Is April 20 the real signature deadline in California?

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April 15, 2012


In advance of every even-numbered year, the California Secretary of State publishes a "suggested initiative deadlines" document. The document works backward from the state's final deadline through the various steps in the qualification process to produce a list of suggested deadlines for the various steps required. The document is prefaced with a disclaimer, "The following suggested deadlines are not substitutes for California election laws, regulations, or policy. Other factors, such as amending the initiative measure before circulation or the length of time for circulation, will affect the time it takes to complete the process."[1]

But how set-in-stone are these "suggested deadlines?"

The suggested deadlines to qualify for the November 6, 2012 ballot give separate deadlines depending on how many signatures are submitted. If enough signatures are submitted that the random sampling technique can be used, the deadline is much later in the year than if the "full check" method must be used.[1][2]

This chart shows the "suggested deadlines" if enough signatures are submitted to trigger a random sampling process:

File signatures with counties Raw count completed SOS notifies counties Counties certify results to SOS
April 20 May 2 May 11 June 25

If the set of suggested deadlines is accurate, then this Friday, April 20, is the last day by which petition sponsors can submit signatures with the hope of qualifying for the November 6, 2012 ballot.

Close to 50 ballot initiatives are cleared for circulation at this time in California. Five have already qualified, along with a sixth measure that was voted onto the ballot by the state legislature.

Ballot initiatives have 150 days from the time they receive their ballot title and summary to collect the required signatures. The 150-day deadline may be past the deadline for qualifying for the November 2012 ballot. If sponsors submit signatures after April 20, but before the 150-day deadline, they may still qualify for the ballot, but it would be for a future year's ballot.

Ballot observers in California this year will find out just how firm the April 20 "suggested deadline" is by whether or not two of the most closely-watched ballot initiatives submit signatures by Friday: the Molly Munger Tax Increase Initiative and the Jerry Brown/Millionaire's Tax Merger Tax Increase Initiative.

At least one ballot initiative group, Consumer Watchdog, doesn't take the April 20 deadline seriously. In comments to the press about an initiative they are backing, they said they had "until mid-May" to submit signatures to get on the November ballot.[3]

May 5 update

Four major proposed initiatives filed their signatures between May 1 and May 4, 2012, with the apparent confidence that they had filed in time to qualify for the November 6 ballot.[4][5][6][7]

See also