Success is Failure…
In the mid-60’s the Koupals with some friends were learning about politics. By 1969 they thought they had found a way for people to address political problems through the initiative process and began building a group of dedicated workers around their People’s Lobby initiative driven organization. The Lobby struggled to have its voice not only heard on political issues but also to get through the antiquated and arduous process of getting, counting, and verifying initiative signers’ signatures. (Now, thanks to their efforts, at least the signers’ verifying process is simpler). In the 70’s they qualified, won and lost initiative campaigns and trained other groups on how to do the same. They began expanding their successes and knowledge base into forming a national initiative movement. Nader and Western Bloc became important steps in the process of moving toward that national initiative process.
In the process, they built a commercial printing business that allowed them to have the freedom to press the opposition in political campaigns. Late night Ben Franklin work put inked words, ideas and political responses strategies onto papers and into peoples’ minds.
By 1976 the Lobby wrote a pamphlet intended to further help those grassroots organization, whose initiative ideas it had spawned or helped spawn, successfully compete against vested interests in future campaigns.
SUCCESS IS FAILURE ANALYZED:
A PROPOSAL FOR WINNING INITIATIVE CAMPAIGNS.
A major reason for doing the pamphlet was to help the Western Bloc states run a smart nuclear moratorium campaign, which has remained the closest the nation has come to running a national initiative campaign. Unfortunately, Ed Koupal, the Lobby’s charismatic Field Commander died of cancer during the campaign, and many of the over 16 states that participated in the Western Bloc campaign didn’t always follow the tactics and strategy laid out in the Success is … pamphlet or listen to the advice offered by the Lobby’s accumulated experiences.
Although decades have passed, this pamphlet should be read by all grassroots organizations who want to or must run initiative campaigns. Its tactics, strategy and depicted results offers practical, valuable insights. It is reproduced here.
If you are a grassroots organization contemplating an initiative campaign, study and understand this pamphlet’s ideas.
As the 2000 decade speeds along this section has particular relevance to Calironians and those concerned about energy issues. This phamphlet gives credence to the belief that history repeats itself. Clean environment issues put People’s Lobby on the map in the late 60’s. The nuclear question forced groups like People’s Lobby to lead people to unfiltered answers to often hidden human and mechanical nuclear machinations.
The 2000 decade may find those same issues re-arising and perhaps the need for people-based campaigns to ferret out the truth on the 21st century energy questions.
*Joyce Koupal, the primary author, passed away in March 1992. Faith Keating, was with the Nader staff and left to join People’s Lobby in the mid 70’s. The bracketed pages, such as (Page 36 Western Bloc) indicate the pages on which these sections appeared in the original pamphlet.
Western Bloc 1976
SUCCESS IS FAILURE ANALYZED:
A PROPOSAL FOR
WINNING INITIATIVE CAMPAIGNS
BY FAITH KEATING
AND JOYCE KOUPAL
A WESTERN BLOC PUBLICATION
Comments by Clem Whitaker were taken from Dr. S. Prakash sethi, Advocacy Advertising and Large Corporations, Chapter V., “Selling of an Idea – In the Public Interest: The California Campaign to Enact Proposition 9, The Clean Environment Act of 1972, “ 1976, D.C. Heath, Lexington, Massachusetts.
Western Bloc 1976. This paper may not be reproduced in whole or in part by mimeograph or any other means without permission. Contact: Western Bloc, 3424 West Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019
WHAT IS THE WESTERN BLOC?
In November, 1974 Ed and Joyce Koupal, Ralph Nader and several of Nader’s staff people met in Washington, DC to discuss plans for organizing an effective political movement to affect national energy policy. The result was a non-Nader affiliated organization called the Western Bloc – – a partnership of local organizations in 16 states working together to affect national policy through the initiative process. Twenty-three states have the initiative process, and through it people can write laws and pass them by direct election.
In the months following that November meeting, the Koupals drew on their resources from the People’s Lobby — a California group responsible in some way for almost all grass roots initiatives in the state — and gathered a team of organizers to assist citizens in using the initiative process. They traveled to Oregon, Washington, Montana, North and South Dakota, Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio and Massachusetts. And if prospects of an initiative campaign looked promising, the organizers stayed to assist in writing and qualifying the initiatives for the ballot.
Nearly two years and $20,000 in expenses later, the Western Bloc initiative campaign has resulted in safe power ballot propositions for a November vote in Colorado and Oregon (and probably Washington, Montana and North Dakota), and petition drives to qualify initiatives in Maine, Michigan and Ohio for 1977 and 1978 elections. If national policy is to be made at the state and local level, then local organizations must be coordinated on a national basis to learn to use the process and to create political muscle. Because of the national nature of the organization, no state stands alone in its success or failure at the ballot box, and at the same time individuals exercise a direct voice in self-government.
The Western Bloc headquarters are in Los Angeles, and the staff serves primarily as campaign organizers. The safe power campaigns, based on the California Nuclear Safeguards Initiative, are only the first in a series of initiatives the Western Bloc plans to undertake. The long-term goal is to win authority for initiatives and recalls in all 50 states, and to amend the Constitution to permit nationwide initiatives — giving people thepower to write and pass federal laws by direct election.
There have been arguments waged on both sides of the direct lawmaking process. Critics’ positions invariably rest on the assumption that citizens cannot be trusted; they are not qualified to enact laws, but only toelect representatives to run government. Proponents of the initiative process see it as the most direct form of self-government and the tool by which to hold elected officials accountable to the people. Because citizens through the initiative have the process to govern themselves, elected representatives are put in the position of serving their constituency. When legislators know that voters can enact their own laws, they are more inclined torespect the political power of the citizenry. Often the mere threat of an initiative will force the legislature to take action — for example, Propositions 5 and 6 which were placed on the June, 1976 ballot by the CaliforniaLegislature in lieu of a People’s Lobby Simple Majority Initiative, and the Nuclear Safety Bills which passed the legislature as a direct result of the Nuclear Safeguards Initiative.
Because of the initiative process, candidates for elective office are forced to take a position on issues, and the political muscle of special interest groups is eroded to the extent that citizens can unite in their support or opposition to measures at the ballot box. Used consistently, the initiative process creates political power among individual citizens – – a political power more secure than that of big moneyed lobbyists and partisan groups.
The following article by columnist Neil Peirce is indicative of a number of articles about the Western Bloc which have appeared in newspapers across the country over the last several months, and explains quite accurately the nature of the movement.
- LOS ANGELES TIMES
June 6, 1976
INITIATIVE VOTING SPREADS
By Neal R. Peirce
LOS ANGELES—The initiative form of people’s law writing, praised by some as the purest form of democracy and damned by others as the devil’s handiwork, receives an acid test Tuesday as California voters decide on a controversial nuclear power plant initiative.
The California vote takes on national significance because it is only the tip of the iceberg of a carefully
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Neil Peirce is a contributing editor of the National Journal.
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orchestrated movement to place nuclear safeguard initiatives on the ballots of all 21 states where initiatives are authorized.
The movement points up a nationwide effort to expand the initiative to other states, and indeed to amend the Constitution to make initiatives possible on a national scale.
Under initiatives, citizen signatures on petitions can force a popular vote on a proposed law or constitutional change.
Nuclear safety initiatives similar to the California measure have already qualified for the ballot in Colorado and Oregon in November. Active campaigns to qualify such measures by fall are also underway in eight other states—Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Washington.
Chief sponsors of the nuclear initiatives—the Ralph Nader organization and the People’s Lobby in California—warn of catastrophic meltdowns of nuclear reactors, spewing radioactive material that contaminates and kills. Government and the nuclear industry, they allege, have tried to hide the immense risks. The time has come, they argue, for the public to take the issue into its own hands.
Nuclear proponents, including government, labor and utilities, say there has been no “major” accident at any atomic power plant, and sophisticated safety systems guard against accidents. Prohibitive safeguard costs required by the California initiative, they say, would even cause shutdowns of existing nuclear power plants vital to the state’s energy supply.
But is the initiative the right way to solve such issues? One public management expert, William Boyd of the National Municipal League, thinks not: “Is it really wise for the voters to have hideously technical subjects, that have emotional overtones, put before them?” The average voter, Boyd adds, gives relatively little thought to the issues involved and listens only to the propaganda.
The very idea of popular initiatives—whether technical or not—has been controversial since the first initiative laws were passed, around the turn of the century. They have always been most popular in the West—Oregon, Washington, and preeminently California. Hiram Johnson, the illustrious Progressive, campaigned to break the Southern Pacific’s corrupt stranglehold on California government and wrote the initiative, along with popular referenda on laws and recall of officials, into the state constitution in 1911.
By 1974, 157 initiatives had been submitted to California voters—44 of them approved. The subject matter has been of infinite variety: prohibition, prize fighting, compulsory vaccination, the “Ham & Eggs” pension plan of the ‘30s; “right to work” in the ‘50s; fair housing, pay television and anti-obscenity measures in the 1960s.
Ronald Reagan’s cherished plan to restrain all future budget and tax increases went down in 1973. But two important initiatives did pass in 1972 and 1974—California’s coastal protection plan and sweeping controls on campaign spending and lobbies.
Critics charge that initiatives undercut representative government by taking lawmaking responsibility out of the hands of legislators elected to do that job. Lawmakers are encouraged to pass the buck on controversial issues. Through emotional and misleading advertising, well-heeled special interest groups can hoodwink a naive electorate. Initiatives leave no room for the give and take of legislative debate, for compromise that can result in more workable laws.
