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Pay-per-signature is one way of compensating signature-gatherers who collect signatures to qualify candidates or ballot initiatives or recall elections for the ballot.

Several states have made it illegal to compensate petition circulators based on how many signatures they are able to collect on petitions. It is an active area of litigation.

State legislation

Alaska Republicans attempt ban

Alaska State Representatives Kyle Johansen (R-Ketchikan) and Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) have introduced HB 36 in 2009 to make it illegal for initiative circulators to be paid on a per-signature basis. It would also make it illegal for initiative circulators to circulate more than one initiative at once.[1]

Arizona legislature may ban

The Arizona Reform the Initiative Process Amendment (2010) has been proposed as a reform of Arizona's laws. One of its provisions if enacted would ban signature-gatherers from getting paid by signature or page.

California, proposed ban

On November 11, 2009 Citizens in Charge Foundation awarded Gov. Schwarzenegger their November 2009 John Lilburne Award for protecting the initiative and referendum process by vetoing SB 34 along with other attacks on initiative rights. [5]

Colorado 2009 ban

Gov. Bill Ritter signed Colorado House Bill 1326 (2009) on May 29, 2009. It forbids compensating circulators based on how many signatures they collect. Of eight states that tried to enact bans in 2009, Colorado's was the only one that succeeded.

Oregon 2002 ban

In 2002, Oregon Ballot Measure 26 was approved by popular vote. It forbid initiative sponsors from paying petitioners on a per-signature basis. This ban on pay-per-signature was upheld in Prete v. Bradbury, a ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court. Oregon Constitutional Article IV §1b reads:

"It shall be unlawful to pay or receive money or other thing of value based on the number of signatures obtained on an initiative or referendum petition. Nothing herein prohibits payment for signature gathering which is not based, either directly or indirectly, on the number of signatures obtained."[6]

Reduced Attempts to Restrict Compensation

In March of 2010, Brandon W. Holmes at Citizens in Charge Foundation noted that while in 2009 eight states attempted to ban pay-per-signature, only one state - Missouri - has attempted to do so in 2010. Holmes suggests that pro-petitioning rights activism has made legislators less likely to propose bans. [7]


Prete v. Bradbury

Main article Prete v. Bradbury

Prete v. Bradbury is a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon against Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury challenging Oregon's restrictions on paying petition circulators by the signature.

The outcome of the lawsuit was that U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken, a Clinton appointee, upheld Oregon's ban on pay-per-signature on February 11, 2004.[8] The ban was one of the provisions of Oregon Ballot Measure 26.

Other lawsuits

Pros and cons

Jill Stewart, a reporter at LA Weekly, referred to a bill banning pay-per-signature passed in by California Senate in 2009 (but vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger) as "a blatant effort by legislators, working on behalf of huge special interests including Big Pharma, Big Labor and Big Business, to stop environmental groups, anti-tax groups and others from gathering the 450,000 to 700,000 signatures required to place an initiative, referendum or recall on the statewide ballot."[4] Stewart also used the phrase "Under the false guise of 'reform'", suggesting that the reform is a pseudo-reform.


  1. Alaska anti-initiative bill, January 19, 2009
  2. Ballot Access News, "California Legislative Hearing on Bill to Ban Paying Circulators Per Signature", July 6, 2009
  3. Text of SB 34
  4. 4.0 4.1 Los Angeles Weekly, "Arnold vetoes initiative ban: Sleazy effort by California legislature to hamstring signature-gathering", October 12, 2009
  5. Citizens in Charge Foundation, " Governor Schwarzenegger Honored with November Lilburne Award"
  6. Pay Per Signatures Blog
  7. Citizens in Charge Foundation, "Payment-Per-Signature: Are Legislators Getting the Message?"
  8. More lawsuit news Ballot Access News, March 1, 2004