Official count finds vaccine referendum fell short

APphoto_Vaccines California

Opponents of a measure requiring nearly all California schoolchildren to be vaccinated gather at the Capitol in June. Their referendum on the bill fell short Thursday of the number of signatures needed to put it on the ballot.

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

It’s official: Those hoping to overturn California’s new vaccine law failed to collect enough signatures to qualify a referendum on the measure for next year’s ballot.

They needed the signatures of 365,660 registered voters, but election officials in the state’s 58 counties found only 233,758 on petitions turned in by the deadline last week. Petitions were turned in late in 12 counties and were disqualified.

The Times first reported the shortfall with its own count last month.

The referendum drive was headed by former Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of San Bernardino County and was a mostly volunteer effort — difficult in a state where most successful initiative drives employ paid signature gatherers.


“In spite of the herculean effort by thousands of volunteers and some paid signature gatherers, we fell short,” Donnelly said by telephone Thursday. “Even though we fell short, this fight for parents’ rights is not over.”

The law eliminates personal-belief exemptions from the state’s immunization requirements for schoolchildren. Donnelly and other opponents say that deprives parents of the right to choose what is best for their children.

Many of the opponents also do not believe scientific studies indicating that vaccines are safe and necessary to avoid outbreaks of serious diseases, including measles.

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