Advocates of the initiative turn all the same arguments around. The people must have a check on lobby-dominated legislatures, they say, a “safety valve” when legislators ignore the public will. The mere threat of an initiative often makes a legislature more responsive and accountable. Citizens can write laws directly, free of the threat of crippling legislative amendments. Initiative campaigns, backers say, air critical issues and arouse voter interest in government.
Pros and cons aside, the initiative process is now getting a major boost on a state and national basis. Ralph Nader’s organization has taken up the cause. In Nader’s words, “The revival of the initiative, referendum and recall in states which provide for them and the passage of similar measures in other states would reduce citizen apathy and quicken involvement in public policy. It would be the restoration of excessive delegation of power from the people back to the people—American style.”
A second group — self-appointed and astoundingly zealous — is California’s People’s Lobby, which has gone national as the “Western Bloc” to push nuclear safety initiatives. The long – term goal; to win authority for initiatives and recalls in the 29 states that don’t now have them, and to amend the U.S. Constitution to permit nationwide initiatives and recall votes of Presidents and Members of Congress.
The California People’s Lobby dates back to the late 1960s, when Ed and Joyce Koupal set up their initiative “petition factory,” headquartered in their Los Angeles home. The first victory came in 1974 when they joined with Common Cause to qualify California’s broad political reform initiative for the ballot —and won.
Ed Koupal died of cancer last March. Joyce Koupal is carrying on the People’s Lobby/Western Bloc push for a national initiative. The Nader organization lends more significant muscle. Regardless of who campaigns for the initiative concept, they seem likely to pick up more followers and more support — simply because of the crescendo of public distrust of government and of elected leaders documented in every national opinion poll.
The movement parallels efforts in the Progressive era of the first two decades of this century, when corruption, chicanery and unsavory lobbying discredited legislatures. Reformers seized on the initiative and referendum — a theory of “every man his own legislature” — to correct the evils. In a few years, the Progressive movement had spent itself—but left reform statutes on the law books from coast to coast.
Today’s movement may leave its mark, too. A national initiative amendment would be exceedingly difficult to write into the Constitution. But more states may adopt the initiative, and politicians can brace themselves for a disquieting era of the people taking lawmaking into their own hands.
1976 Neal R. Peirce
The Western Bloc has had some successes and some problems in its organizing process. Among the successes are safe power ballot propositions which have qualified in Oregon and Colorado, and those which will inevitably qualify in Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Michigan, Maine and Ohio. Problems have developed for the Western Bloc in three main areas: fundraising, the inability to successfully campaign in California as a unified group, and the lack of a hard-core, built-in constituency. The first two problems are a direct result of the disorganization of the Los Angeles staff during the time period of Ed Koupal’s death, and the third was foreseen from the beginning. Because of the need to move quickly to put safe power initiatives on several state ballots and to demonstrate the process, the formation of a direct constituency was set aside in favor of a looser partnership of local organizations. But the need for a built-in constituency and unified leadership becomes apparent after a proposition has been qualified for the ballot, and this problem must be solved over the next few months if the nuclear safeguards campaigns are to be successful. (These problems will be covered in more detail in the discussion of campaign mindset and the analysis of the California Proposition 15 campaign.)
The following pages contain some basic facts about initiative campaigns based on California experiences; an analysis of the People’s Lobby 1972 campaign for the Clean Environment Act — the first initiative to contain a nuclear moratorium within it; a preliminary analysis of the YES on 15 campaign for the California Nuclear Safeguards Initiative; and an outline of suggestions for YES campaigns in other states. The material from Clem Whitaker used in this paper was taken from an unpublished article, by Professor Sethi of Boston University.
The issues covered here need to be discussed in personal meetings as well. In every state, voters have their own regional attitudes and issues which should be primary influences in determining strategies. We hope that this paper will help campaign organizers to structure discussions so that successful campaigns will follow.
There are some basic facts about initiative campaigns which are important to a successful campaign strategy.
Initiative campaigns are not like candidate campaigns. Candidates are aided by controversy. Initiatives lose when there is controversy. Remember that an initiative is a new law — a change in the existing order of the state. People have a natural psychological resistance to change because change may make things worse and it will certainly make things different. So at the outset, voters are inclined to vote against initiatives.
When controversy arises, the problem is compounded; voters will either vote no or not at all because the initiative presents an apparent and overt threat. The controversy creates an unsafe atmosphere, and generally voters will defeat the proposition to preserve the status quo.
RULE 1. Avoid controversy around the initiative. Do not create it, do not encourage it, and do not react defensively when those trying to defeat the initiative raise it. Creating controversy is the quickest way to lose an election and the worst climate in which to present the arguments for the ballot proposition.
In 1972, Californians defeated the Clean Environment Act, which contained a nuclear moratorium within it, by a 2 to 1 margin. The campaign against the measure was waged by Whitaker and Baxter, a well-known PR firm; People’s Lobby ran the YES campaign with 20,000 California volunteers. A poll had shown that 95% of the voters in Los Angeles County wanted action taken to get rid of pollution. The most effective thing that Whitaker and Baxter did to defeat the proposition was to create immediate controversy around the issue itself and the “kooks supporting it.” The controversy did two things: it established an unsafe and threatening atmosphere around the proposition, and it enabled the NO campaign to form a strong base of political opinion leaders.
The controversy also aided the NO campaign for another reason: People’s Lobby responded to it. They spent a good portion of the campaign answering the charges of the opposition instead of getting their message about the initiative to the voter. They distributed copies of Whitaker and Baxter’s “secret plan to defeat the Clean Environment Act” to the voters; they tried to campaign on the fact that the opposition was having them followed by a detective agency. In short, they told voters to vote for Proposition 9 because “the bad guys” were on the other side.
Clem Whitaker, who ran the NO campaign on the Clean Environment Act, understood how the controversy helped defeat the initiative:
“People’s Lobby’s] campaign was very simplistic and often bordered on being hysterical. At one time they reached a point where they wanted to campaign against Standard Oil [of California] and nothing else. Well. the people could not care less about a campaign like that. We ignored that totally.”
A highly emotional, controversial campaign does not work. When John Doe goes to the polls on election day, he remembers only a few things about the issues on the ballot and the campaigns surrounding them: the headlines (but only the most sensational ones — like “People’s Lobby is a Religious Cult” or “People’s Lobby Followed by Standard Oil Mafia” or “Smog Kills Half the Residents of California”); the advertisements about which way to vote on the issue, and perhaps some of the reasoning; and, most importantly, who says to vote yes or no on the issue. Now in 1972, John Doe remembered that the People’s Lobby, who were somewhat eccentric and thought that the whole corporate world was out to destroy them, said to vote YES on 9. He also remembered advertisements which said that the lights would go out if the Clean Environment Act passed and that many important and wise political opinion leaders were telling voters to “Vote NO on 9.”
Proposition 9 lost by 2 to 1 for a good reason: People’s Lobby ran a highly emotional campaign based on issues which created controversy. The voter had to choose whether some screaming citizen group called People’s Lobby was right or whether the long trusted opinion leaders knew what they were talking about. A YES vote was a risky thing; a NO vote was safe — it represented the status quo.
Another problem with initiative campaigns results from a misunderstanding of what needs to be communicated to the voters. Those new at initiative campaigns have a tendency to base their programs on the idealistic principle that voters make informed choices at the polls after studying the details of the proposed law. In reality, the voters who consider the initiative in its finer details are those who put it on the ballot, work in some way for or against its passage, and a limited number of opinion leaders. The greater number of voters – those who actually pass or defeat the proposition – make very limited choices about the law; they look at the ads, decide whom they believe, and vote the way those people advise them to vote. As the initiative process is used more and more, the number of voters who make decisions that way decreases, but based on California’s experiences to date, they still comprise a large portion of the voting population and are necessary to making the initiative law.
RULE 2. Line up the opinion leaders. They are the people who need to be informed and need to understand the issues and the finer points of the initiative, because voters believe opinion leaders. They are as important to a successful initiative campaign as money.
Clem Whitaker of Whitaker and Baxter put it this way in discussing the 1972 Clean Environment Act:
“You have to go back to the structure of an issue campaign and how it comes about. You cannot launch a campaign of this type three weeks before the election with a series of catchy, colorful spots. You couldn’t hope to win. You launch this by doing the massive kind of research and in-depth studies of the issue that it requires to isolate the elements – – good and bad – – within it so that you can discuss them. You take that documentation to people and organizations who will sit and take the time to go through the whole problem and then they will make decisions that this is good or this is bad or you are right or you are wrong on the basis of considerable analysis. Once you have established, and we term this an organizational base, once you have established that, then you can go out and begin to do your job publicly, issue by issue, in publicity, in news conferences, in mailings of materials. By the time you get down to the last two or three weeks, of course you are down to the refined last extract of issues with which you can deal in thirty to sixty seconds. That wouldn’t work without your base. The answer to your question is if you don’t set the base, it won’t work. In my opinion, you could not start a campaign in this country that takes some ridiculous little point and peddle it.”
As to the role of large corporations and money in the 1972 campaign, Whitaker again stressed the need for a strong base of opinion leaders:
“[The corporations] were the financial contributors, not the contributors to the campaign. The campaign could not have been won with them; it had to be won with the other people who were involved. Contributors are not just money.
“People’s Lobby may think that this distinction [between the financial contributors and the contributors to the political support base] is arbitrary. That depends entirely on what side of the issue you are. We have dealt with virtually every kind of organized group that exists. And it is a truism that the other side is evil, it is devious, it is over financed or undersexed, or something, there is something wrong with it and I don’ t care whether this argument is coming from the left or from the right. It comes into every campaign. The fact is that if you can’t make the bridge that I described earlier where you can go across the political spectrum and get a broad basis of support, you can have all the money in the world to fight a fight and you are not going to win. You have to have this other input, this other contribution.”
