Letters to the Editor: Why are paid signature gatherers even legal?

A man collects petition signatures outside a grocery store in Silver Lake in 2019.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Thanks for your editorial asking about readers’ experiences with paid signature gatherers. The most outrageous thing about them isn’t what they say to us, but that they exist at all.

If we really want to stop the lies and misrepresentations cold, the solution is to ban the use of the parking lot mercenary — the paid signature gatherer.

You know the type. They juggle several ballot measure petitions at once, and with the going rate at $2 to $5 per name and no enforcement of existing signature gathering law, they can make a living of hundreds of dollars a day. Beats working the drive-through at Burger King.

Make paid gathering illegal, and we can return to actual citizen initiatives, devised by citizens, for the benefit of citizens, and circulated by citizens — which, as you know, was the original intent of California’s initiative process, set more than 100 years ago.


So simple, yet so hard to do. Makes you wonder whose interests are served?

Jon Merritt, Los Angeles


To the editor: I had a strange experience with a signature gatherer.

One approached me outside a Ralphs and asked me to sign a petition raising the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $22 an hour. I started reading the petition and asked the man why the form said “referendum challenging.” He replied, “Just sign the petition,” and I told him I wanted to read it first.

I asked him why he was deceiving people. He started yelling to the security guard that he wanted to sue me for defamation of character, and then he told me he is paid well to gather signatures. The security guard came over, read the petition and just gave the man a stare.

Then the signature gatherer stated he hadn’t read the petition. I asked him at least to tell voters the truth.

Cherie Wallace, Los Angeles


To the editor: Within the last two weeks (too late for the current ballot), I’ve heard these pitches from signature gatherers:


“Sign here to keep gas prices from going to $10 a gallon.”

“Do you think the prices you’re paying at this store are too high? Sign here.”

Tim Estle, West Hills