Sunday, March 30, 2008
Anne raised an interesting question in the comments section of the last post, so I thought I'd spin it off for its own discussion. Namely: Are paid signature collectors a good or bad thing? Is it a nice way of making the underemployed a little less so, or is it a corruption of the democratic process?
I guess you can tell where I fall on that question by the way I phrase it. And I got a ration of shit back in the old homestead when K. read my response to Anne ("I can't believe you didn't even address the issue of paid petition collectors!!!").
Don't get me wrong -- I am all for employing the down-and-out. But if the petition-collector at Target yesterday was wrong about the contents of his petition, as Anne suggests, it is his paid status that made him wrong: A Marsy's Law activist wouldn't have been so mistaken about the gist of the proposal. Heck, that mistake may very well have lost signatures: I might have signed if I had been correctly informed .
My larger objection, however, is that paid signature collectors are a corruption of the petition process. Petitions are clearly intended to measure public enthusiasm for a proposal, which strikes me as a useful safeguard on the proposition process (which is itself an end run around representative democracy if you ask me). Without petitions, any crackpot could waste resources (remember, elections cost big buck$) by drafting propositions to make spitwads a vegetable.
With paid signature collectors, however, any crackpot can do just that, as long as s/he's got the money to send out the troops. Instead of measuring how serious people are about the proposed law (serious enough to give up your time and energy to work for its passage?), the petition process now measures the wealth of the crackpot and the gullibility of the chumps when confronted with a minimum-wage worker with a clipboard.
And then there's the spectre of massive numbers of invalid signatures, which has doomed at least a couple of propositions. That, though, seems like an equal temptation for the paid crews and the rabid supporters.
 In fact, I would not have signed in any case, particularly now that I have read over the text of the bill (a 19.2M download!). The initiative opens with a lament that we have surrendered our "right" to impose punishment, as individuals, on wrongdoers (vigilante justice by any other name would stink as much), and goes on to undermine our judicial system in a variety of ways. All of this is justified by the fact that Marsy's mother ran into the murderer at the grocery store when he was out on bail and also suffered a heart attack shortly after one of his parole hearings (where he was denied parole). Marsy, btw, was killed by her boyfriend; there was no rape-and-re-rape.
Marsy's father, Steve Ipsen, is apparently running for LA County District Attorney. I intend to vote for the other guy.