In 1974, Whitaker and Baxter tried to campaign against the Political Reform Act, but were unable to get their program off the ground. Whitaker explains that the reason for this was that People’s Lobby was able to attract some politically respectable support for the proposition; they put together a base of the right opinion leaders before Whitaker and Baxter were able to do so.
According to Whitaker:
“They would have lost on the Political Reform Act if they had an intelligent campaign against it. We tried to put together a campaign and it fell apart. There were three or four other little efforts but they never became full-fledged campaigns.
“I think people, good people, who were just as disgusted with the whole Watergate mess as the supporters of the Political Reform Initiative, did not want to get involved in opposing an issue where in the public mind they could be accused of defending excesses — and they walked away from it. That was a mistake in my opinion, but that is the reason they weren’t there.”
In 1972, People’s Lobby had also lined up opinion leaders, but they were not the right people to swing the vote; they were people who influenced an already existing affirmative vote. In 1974, the political leaders supporting Proposition 9 were individuals and organizations who represented a broad base of the political spectrum. That’s what made the difference in the two campaigns. Because of the broad base of political support for Proposition 9 in 1974, Whitaker and Baxter were unable to organize a campaign or get financial contributions — the status quo was represented by the YES side.
After the political support base has been firmly established and the opinion leaders understand the initiative and what it will do, the message must be communicated to the rest of the voters.
( P12 in Western Bloc pamphlet)
RULE 3. Successful campaign strategy must be based on one premise:
Vote YES on Proposition X. That is what you want the voters, to do and what must be clearly visible. If it is communicated to the public by individuals and organizations who are trusted by a broad base of voters, the public will generally have confidence in the merits of the ballot proposition and have a reason to vote for it.
This kind of campaign is not devious or misleading. The voters must still be told why a YES vote is the right thing. But the fact of the matter is, if the voters do not know you or have a favorable frame of reference for your message, they will not vote for your proposition. Logic alone will not carry the voting population; there is a more important trust factor which must be considered. Your argument with opinion leaders will rise or fall based on the factual data and logic which is presented to them, one-on-one. They will then communicate that logic to the voters along with their belief that it is correct. It is the combination of the two — logic and trust — which will convince the public to vote YES. And it is integral to a “people-oriented” campaign — people communicating with people.
Voters are accustomed to electing other people to make decisions for them. They elect one candidate over another because they trust one candidate more than another. It stands to reason that when voters make decisions on issues — initiatives — they are going to be concerned with what decisions their political and opinion leaders make about them. This is not the ideal method of decision-making, and many initiative proponents would rather base their campaigns on what they consider to be the ideal method of decision-making — informed choices based on logic alone. This inevitably results in “making a political statement” which may or may not be clear to the public. “Political statements” are fine, but they have little relevance to passing laws by initiative. If you want to win the campaign, you need a majority YES vote. A majority YES vote is achieved through trusted opinion leaders telling the public to vote YES and why.
In communicating with the general voting populace, it is important to stress issues which are relevant.
RULE 4. Understand the voters’ issues, they may not be the same as Yours.
Issues which are important considerations of the average voter are not necessarily the same concerns of initiative proponents. If voters are concerned about the economics of a situation, telling them to vote yes for safety reasons has little effect.
In analyzing the 1972 Clean Environment Act, Clem Whitaker said that it is not enough to run with today’s emotions, one has to understand and underscore the issue’s major implications, be they political, economical, or philosophical. The act must realistically deal with these issues and the campaign must bring them out in a manner that people can relate with them. Often that means condensing major issues and messages about them into short accurate commercial spots.
Find out what concerns voters through polls and voter profiles taken early —before the campaign advertising starts — and keep on top of the voter pulse through polls taken during the actual campaign. It is fatal to assume that because you understand the problem and issue addressed by your initiative that you also understand what concerns voters about the initiative.
In the 1972 campaign, many of the issues stressed by People’s Lobby had little relevance to the public’s concerns. For example, People’s Lobby spent a good deal of time discussing the NO campaign: Standard Oil of California and the big money being spent to defeat the Clean Environment Act. Even though People’s Lobby made these points issues in the campaign, they were not the issues about the Clean Environment Act which were of concern to voters. Consequently, the YES on 9 campaign did not affect the public’s vote on the proposition.
In analyzing the money issue of the 1972 campaign, Ed Koupal saw it differently than he did at the time he was trying to tell the public that the NO side was spending big money:
“We bought our ads wrong. We didn’t have the money to have Mervin Field run a poll to see what we were doing. We couldn’t make any test runs in the media to see how our message applied to the political public at that moment. We did the best we could. We operated on a day to day basis.”
Another common problem area in initiative campaigns is the propensity of initiative proponents to want to debate the issues in public forums.
RULE 5. Do not debate. Debates feed controversy, waste valuable time and energy, and do not educate the public.
Ed Koupal described his perception of the debates of the 1972 campaign this way:
“It was an ego trip for me. I would walk out of a debate knowing that I had clobbered the opposition. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that people left the auditorium that night agreeing with me, and then when they got up the next morning they would say, ‘but Koupal is just a used-car salesman and after all — that other guy is a physicist,’ and I ended up losing anyway.”
Debates force arguments and those making them into polarized zones; the net intellectual result of these encounters is usually negligible, and since they feed controversy, no matter who wins the argument intellectually, the YES side of a campaign will lose votes.
Debates were well described by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, where he discusses the “hydrostatic paradox of controversy”:
“Don’t you know what that means? Well, I will tell you. You know that, if you had a bent tube, one arm of which was the size of a pipe stem, and the other big enough to hold the ocean, water would stand at the same height in one as in the other. Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way — and the fools know it.”
Because the broadcast media are governed by a Fairness Doctrine which requires them to provide equal time to both sides of a political campaign, and because many programmers believe that debates make more exciting programs, there are often ample opportunities to debate ballot propositions. There are several alternative ways to use this media time to educate the public about the initiative without resorting to a debate or argument. First of all, the campaign manager can insist that any program is structured so that each side is given the opportunity to present views individually and apart from one another. Secondly, do not argue with the other side; the program may present both sides of the issue, but should not result in direct confrontation. Thirdly, put your best opinion leader forward — the public must trust and believe in the individual presenting your arguments if they are to affect the outcome of the election. Finally, wait until the appropriate time to use the offer of media access; and if the media time is going to result in controversy, pass it up. Because of the Fairness Doctrine, the other side will not be able to use the media time offered without your participation.
Remember, it is to the advantage of the NO campaign to encourage debates because they create controversy. Debates are a disadvantage to the YES campaign for the same reason.
One of the greatest strengths of citizen initiated grassroots campaigns is that people at the local level make their own decisions about the initiative and write, qualify and pass it into law through their own campaign. This circumstance is also one of the greatest weaknesses of citizen campaigns because it can result in disorganization. The same people-to-people communication and decision-making which are so important to qualifying a ballot proposition can cause it to be defeated at the polls.
RULE 6. Centralize campaign decision – making. The campaign for Proposition X should be controlled by the campaign director or campaign consultant team.
In any effective organization, there are decisions which should be made by the majority and decisions which should be made by technicians who have special expertise. In initiative campaigns, most decisions which should be made by the majority are made before the proposition is ever
presented to the voters. Those decisions include what the initiative should say and how it should be drafted. After the initiative has qualified, those responsible for putting the proposition on the ballot should decide who will manage the campaign. But when a campaign director has been hired, decisions about the conduct of the campaign are rightfully that person’s, and the people participating in the campaign should take direction from the campaign director or campaign consultant team.
If there are individuals or organizations who support your position on the initiative but who will not follow the lead of the campaign director, either hire someone from whom they will take direction or allow them to run their own campaign — but make sure that it is compatible with yours. Dissension and disorganization among groups is the fastest way to lose the election; it is destructive, debilitating and results in ego problems and errors.
There is a lesson to be learned from NO campaigns: they are usually composed of strange bed-fellows — industry works alongside labor, Republicans alongside Democrats, political candidates alongside their opponents. The reason for this is that the most important goal of the campaign is to win, and the various parties agree on that goal. They do what is best for the campaign and the desired result, because they all have much more to lose than control of the campaign itself. When citizen groups understand this concept, wiser decisions are made about campaign strategy.
One of the most difficult parts of any citizen campaign is fundraising. Citizen groups, who have managed to qualify an initiative at almost no cost using people-to-people communication techniques, are faced with an immediate need for a sum of money large enough to purchase methods of mass communication.
RULE 7. You can’t run a campaign without substantial money unless spending is limited by law. If you do not have enough money to buy the necessary media at the right time to communicate your message to the voters, do not buy any media — it is only money wasted.
The campaign director should be able to determine, with the assistance of pollsters and other media experts, how much money is necessary to get the YES on Proposition X message out to the public. (If opinion leaders are covered by the news media, the amount of money needed will be less than if the YES position gets little coverage.) If you don’t have the minimum amount of money required, spending what you have available for media will make no difference in the vote. This is perhaps the hardest fact to accept.
In 1972, People’s Lobby collected what it considered to be enough money to get the YES on 9 message to the voters. But they did not have it in enough time to present the message at the right time. Because of other problems with the YES on 9 campaign, it is not possible to determine exactly what effect the proponents’ advertising could have had if it had been done correctly. But it is safe to assume that it had almost no effect since the campaign lost 2 to 1, and at the outset 95% of the people said they would vote for a measure which would control pollution. Even assuming that the NO on 9 campaign was very well executed, that is a large percentage to lose if your advertising has any effect.
