million dollars and carried out more than a year of planning have failed to qualify for the ballot. 

In general, only one in five campaigns qualify for the ballot through the initiative process.