Voters Want to Take Signatures Back in Minimum Wage Battle

One lawmaker in favor of reforming the signature gathering process in California claims a thousand voters have filed forms to take back their signatures in the battle over San Diego’s minimum wage increase.

“In California they are not required to tell the truth,” said former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña of the people working to gather signatures to put the recent minimum wage increase on the ballot.

She appeared alongside three people who wanted to share what happened to them when they were approached while shopping around San Diego County.

The San Diego City Council approved San Diego’s Earned Sick Leave-Minimum Wage Ordinance with a 6-2 vote. The ordinance will take effect as scheduled on January 1, 2015.

Opponents of the increase have launched the effort to gather 34,000 signatures to take the matter to the voters through a referendum.

Marilisa Navarro of Normal Heights said was approached by a signature gatherer while shopping inside a Target store about two weeks ago and believes he wasn’t telling the entire truth.

“He wasn’t honest about the fact that the minimum wage was already going to increase,” Navarro said of the man collecting signatures.

Anita Simons of San Diego told a similar story, saying she provided her signature after reading a document that supported the City Council’s vote.

“[The signature gatherer] never showed me the actual petition that he had,” Simons said. “He showed me, I guess, the actual ordinance.”

Simons and Navarro have filed forms to take back their signatures.

Saldaña presented a stack of forms that she said represented a thousand voters who are asking for their signatures to be removed from the petition drive.

People earn $6 to $8 per signature and that leads to irresponsible tactics, she said.

She cited Oregon’s practice of background checks and registry of signature gatherers and Colorado’s practice of requiring signature gatherers wear “paid” or “volunteer” and said she’d like to see California gain some oversight in the signature gathering process.

But Ann Kinner, a proponent of the referendum, told NBC 7 she does not think paying signature gatherers is a problem because they have been used widely in past elections.

"I don't think it's an issue one way or another," she said.

Kinner owns the small business Seabreeze Books and Charts in Point Loma and gathers signatures herself there.

"I'm not lying to anybody. I've got a sign here that says, 'Let the voters of San Diego decide the minimum wage issue,'" Kinner said.

She told NBC 7 people against the increase have been seeking her out, coming to her store to sign the petition. If they're being misled, Kinner said, they're spending a lot of gas money to find a petition.

But Del Mar Heights resident Eric Thies said he had a different experience. While he didn’t sign the petition, he said he was upset that the person who approached him was asking for his support by selling it as the exact opposite.

“We have a reasonable expectation that when someone approaches you to gather your signature, that they’re more or less telling you what they’re trying to do,” Thies said.

All three people agree it’s the voter’s responsibility to read the petition before signing it. However, they say they felt the issue was misrepresented.

According to Kinner, the Small Business Coalition worked to inform its petition gatherers about what they are asking from voters -- namely their support in getting the issue on the ballot.

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