According to Ed Koupal, the YES on 9 campaign lost in 1972 because of lack of understanding of the political process, how to run an advertising campaign, and primarily because of money:
“Money buys elections, money buys advertising agencies, and money buys prolonged slick sloganeering. We just didn’t have the money. A preponderance of money [on one side] buys the other people out of the area of freedom of speech.”
In 1974, People’s Lobby ran a successful campaign which made the Political Reform Act law. There are two reasons why virtually the same amount of media money spent in the 1972 campaign was effective in 1974: the YES campaign was run successfully in a political sense — the issues were right, the ads were right, and there was a broad base of political support; and the base of support prevented the NO campaign from getting off the ground. Without the right opinion leaders, Whitaker and Baxter could not raise enough money to defeat the initiative. Since they didn’t have enough money, they didn’t spend any and they didn’t run a campaign. After the 1974 campaign Whitaker explained:
“We tried to put a campaign together and it fell apart. There were three or four little efforts but they never became full-fledged campaigns.”
Seventy percent of the money raised for the campaign should be spent on media — mass communications media, not door-to-door leafleting. (Most door-to-door leafleting can be done by piggybacking initiative literature with candidate literature. This has a compounded effect since political candidates are often opinion leaders.) Campaign overhead can be very low — you don’t need a big office, massive phone banks and a large staff because they have virtually no effect on the outcome of the election. Furthermore, one-to-one voter communication should cost virtually nothing in a YES on Proposition X campaign since many of the people who petitioned to put the measure on the ballot will work in the campaign.
Even if your campaign is run correctly, there are other factors which will influence the vote on an initiative proposition which are out of your control. The political climate itself is a good example: Watergate certainly helped the YES vote on the Political Reform Act in 1974. But the Watergate scandal would have had little effect on the election if the YES on 9 campaign had been poorly presented. Similarly, if you have the wrong issue at the wrong time, a well-organized campaign will most likely not result in victory at the polls. But if proponents do the best job possible in presenting their case, the margin of defeat will be narrowed and a greater portion of the public will be educated on the issue so that when the political climate is conducive, the initiative can be qualified and passed more easily.
Based on their experiences, People’s Lobby compiled this checklist for initiative campaigns:
- A well-drafted document is hard to fight. Draw in people who know the field. Seek advice from expert attorneys.
- Timing — in spending money and presenting information — is important from both practical and political standpoints.
- Establish a base of opinion leaders which cuts across a broad political spectrum. Secure a broad base of support at the beginning. Get all endorsements in writing.
- Carefully evaluate potential opposition.
- Dry up the money sources of the opposition. This does not mean that you will get money they would have had, but it does mean that they will not get a large campaign off the ground.
- Keep the opposition off balance.
- Keep controversy at a minimum — never debate.
- If a legal dispute arises, settle in court, not in the press.
- Set up your own opinion polls. They clearly define the strong and weak areas in your campaign.
- Distribute literature wisely. Look for opportunities to piggyback your material with candidates and get on state mailers. (This method was used to send over 5 million pieces of YES on 9 literature.)
The public opinion poll on the following pages presents a detailed analysis of the effect of the 1972 YES on 9 campaign. To understand the poll, it is important to remember the major points and emphases of the YES and NO campaigns:
YES on 9
“The People vs. Big Money” — Advertisements urged
a YES vote because large corporations were trying to defeat the initiative.
- “Save Your Children — This May Be Your Last Chance”———Advertisements urged a YES vote because pollution and nuclear power were destroying the environment for future generations and would rob their health and safety.
- “We Need to Stop Pollution” — Advertisements urged a YES vote because we need to clean up the environment.
NO on 9
“The Initiative is Poorly Written and Doesn’t Do The
Job” — Advertisements urged a NO vote on the Clean Environment Act because it was a poorly drafted law which would do more harm than good.
- “Proposition 9 Will Cut Off Your Electricity” — Advertisements urged a NO vote on 9 because it would result in power failures and blackouts due to its nuclear moratorium provision.
- “Proposition 9 Will Hurt Jobs” — Advertisements urged a NO vote on 9 because it would increase unemployment.
The conclusions drawn at the beginning of the YES on 9 campaign were reasonably accurate — more so than those used in the YES campaign. At the beginning of the campaign, polls indicated that 95% of the people would vote for an initiative which would do something about the pollution problem. Unfortunately, this was not the emphasis of the YES campaign.
Californians wanted to do something about pollution but in 1972 they were frightened into voting NO on 9 by a clever NO campaign and a YES campaign which addressed the wrong issues. The primary fears voters expressed in the following post election poll were:
- The initiative would not work.
- The initiative was illegal — it violated the Constitution or due process.
- The initiative would cause power failures.
- The initiative would cause economic problems, job loss or excessive cost.
In short, voters indicated that they believed the NO on 9 campaign.
(Page 21 in Western Bloc pamphlet ends here)
PROPOSITION 9- THE CLEAN ENVIRONMENT ACT OF 1972
PUBLIC OPINION POLL
The following information is taken from a public opinion poll which was conducted during the month of June 1972, approximately two weeks after the primary. The sample was drawn on an area probability basis, and was done by personal interview. Within the limits noted in the explanation of this poll, it is reasonably indicative of the feelings of the voting public at that time. There were a total of 374 useable questionnaires, and they form the basis for the following report.
Proposition 9, The Clean Environment Act failed primarily because the opposition succeeded in convincing a majority of the people that Proposition 9 was poorly done, badly worded and would not be effective in cleaning up the environment. Even 74% of those who voted for it, thought it was a poorly written proposal or were not sure if it was good or not. A second reason which justified a NO vote for many people was the nuclear power section. This was especially true in Southern California where the advertising of Southern California Edison apparently persuaded people that nuclear power is clean, safe and needed if we are to avoid power blackouts.
On the positive side, 75% of the people in our poll believe cleaning up the environment is Very Important to the state of California. Of those who voted YES on 9, 90% believe cleaning up the environment is very important. A second favorable factor is that 86% of the people who voted NO on 9 said that if they were given the opportunity again, they would vote for an environment initiative if they thought it would be effective.
Conclusion: The people want action on the environment, but they do not know exactly what should be done. If they are persuaded that a proposal will help, they are ready to vote for it.
Caveat: When people are asked why they did something, most of them will come up with a reason, whether or not it bears any relation to the “real” reasons which they may not even be aware of. Therefore the following analysis can only be used as a guide for judgment, not as absolute fact.
REASONS PEOPLE VOTED YES ON
PROPOSITION 9 —- SPONTAN EOUS
Respondents were asked how they voted on Proposition 9, followed by the question, “Was there any particular reason you felt that way?”
73% A feeling that we must do something — to clean up the air, the environment, the water.
19% Some expression of dislike for the opposition or their advertising –specifically mentioned were Standard Oil, Pacific Gas & Electric (in Northern California only).
15% Protest vote — general, directed against business or legislature.
N = 165 Number of people who voted for Proposition 9. Does not add up to 100% because of multiple responses.
There were a great number of idiosyncratic answers given by only one or two persons and these are not included in the summary. In addition, some people said they thought the law should have been stricter, more inclusive, covering all areas of pollution. The responses were more generalized than for the NO people —- more of a cry of anguish that something must be done.
REASONS PEOPLE VOTED YES ON
PROPOSITION 9 — ASSISTED
The respondent was then handed a list of items which were frequently mentioned as reasons for voting for 9 and asked which of these were important to him or her.
80% We have to do something to start cleaning up the environment.
42% I was concerned about the health of my children.
31% To scare big business into doing something about the environment.
30% I hated the ads the other side was using.
25% 1 read about it and it seemed like a good idea.
21% I know someone who has a health problem because of pollution.
16% Anything Standard Oil and the other big companies are for, I’m against.
13% When I heard about the dangers of nuclear power, I decided to vote YES.
7% A friend/relative told me they thought it was a good idea.
N = 165
These assisted answers are probably not as indicative of people’s thinking as the earlier spontaneous answers, but they do give us some supplemental information since a reminder may help a person remember something he does not think of when first asked about an unexpected subject.
REASONS FOR VOTING NO ON
PROPOSITION 9 — SPONTANEOUS
“Was there any particular reason you felt that way?”
64% The way it was written — included too much, poorly written, not good law, confusing, applied too quickly, too extreme or radical, won’t work, will make things worse.
28% Nuclear power section/fear of blackouts.
17% Economic reasons — fear of losing jobs, hurt the economy of the state, closing factories.
12% Because of opposition — Sierra Club and other environmental groups, TV and newspaper opposition, “everyone” opposed to it.
10% Diesel fuel, fear of trucks stopping.
N = 198 Number of persons voting against Prop. 9. In two areas there were significant differences between the NO voters of Northern and Southern California. 71% of the people mentioning nuclear power as a reason for voting against Prop. 9 were in Southern California. 63% of those mentioning the opposition to 9 (as noted above) as an influence on their decision were in Northern California.
REASONS FOR VOTING NO ON PROPOSITION 9 — ASSISTED
45% Poorly written, not good law.
42% Nuclear power section.
29% Banned diesel fuel, the trucks and trains could not run.
28% Would have made things worse, not better.
26% Would have put people out of work.
23% Would have caused power blackouts.
20% Would not have cleaned up the environment.
19% It was too long, too complicated.
18% Too inflexible, could not be changed.
15% Banned pesticides.
10% The Sierra Club was opposed to it.
