iSignDigitally - Stop the spread of COVID-19 by making electronic signatures legal.

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Dear Governor Newson & California State Senate & California State Assembly,

As of March 25, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has 454,398 confirmed cases and 20,550 deaths worldwide.

Of the 61,167 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, 2,660 are in California including 58 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Therefore, we, the Proponents of the California Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative (19-0027A1), the Cannabis Hemp Heritage Act (19-0011), the California Initiative, Referendum and Recall Act (19-0009), and Allows for Jury Trials in Child-Custody and Dependent-Child Determinations Initiative Statute (19-0033) hereby request the Governor and/or the California State Legislature implement emergency legislation to authorize the collection of electronic signatures for statewide initiatives during the current COVID-19 pandemic. This request concerns not only our own initiative but all other initiatives actively collecting signatures.

We propose two options:

Option 1. Just allow all the petitions that have already received their title and summary from the state to be allowed on the November ballot without any more signature collections being required.

Option 2. Give all the initiatives a 90 day extension from the April 21, 2020 deadline to July 20, 2020 and allow for digital petitions to be signed online using a system such as HelloSign to collect them.

We request this important legislation for the following reasons:

In-person signature gathering poses a significant threat of viral transmission to both signature gatherers and registered voters – we consider the health and safety of our volunteers and signature gatherers to be our number one priority. Furthermore, signature collection during this pandemic may catalyze the transmission of the virus.

Fear of transmission, increasing numbers of individuals under both mandatory and self-imposed quarantine, the mandatory closure of certain businesses, and advice from public health officials ordering certain groups to avoid public spaces and large gatherings, has made in-person signature collection practically impossible.

It is vital that our democratic processes, including Californians’ constitutionally-protected power of initiative, be insulated from this threat. Many consider the pandemic to be a force majeure event; exceptional circumstances require exceptional measures.

With the credible threat of viral infection having been present for several weeks, there may have already been an impact on signature collection rates across the state.  The California Hemp Heritage Act of 2020 (19-0011) has, as of Wednesday, March 18, 2020, already lost its primary signature gathering company that has stopped operating because of COVID-19. As well, we are personally faced with the task of opening and sorting hundreds of thousands of petitions from registered voters in envelopes that were likely sealed with a lick. We are now forced to ponder even the safety of this simple step because of this viral transmission.

For the California Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative alone, our calculations indicate that our volunteers will need to gather at least one million signatures, well above the 623,212 valid signatures required to qualify the initiative for the ballot, in order to account for errors made by registered voters when signing the petition. This means that there will be at least one million instances of hand-to-hand contact, although this number will be even greater, considering that some members of the public will come into contact with our volunteers but ultimately choose not to sign.

According to the Office of the Attorney General website, there are at least twenty statewide initiatives which are authorized to be collecting signatures throughout 2020, with the initiative which most recently received its Title and Summary (on March 4th 2020) being authorized to collect signatures through August 31st 2020. There are also many more local measures at the County/City level which are also collecting signatures.

Although some signature gatherers collect signatures for multiple initiatives at a time, a reasonable worst-case scenario could see as many as 12.5 million instances of person-to-person viral transmission if 20 initiatives are collecting. This figure does not include the members of the public who come into contact with signature gatherers but choose not to sign.

Our attorneys and Board Members would be happy to work with the relevant agencies in developing these emergency measures. We also formally propose the California Initiative, Referendum and Recall Reform Act as a potential blueprint for electronic signature collection legislation.

Sincerely,

Ryan Munevar, Proponent of the California Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative (19-0027A1) and Campaign Director of Decriminalize California.

Patrick Hiram Moore, Jason Tyler West, and Jeanette Perez, Proponents of the Cannabis Hemp Heritage Act (19-0011).

Michael Liddell, Proponent of the California Initiative, Referendum and Recall Reform Act (19-0009).

Wylmina Hettinga and Stephen D. Konnoff, Proponents, Allows for Jury Trials in Child-Custody and Dependent-Child Determinations Initiative Statute (19-0033).