9% Many environmental groups opposed it.
9% We would have had too many bugs and mosquitos.
8% I didn’t understand it.
7% A friend/relative said to vote NO.
6% I never heard anything good about it.
3% The most important politicians opposed it.
HOW TO IMPROVE THE PROPOSITION
If future proposals —- similar to Proposition 9, are made for cleaning up the environment, what changes would you like to see made?
Total Yes No
Change the wording 49% 57% 42%
Don’t know 29 28 30
Take out nuclear
power section 14 9 18
Concern for due
process 9 8 10
Do more about cars 9 10 8
N = (363) (165) (198)
Nearly 30% of the respondents had no idea what should be done to improve such a proposition. Since a [p25 from Western Bloc Booklet] majority of the respondents, whether they voted YES or NO, seemed to feel that there was some flaw in the wording of the law, that was the most frequently suggested change. This was a particular concern of those who voted YES, apparently because they felt that if it could only be done a bit better, it would pass, and this was their primary concern. All the respondents seemed to be a bit naive when it came to the opposition to the Proposition. It was, assumed there must be something wrong or people wouldn’t oppose it. The fact that the best bill is likely to be opposed by powerful interests does not seem to enter their thinking at least as revealed in this survey.
Again, those who wanted the nuclear power section taken out were predominately in Southern California, by more than a 2 to 1 margin.
IMPORTANCE OF CLEANING UP THE ENVIRONMENT
Total Yes No
# % # % # %
Very Important 270 75 148 90 124 62
Important 68 19 10 6 58 29
Moderately Imp. 16 4 4 2 12 6
Not Important 4 1 1 * 3 2
It’s not necessary
to do anything more 1 * 0 0 1 *
Noanswer 2 2 1 0 0
N = (363) (165) (198)
* — less than 1/2 of 1%
The respondent’s perception of the importance of cleaning up the environment seems to be a key factor in determining the vote on Proposition 9. Those who saw the problem as Very Important were far more likely to vote for Proposition 9. For the next proposition, those who voted NO, but see the environment as a Very Important problem will certainly be ready to be persuaded to vote YES.
It is also of significance to note that in Southern California which has the majority of voters, 78% of the (p. 26 Western Bloc Pamphlet) respondents found the problem of cleaning up the environment to be Very Important. This includes 95% of the YES voters and 65% of the NO voters in Southern California. In Northern California, 86% of the YES voters and 58% of the NO voters said they thought the problem was Very Important.
ASKED OF YES VOTERS ONLY
Even though you voted for Proposition 9, do you think it was a well thought out, well written proposal?
Not certain, 74%
Don’t Know 21 1
ASKED OF NO VOTERS ONLY
If given the opportunity, do you think you would vote for an environment initiative in the future?
Yes, if I thought it would be
Effective 66 86%
Probably not 14
IMAGE OF THE PEOPLE’S LOBBY
Have you ever heard of the, People’s Lobby?
Yes Total Yes No
Yes 52% 57% 47%
No 40 38 43
Not sure 8 5 10
Yes 44% 58%
No 50 32
Not sure 6 10
As would be expected, people who voted YES on 9 were more familiar with the People’s Lobby than those who voted NO. Also, it is probably to be expected that the recognition factor is higher in Southern California where the Lobby has its headquarters and where the most active campaigning took place. From this survey there is no way to determine if this is a high or low recognition faction, since it is not compared to any other organizations. However, it does appear to be a rather high figure for an organization which is less than four years old. Recognition, however, does not mean that people are really aware of the People’s Lobby and what it is doing specifically. It merely shows some familiarity with the name —heard the name, something about the environment, something to do with Proposition 9, put Proposition 9 on the ballot.
Among people who voted for Proposition 9, there was a somewhat greater feeling that the People’s Lobby is doing a good job, but even among the NO voters, there were few negative feelings expressed toward the group. There seemed to be some feeling that the Lobby means well, and only eight respondents said they thought the group was doing a poor job or was too radical. Thus, in spite of a large defeat, the People’s Lobby is not viewed in a negative way by practically any of the respondents who answered this questionnaire. If there had been strong negative feelings, they probably would have shown themselves at some point in the questioning, and their absence indicates a clear lack of such feelings.
DEMOGRAPHICS AND VOTING PATTERNS
While the sample is small and cannot be broken down to give very fine distinctions which are reliable, there do appear to be some identifiable characteristics which divide the YES and NO voters.
Age: Young people, 18 – 24, tended to vote YES by a 2 to 1 margin.
Older people, 66 and over, tended to vote heavily against Proposition 9, although the margin shown in the sample, 14 to 1 against, is probably too high. This anomaly is probably due to the small sample.
Ethnic: The sample did not include enough Blacks and Chicanos in proportion to their strength in the electorate. Also the Blacks and Chicanos sampled tended to be middle and upper middle class based on their income and education. However, within these limitations, both of these groups appear to have voted heavily in favor of Proposition 9, indicating a good potential for the next proposition.
58% of the Democrats voted YES
20% of the Republicans voted YES
75% of the YES vote was Democratic
16% of the YES vote was Republican
44% of the NO vote was Democratic
50% of the NO vote was Republican
As was fairly obvious, our major strength was in the Democratic party. However, in 1974 there will be primaries for the Governorship and U.S. Senator. Both will attract a lot of Republicans, and we will have to work to attract their votes. Also, they did contribute 16% of our votes, and an additional 16% happens to have been the difference between victory and defeat.
Income: There were no clear—cut patterns related to income, although the proportion of NO vote was largest in the $12,000—$14,999 range. The YES vote exceeded the NO vote in the $5,000—$7,999 range, perhaps because of its small size———a sampling error, or possibly a reflection of the fact that this is a more common salary range for a woman, and women were more likely to vote for 9 than were men. The YES vote also won in the $25,000 and up category.
Education: In general, those with a lower level of education, high school graduate or less, tended to vote NO. Those with a higher level of education, attended college or a college graduate, tended to vote YES. Those with advanced degrees reversed this pattern by showing a slightly larger number voting NO. This too [p29] may be explained by sample size, or perhaps by the fact that 3/4 of those with graduate degrees who voted NO, mentioned some aspect of the nuclear power section. Jacques Ellul has said that intellectuals are most susceptible to propaganda because they read widely and feel compelled to have an opinion on every subject. Therefore, if they have not read deeply into the problems of nuclear power, they are more likely to have read the pro—nuclear material and to feel that those who oppose it are ignorant, against progress and alarmists. (This is purely speculation of course, but it might explain this anomaly in the data.)
Total Useable Questionnaires —- 374
Yes 165 44.1%
No 198 53.0
Didn’t vote 5 1.3
Don’t remember 6 1.6
TOTALS 374 100.0%
Proposition 9 did better in our survey than in the actual election probably because we sampled in areas where we did somewhat more work, and where in fact, we did do better than in the state as a whole.
Those who did not vote were not analyzed in the report because of their small numbers. Their primary reasons for not voting appeared to be either confusion or ambivalence. They did not understand it, or they did not want to vote against an environment bill, but still could not accept something in this particular bill.
18—24 52 14% Male 158 43%
25—39 130 36 Female 226 57
40—65 164 46
66+ 15 4
White 329 90% Democrat 208 57%
Black 12 3.3 Republican 128 35
Chicano 13 3.6 Peace and Freedom 6 1.9
Oriental 5 1.4 Amer. Ind. 4 1.1
Other 2 .6 Raza Unida 2 .3
Decline to State 18 5.7
Under $5,000 29 8%
$5,000—$7,999 29 8
$8,000—11,999 75 20
$12,000 — 14,999 82 23
$15,000—24,999 68 19
$25,000andup 37 10
No Answer 43 12
Grade School 14 4%
High School 25 7
High School Graduate 78 22
Attended College 123 34
College Graduate 81 22
Graduate Degree 39 11
Percentages are based on those who answered each question. Since the questions were not answered by every respondent, the N’s vary slightly.
The sample appears to be a reasonable reflection of the voting population of California, even though it does not mirror the actual population perfectly.
It is undersampled in young people, 18 – 24, and older people, over 65. It is oversampled in the 40 – 65 age category.
There are too many women compared to men in the sample.
There are not enough Blacks or Chicanos in the study to give a reliable picture of their voting behavior or their reasons for that behavior.
The party divisions seem to be reasonably good, following the registration patterns of the state.
There are too many higher income people and not enough lower income people, but since this follows voting patterns it may not be such a serious problem. The older voters do go to the polls more than young voters, and perhaps their absence from this sample, in part, accounts for the higher percentage of YES votes in the sample.
There are more highly educated people — college degrees and graduate degrees — than are found in the general population. [p.32 from Western Bloc Pamphlet
ANALYSIS OF YES ON 15
Let’s Run the 1972 Campaign One More Time
Our preliminary analysis shows that there is very little difference between the YES on 9 campaign in 1972 and the YES on 15 campaign in 1976. (Further analysis may point out additional reasons for the loss.) Both campaigns included volatile and important issues; both were supported by thousands of volunteers; both raised almost the same amount of money when you take into account inflation and look at the actual media money spent; both lost 2 to 1 at the polls; and both were the same kind of campaign. The mistakes of the two campaigns can be summed up as follows:
- A broad support base of political opinion leaders was not established early in the campaigns. This does not mean that there were not a lot of endorsements, because both campaigns lined up endorsements. But the people supporting the propositions influenced a small portion of the voting population, and those who cut across the political spectrum were not used effectively or often enough.
For example, in 1976 the National Health Federation — a conservative organization which has substantial influence with groups like the John Birch Society –was not used effectively to communicate with those voters. Ralph Nader, who in an April opinion poll showed a 96% recognition factor among California voters and a 76% credibility level on the nuclear issue, was not visible until the very end of the campaign. Even if Nader himself was not in California, ads telling voters that he urged a YES vote on Proposition 15 [p33 Western Bloc pamphlet] should have saturated the media.
- Because the support base of opinion leaders was limited, the NO campaign was able to get off to an effective start — both financially and in terms of political support.
- The political leaders were not well—educated on the issue. Informative material that is well documented is important in educating opinion leaders. This was not done well in either campaign and it is a critical point.
- There were some serious misjudgments in timing. In 1972, Whitaker and Baxter’s “Secret Plan to Defeat the Clean Environment Act” received substantial news coverage, but it
was released too early in the campaign to make a significant difference in the vote tally. It only served to feed the controversy.
Similarly, in 1976, the resignation of three General Electric engineers for safety reasons could have been a tremendous influence in garnering votes for YES on 15 — but it was orchestrated too early in the campaign, resulted in controversy, and there was no news story of major impact in reserve. The resignations of the GE engineers occurred at the same time Bob Pollard left the NRC. Pollard’s resignation provided sufficient impact for that period in the campaign, and the engineers were needed later.
In both campaigns, the timing on the advertisements was off. In 1976, 54% of the voters made up their minds on Proposition 15 by March. At that time, it would have been a safe assumption that the “undecideds” would soon follow, particularly since the NO campaign was laying careful groundwork. Instead of running a few small ads at that time for YES on 15 when the voters could be influenced, the money was spent on full-page ads at the end. The same kind of mistakes was made in 1972.
- Controversy was high in both campaigns, and initiative proponents encouraged it through a series of seemingly endless debates. In 1972, Ed Koupal and his cadre of environmentalists and students debated physicists; in 1976, David Pesenan did the same thing. It was profitable in neither campaign.
- In 1972 and 1976 the issues which concerned voters were ignored by initiative proponents. People’s Lobby and the Committee for Nuclear Safeguards based their campaigns primarily on “Big Money vs. the People” and “Save Your Children— This May Be Your Last Chance” kind of advertisements. The emotionalism of the campaigns increased the controversy and did not speak to voters’ concerns: jobs, economics and safety.
- Both campaigns suffered from internal dissension and decentralized decision-making. In 1972 there were differences and arguments between People’s Lobby and environmentalists supporting Proposition 9. In the early part of the 1976 campaign, there were severe disagreements between Project Survival and People For Proof followed by in — fighting between Project Survival and the Committee for Nuclear Safeguards and Project Survival, CNS and People’s Lobby. At one point, nuclear industry trade publications carried stories about the YES on 15 campaign complete with quotes from initiative proponents explaining that CNS did not want Nader to campaign in California because if Proposition 15 passed he would get the credit. This dissension and the resulting decision making process kept the YES on 15 campaign off balance a good portion of the time. in order to win a campaign you have to keep your eyes on the target— not on one another.
In 1974 the proponents of Proposition 9 had many political differences. A number of committees conducted separate campaigns. But the campaigns were compatible, and the groups were able to set aside their differences to the degree necessary to cooperate in winning the election.
Further analysis of the YES on 15 campaign will indicate in greater detail what was effective in campaign advertising and what was not. Polls to be run in California are in preparation, and they will be conducted and made available to other Western Bloc states to help determine strategies for those campaigns. . [p.35 from Western Bloc Pamphlet]
The Western Bloc Campaign
The states which will consider in November propositions similar to California’s Nuclear Safeguards Initiative are Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Montana and North Dakota. Campaigns in these states must be designed to individually suit each one. Although the general campaign rules discussed in this paper are applicable, the details of the campaign will vary with the voters’ beliefs and the political climate.
The Western Bloc organizers are now dividing their time among states finishing signature gathering. The Western Bloc will meet with citizen groups who want assistance in planning campaign strategies. At this point it has been determined that the campaigns need to be conducted on two levels:
an institutional campaign to overcome or at least erode the institutional advertising the nuclear industry has done since 1957, and a grass roots people—to—people campaign. The two must be compatible and well coordinated.
The Western Bloc scenario for the coming campaign months follows. In general, the schedule should be:
polls educate opinion leaders and press educate opinion leaders and press; seek endorsements
educate opinion leaders and press; seek endorsements———especially from City Councils and other public bodies
start media campaign
[p36 western Bloc p36]
start media campaign
October 1 . . . Nader (if he agrees) tours states and tapes radio and TV shows; other opinion leaders ranking high in the June polls should do this as well
October 15 . . . begin running ads
October 24 . . . Nader (if he agrees) should return for last week of TV and radio shows
In addition, the people—to—people campaign of distributing leaflets Ld precincting must be coordinated and put into action in October.
A more detailed discussion of the coming months includes:
IMMEDIATELY———Public Opinion Polls must be done professionally in Western Bloc states voting in November. We must determine:
- Who people know and trust.
- How they feel now about the issue of nuclear power.
- How they respond to various arguments we might present.
- How they respond to the arguments used by the opposition. (It is safe to assume the arguments and campaign will be virtually identical to the California campaign. Why tamper with success?) In the states threatened with strip mining, this will surely be used as a key point.
Educating the press and other opinion leaders.
We must have an outstanding press package with all the data easily available and indexed for easy reference. This should be a standard package used in all states.
- Time must be spent——face-to-face time———with individual members of the press. Someone who knows which papers, newspaper chains, TV stations and radio stations must be consulted to make sure we talk to key reporters, editors, and publishers.
The press in California was extremely ignorant of certain key facts and thus reported from the bias [p38 western Bloc] position of the other side, even when they did not know they were doing so.
- The following groups of opinion leaders must be educated:
Elected officials and their staff people.
Leaders of various interest groups———also the people who head up the committees which are studying this issue.
Environmentalists———it is critical that these people not be divided by the opposition.
League of Women Voters.
Unions———as many local leaders as we can reach.
Home Owner Groups——officers.
Professors———especially professors of economics. The Lanoue Report is especially important. Hunt for professor’s who agree with us and encourage them to write to local papers and to speak out.
Others———groups in particular states which are influential. These will have to be scouted by locals who know the territory.
- A thousand copies of We Almost Lost Detroit should be distributed to key opinion leaders in the press, elected officials, labor unions, environmental groups and other local opinion leaders.
- There will be no way to avoid a few public “debates” in the media, but these should be handled by the people our polls determine have the most credibility on the subject of nuclear power.
Ralph Nader will probably be one of the highest level people in terms of recognition and trust. If we start now, and he agrees to it, we may be able to tell the TV and radio stations that he is our key spokesperson and that he will be available to tape debates during (give specific dates about four weeks prior to the election).
- News similar to the resignations of the GE engineers( p38 from Western Bloc pamphlet) should be released two weeks before the election — no sooner/no later.
- Advertising — Some of the unused California ads should be pre—tested when we do our poll. If not, Ralph Nader’s name in large print should be on every ad with his picture looking right at the reader. We should also list Nobel Laureates who favor our position and mention 2300 scientists and engineers who also support our position.
Ralph Nader and the scientists should be the only speakers in our commercials unless we discover someone who carries even greater credibility from our polls. (For example, if the strip-mining thing becomes too great, Robert Redford might be very effective because he got a lot of publicity in the defeat of Kaiparowitz in Utah.)
Issues To Stress In Talking With Opinion Leaders:
- This is not a nuclear shutdown. The opposition convinced almost everyone it was a shutdown issue, and we must hit over and over again that this is a safety issue.
- Offer specific numbers, names and titles to show a substantial number of engineers and scientists are on our side.
- The Rasmussen Report; there is no statistical basis for this report.
Sabotage was not considered.
Psychotic behavior and human error on the part of the operators received no attention.
Breeder reactors — the most deadly of all — were ignored.
Dangers of fuel transportation, storage and burial of radioactive wastes were skipped over.
Used analytical methods that had been completely discarded by the aerospace industry as unreliable.
Assumed complete evacuation in the area of the damaged plants, yet this cannot be done. For example, how would you evacuate the 16 million people in the [p39 Western Bloc] 40 miles around the Indian Point reactors near New York City?
- The industry claims “the nuclear issue is a technical one — too difficult for the average voter to understand; and technical decisions should be left to the technically qualified.”
The issue is not technical. The issue is one of value for the whole society. The scientists disagree on this issue because their values are different.
The issues are . . . What are acceptable risks to ourselves and to all future generations?
How safe is safe enough? –
Should we be diverting the billions of taxpayer dollars we are spending on nuclear power into safe and unlimited energy conservation, solar power, wind power, geothermal power?
- The industry claims “nuclear power makes us independent of foreign oil. Demonstrate this is false with facts.”
Oil, coal and uranium are all owned by the same oligopoly of giant corporations.
The known reserves of uranium are in (name countries).
The known reserves of uranium can only last us ( ) years.
- The industry claims “no member of the public has ever been killed in a commercial nuclear power plant accident in the United States.”
Low-level radiation can cause cancer in some people. Exposure to low-level radiation is increasing by some unknown degree due to the operation of nuclear power plants; low leakage from the plants themselves; leaks in transporting fuel and wastes; leakage from storage facilities. (Give numbers of gallons from Hanford. Mention drums which are leaking in ocean.)
The American Institute of Radiologists is very much concerned over the level of cancer among their members who have been exposed to low levels of radiation over a lifetime. Cancer is increasing at a dramatic rate in this country. The amount due to radiation is unknown.
People have been killed who were working on experimental reactors.
There have been major releases of radiation from reactors in Chalk River in Canada and Whithaven in England.
(Number) uranium miners have died of lung cancer due to their exposure to radioactive particles. (Number) more are high-level risks to get cancer at some time during their lives.
Hanford, Washington is the main storage place for nuclear waste storage. The leukemia rate in Hanford is ( )This compares to a rate of ( ) for the United States as a whole.
Radiation accumulates and acts over a lifetime. Exposure today can lead to cancer 30 years from now. We will not have substantial data on how many people die as a result of nuclear power plants for many years.
(These arguments can also be used to answer the statement which will undoubtedly be made in Denver and other high altitude places that the public receives more radiation from the sun at that altitude than they would receive from a nuclear power plant at sea level.)
- The industry claims “there is an energy crisis. We need nuclear power.”
Conservation arguments are widely disbelieved by the public. They don’t want to conserve if it means discomfort (turn down your thermostats, drive slower, etc.). We can point out the following:
- Europe enjoys a standard of living comparable to ours yet uses only half as much energy.
- 20% of energy is used in individual homes; 30% commercial; 50% manufacturing (individual state numbers can be obtained from the PUC).
Point out recycling aluminum uses 25% the energy that producing aluminum from bauxite ore takes. [p41 Western Bloc pamphlet] Get number of recycled steel vs. steel from ore. 70% of the electricity produced by Columbia River dam is used to make electricity.
In Los Angeles in 1974 there were mandatory restrictions on energy use. Without noticeable discomfort or changes in lifestyle, overall energy consumption was reduced 17% immediately.
- We can heat and cool our homes with solar power now. A school in the North of England has been heated with solar energy for more than 30 years.
- The real problem of an energy crisis will be during the next ten years. No nuclear power plant can be built during that time. If they are built, they will take away more energy during the crisis period than they will be able to produce over the following thirty years. They will increase not decrease the energy crisis.
The industry will argue that “you will have strip mining here if we don’t build nuclear power plants.”
- We may have strip mining no matter what we do. Argument “d” points out that strip mining will be more likely to occur if we waste energy building nuclear power plants.
The only real way to prevent strip mining is through stringent conservation efforts, particularly in manufacturing and commercial use. Do billboards really have to be lighted all night?
- The industry claims that “if this measure passes, thousands of jobs will be lost. The capital expense on nuclear power plants will create jobs.”
The jobs created by nuclear power plant construction will be temporary — existing only during the relatively short construction phase.
More jobs can be gained by strong conservation measures such as manufacturing and installing insulation, [p 42Western Bloc] building solar heaters and coolers, etc.
Los Angeles reduced energy consumption 17% and not one job was lost as a result.
- The industry will stress the failure in California.
Be honest. The YES campaign was poorly done. Mention the amount of money spent by the opposition, but don’t use that as the reason for the loss. There was enough money if it had been used effectively. We knew to use Nader and we did not do it. We knew to use Margaret Mead and did not do it. We knew the GE engineers should have resigned at the end of May, but it was done in March. [P. 43 Western Bloc pamphlet]
New York Times — May 23, 1976
THE VOTE ON NUCLEAR POWER
By Reginald Stuart
When Carl Horn Jr., chairman of the Duke Power Company in North Carolina, was asked recently by several business associates to contribute to “the California campaign,” he promptly responded by sending $9,000 of company funds.
On the surface, it might appear strange that a North Carolina utility would be interested in a California issue. But in recent weeks, more than 20 utilities — most of them operating in other states — have sent contributions. So have some of the nation’s largest oil, construction and stock brokerage companies.
Collectively, they have amassed nearly $2 million in cash for “the California campaign” to save nuclear power as an energy source that business and Federal government contend is essential to the national economic health but which some citizens in California say is so unsafe that it’s not worth the risk.
California citizens opposing nuclear power have placed on the June 8 California primary ballot a referendum question as prominently displayed as the names Ford, Reagan, Carter, Brown, Udall or Jackson. It’s Proposition 15 and it has upset the energy industry considerably.
Formally known as the Nuclear Safeguard Initiative, Proposition 15 is the nation’s first referendum on nuclear power.
it asks California voters, in effect, to vote “yes” or “no” on the use of
nuclear power to produce electricity m that state. If the referendum wins approval and survives the certain court challenges that would follow, it would virtually outlaw nuclear plants in that state.
The California measure, if adopted, would ban the construction of new nuclear plants — two are on order there — unless strict safety standards can be met, and the unit is approved as being in compliance by a two –thirds majority of the state legislature.
Existing plants — there are three in operation and four under construction —would be phased out unless brought into compliance with the strict new rules.
Insurance liability limits, presently set by the Federal government at
$560 million for any given accident would also have to be removed and unlimited levels of insurance provided.
The voting in California is of national significance, not just because it might throw some light on how rank and file voters view this controversial subject, but also because it is the first of many similar referendums in the making all over the nation.
When voters in Colorado (one plant in operation) and Oregon (one in operation, two on order) go to the polls in November, they will also be asked to accept or reject nuclear power. And efforts are afoot in nearly 20 other states to put nuclear power referendums on ballots during the next two years.
“If this California referendum passes, it could cause a prairie fire that could spread all over the country,” said Mr. Horn of Duke Power, one of many utilities that have invested billions of dollars in nuclear power facilities.
Like most energy industry, and many other executives, Mr. Horn is quite edgy about the whole idea of putting to public vote a subject that is highly technical and easily turned into a scare issue because of its associations with wartime applications.
To “educate” the public about nuclear power and the need for it as an energy must for the rest of the century, Mr. Horn has written the nearly 15,000 Duke Power shareholders in California explaining his case and asking them to vote against Proposition 15. Managements at other companies have done the same, and in some cases more.
The General Electric Company and the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, the two power plant manufacturing giants, have each sent $50,000 cash to the NO on Fifteen Committee, the group spearheading the pro-nuclear, anti-referendum campaign.
In addition, they have spent a combined $200,000 on salaries of personnel who have been freed to work exclusively on garnering “no” votes and for research and publications.
Among other big contributors have been the Exxon Nuclear Company, a subsidiary of the Exxon Corporation which put up $25,000; the Atlantic Richfield Company, $25,000, and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, one of the principal utilities in California, $300,000 in cash, personnel hours and literature.
The bipartisan effort, which appears to command more love and loyalty than any party could, has also attracted the support of such far-off utilities as Consolidated Edison in New
York ($4,500), the three subsidiaries of Northeast Utilities in Connecticut ($9,000>, Public Service Electric and Gas in New Jersey ($13,500), Commonwealth Edison in Illinois ($9, 000), Consumer Power in Michigan ($9,000) and Kansas Gas and Electric ($3,000).
Among companies not directly involved in the energy business, four major stock brokerage houses contributed $2,500 each and the Bethlehem Steel Corporation gave the “No” committee $23,000.
Without a win in California, and a big win, the billion-dollar nuclear power business, which has been plagued with a maze of problems already, will undoubtedly be in even bigger trouble nationally. Some say the referendums could put the industry out of business.
The No on Fifteen Committee is chaired by the former California Governor Edmund Brown, father of the current Governor and Presidential candidate. It is setting up speeches to community groups, door-to-door canvassing, television and radio commercials featuring noted scientists and political figures, and support from top labor leaders in the state.
The committee is run by Charles Winner, partner in Winner/Wagner & Associates, a California public relations and consulting firm that has handled Democratic campaigns in the state, non-partisan elections and similar ballot voting issues.
Supporters of the proposal have outpaced the industry group in rounding up grass roots support. Until January, in fact, they as a volunteer based group had a considerable advantage over the opposition because of a 1974 state law that limited the amount that could be spent by the collective sup-porters of one side of a referendum issue to $1.2 million.
But the predecessor committee of No on Fifteen challenged the ballot measure section of the Political Reform Act of 1974, and in January of this year the California Supreme Court struck it down.
The money to fight Proposition 15 began to flow. By the end of April, according to reports filed with the California secretary of state, $1.6 million had been contributed in cash alone.
The organization supporting Proposition 15, meanwhile, has raised roughly $600,000, largely from benefit concerts featuring John Denver, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and others. The Yes on Fifteen Committee also gathered money through private mailings to people known as opponents of the use of nuclear power under present Federal guidelines.
“What we’re trying to do is arrive at a sensible energy policy, just doing it in a populist way,” said Faith Keating, who is coordinating the efforts of a group called The Western Bloc, which is pushing the referendum movement throughout the West. “If it’s the rate payers who are going to pay for this energy then we should figure out a way to let them make a decision in a direct way about what kind of energy program they want.
“If the energy industry is going to build nuclear plants they ought to be safe and reliable, If not, we should invest in something else, preferably conservation and coal, both of which create jobs, more than nuclear power.”
Opponents of the proposal, such as Shermer L. Sibley, chairman and chief executive officer of Pacific Gas and Electric, obviously view the situation differently.
“The relationship between energy and the economy of this state is the
central issue here,” said Mr. Sibley, who is also chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, the powerful national trade association of investor-owned electric companies. “Energy users here and across the country, I mean employers, are quite concerned about where their energy is going to come from.”
Mr. Sibley said that for the rest of the century the electric power utilities have to look to coal and nuclear power as their basic energy resources — even with a strong conservation effort.
Importing oil is too risky as to source and price, natural gas is in limited supply and too valuable to use as a boiler fuel, and the giant hydroelectric projects of other years have essentially run out of appropriate sites.
Peculiar to California, he noted, is the fact that there is not a lot of enthusiasm in neighboring coal-rich Rocky Mountain states about the prospect of producing power in that region for transmission to California.
As for what voters will actually be facing on June 8, a summary of Proposition 15, prepared by the California State Attorney General’s Office in typical electionese, says the measure:
“After one year, prohibits nuclear power plant construction and prohibits operation of existing plants at more than 60 percent of original licensed core power level unless Federal liability limits are removed. After five years, requires derating of existing plants at 10 percent annually unless legislature, by two-thirds vote, has confirmed effectiveness of safety systems and waste disposal methods. Permits small scale medical or experimental nuclear reactors. Appropriates $800,000 for expenses for 15—person advisory group and for legislative hearings.”
A recent poll in California showed that voters there are more aware of the issue than they were even three weeks ago, but still, more than 50 percent expressed some confusion about it. In fact, both sides of the campaign purposely changed their names to “Yes” and “No” committees to try to alleviate such confusion, but concede that it still certainly exists.
As to how the voters would choose, the poll found 41 percent would say no to Proposition 15 and 38 percent, yes.
In any case, the spirited campaigning will go down to the wire, particularly as the annual meeting of the Edison Electric Institute will be held in San Francisco June 6 through June 9. The industry group, which usually has as much representation from suppliers such as G.E. and Westinghouse as it does from the utilities, is planning big pro-nuclear programs featuring labor and business leaders just before the crucial vote: Yes or No?
People’s Lobby press release June 8, 1976
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joyce Koupal, 731-8321
STATEMENT BY JOYCE KOUPAL
Proposition 15 was won a week ago when the three nuclear safety bills passed the California legislature. No longer will the Atomic industry be able to brush safety problems under the rug.
The beauty of the initiative process is that it holds elected officials accountable. When the process works correctly citizens do not have to spend $1 million dollars to provide sixty-second slogans to the public.
People’s Lobby commends the legislature for its response to the citizen initiated nuclear safety laws, and the thousands of citizens who worked so hard to make California government responsive through the initiative process.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
— Thursday Morning/June 10, 1976
A LESSON IN DEFEAT
We think that there are two main conclusions to draw from the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 15, the Nuclear Power Plants Initiative.
The first is that voters rejected the measure largely because they saw that it represented an attitude toward nuclear energy that was simply too extreme for a person of good sense or informed judgment to accept.
The second is that the vote, no matter how it was advertised, in no way was a fair test of popular sentiment on questions of nuclear safety. The public quite clearly has some deep and honest concerns about the potential dangers involved in the large—scale use of nuclear fuels. The rejection of Proposition 15 does not lessen the need for the federal government to move promptly to alleviate those dangers.
Public concern about nuclear power in California was given concrete expression with the enactment by the Legislature, just a week before the election, of three bills on nuclear safety. To give credit where it is due, those bills would not be law today if Proposition 15 had not been on the ballot. Neither would those measures be law, however, if they did not address nuclear safety issues with a higher degree of responsibility, realism and regard for what is technologically feasible than was contained in Proposition 15.
The nuclear safety legislation acknowledges the need for some nuclear power plants in California, which Proposition 15 does not do. But the bills serve notice on the federal government that nuclear growth will be limited unless satisfactory means are found soon to dispose permanently of nuclear wastes and to recycle nuclear fuel effectively. The bills are a goad to take action that has too long been delayed, a signal of intent likely to be repeated by legislatures or voters in other states in coming months.
It probably would be a mistake for any state to try to shut the door tight on nuclear energy. It is by no means an ideal fuel, as some of its more enthusiastic advocates claim, but when its costs and benefits are compared with our only other readily available energy source, coal, it comes off acceptably.
It is that comparison, that consideration of energy alternatives, the Proposition 15 and its sponsors ignored: If we can’t use nuclear power, then what are we to use, and at what costs to the environment and to health?
The defeat of Proposition 15 assures a continuance and some expansion of nuclear power generation in California. The enactment of the nuclear safety bills sets limits to that expansion, however, unless the U.S. government meets its responsibilities for greater safety in the nuclear fuel cycle.
What it adds up to are sensible and feasible choices by California that other states might look to and that federal officials should certainly heed.
The Plain Dealer – Cleveland, Thursday, June 10, 1976
OHIO NUCLEAR SAFETY FORCES UNDAUNTED
By Donald Sabath
Ohio environmentalists are not giving up the fight -to help control nuclear energy in the state, despite a resounding defeat of a nuclear power control issue in California Tuesday.
Voters there rejected the nation’s first ballot proposal to restrict the use of nuclear power.
The controversial measure proposed by environmentalists went down by a 2—1 margin. Voters appeared unimpressed by dire predictions of potential radiation disaster.
The vote in the nation’s most populous state was seen as a bellweather of public opinion for at least 10 other states considering similar proposals. Colorado and Oregon have nuclear safety measures on their November ballots.
“The issues are different in Ohio, and we expect to be on the ballot this fall,” said Robert L. Loitz.
Loitz, spokesman for a group called Ohions for Utility Reform, said he is sure Ohions want control over the safety operations of nuclear plants.
“I am not a nuclear scientist, but I believe the people of Ohio are entitled to a debate and public hearing on any proposals for future development of nuclear plants.”
Loitz stressed his group is not urging a moratorium on construction of nuclear facilities.
“It would be up to the legislature to determine if the plants are safe and that nuclear wastes can be safely handled and that sufficient insurance existed to compensate all victims of a nuclear plant accident,” said Loitz. He said his group has 150,000 signatures on petitions, and he expects to obtain the necessary 308, 000 signatures by Aug. 3.
“It has been a slow pace from the beginning, but it is beginning to build up steam,” he said.
In California, the opposition group, supported largely by major utility companies, spent more than $3 million to defeat the initiative. The proponents spent nearly $1 million.
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who campaigned for the proposal, blamed the imbalance of funds for its defeat.
Utilities in Ohio have already announced they oppose the issue and companion proposals. If they reach the ballot, they say they will wage an all—out campaign against them.
In the utility view, the defeat of the California proposition was a triumph of reason and logic over the forces of hysteria.
This comment came from Arthur M. Merims, manager of public information for the Cleveland Electric IlluminatingCo.
“The California election proved that when the public is presented with the facts concerning the safety, reliability and environmental benefits of nuclear power, the public can make a clear and unequivocal choice,” said Merims.
He said the public obviously was impressed by the outstanding 20—year safety record of commercial nuclear power plants.
Loitz is not worried about utilities fighting his group’s proposals. “The consumer does not believe anything the utilities say anymore,” he said. “Their opposing views will fall on deaf ears.”
Loitz said alternatives to nuclear power include solar and geothermal energy. He said the nation should spend more time and energy in developing them.
Ms. Sue Weaver, of the Cleveland Consumer Action group, said her organization and others will not stop in an effort to control safety aspects of nuclear power plants in Ohio.
“We will not back down now,” she said.
The Cleveland Press, Thursday, June 10, 1976
CALIFORNIA NUCLEAR DEFEAT IGNORED HERE
Ohio consumer groups feel the defeat by Californians of a nuclear plant safeguard issue will have little effect on their drive for a similar vote in the Buckeye State.
California voters yesterday rejected two—to—one the controversial issue designed to tighten the safety standards of atomic power plants.
In Ohio, initiative petitions are being circulated to get four utility reform issues on the November ballot—including one calling for nuclear plant safeguards.
“The California defeat won’t have any effect on the Ohio drive. We intend to continue with our drive the way it is,” said Sue Weaver of Cleveland Consumer Action.
Robert L. Loitz, of Rootstown near Akron, spokesman for the petitioners, said, “The move in Ohio is not particularly a nuclear move because we have four issues on our petition. Three are not nuclear and we feel they are just as important as the nuclear issue.”
Loitz’ group, Ohions for Utility Reform, also is seeking to get on the ballot issues covering minimum rates that could not be increased because of rising fuel costs, creation of a utility consumer action group to represent consumers before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), and a vote to make initiative petition drives easier.
Loitz said, “We are not calling for a moratorium on nuclear plants or trying to phase them out altogether like they were in California.
Loitz said about 150,000 signatures have been collected so far. By Aug. 2, there must be 308,000 valid signatures.
 A History of California Initiative Process, secretary of state Bill Jones, 1996. The method of verifying signatures at the county level has changed over time. Whereas each signature used to be checked against the registrant’s voter registration affidavit to prove authenticity, in 1976 the law changed to permit a random sample verification procedure instead. (Authored added: Prior to these changes many Lobby volunteers spent many nights with County Voter Registration books verifying signatures collected at shopping centers and gathering spots during the day.)
Current law provides that in counties where more than 500 names have been signed on petition sections filed with the county clerk/registrar of voters, the clerk shall use a random sampling technique for verification of signatures. At least 500 or 3% of the signatures, whichever is greater, must be examined. The validity rate is then reported to the Secretary of State, who projects that rate to all signatures filed in the particular county reporting. The projected valid signatures from all 58 counties are then totaled, and if they reach 110% or more of the needed signatures, the initiative is declared qualified. If the total falls between 95 and 110%, each signature must be individually verified; if the total falls below 95%, the initiative is declared insufficient.
This explanation is necessary to help understand why it is difficult, if not impossible, to target which initiatives have historically received the most signatures. Prior to 1976, the total number of signatures collected was not reported to the Secretary of State; only the number of valid signatures was reported. Beginning in 1976, the total raw (unverified) signatures collected were reported, but every signature was not verified. Therefore, only projected valid signatures are calculated. In addition, if an initiative has received more than the necessary 110% projected valid signatures, no further action need be taken by the counties.