“Hi! Are you registered to vote in Texas? Did you vote in the primary? Of course not! Can I get your name, address, and signature, and if you don’t have your voter registration card on you (where would you put it?), can I get your date of birth for verification purposes? Put your phone number and email, too, if you feel comfortable with that.”
Repeat a million times or whatever until you get 45,540 valid signatures. That’s enough to drive anyone insane!
In 2004, I volunteered full-time to help the Libertarian Party of Texas collect 45,540 valid signatures for ballot access (just happened to be available). I started off by getting training from a veteran Austin-area petitioner who was working for Ralph Nader petitioning at the University of Texas at Austin campus. Students are known to be more willing to sign petitions than the average voter.
Wasn’t long before UT officials kicked us off campus. But, since it was March and Spring Break week was coming up, I ventured down to South Padre Island, Texas, thinking it would be easy pickin’s hitting up students on the beach. Wise move.
Back to reality.
It’s hard to find volunteers who will collect signatures. Even if you have plenty of money to spend, it’s hard to find people who will collect signatures regardless of the pay. We didn’t have plenty of money in Texas. We went into unsecured debt because our by-laws prevented debt but several of us provided un-guaranteed debt.
While I started off on the 2004 Texas petition drive as the volunteer coordinator, I ended up helping to organize the paid petitioners and manage the verification and counting process. I still have photocopies of all 80,107 signatures in storage.
At times I was placing ads and hitting up almost anyone to collect signatures. Lots of people tried, but almost everyone without experience failed despite extensive training and hand-holding.
I think I wrote checks to over 70 different people. Most of those people wasted more of my time than they were worth.
I also dealt with many of the veteran professional Libertarian Party petitioners who travel the country collecting signatures wherever needed. Some of them are commenters on this blog.
I found dealing with them to be incredibly challenging, but finally resigned myself to realizing that while collecting signatures may sound easy, most good petitioners are nearly insane and difficult to deal with. Yet, trying to get signatures from anyone else was mostly a waste of time. I’m not sure whether collecting signatures makes you insane, or whether only insane people can collect signatures, or a combination. I do know I found myself bordering on insanity during our 2004 Texas petition drive and it took over a year before I could see a group of people standing around without reflexively sizing it up for its petition worthiness.
I do think veteran LP petitioners get screwed over often by the the petition organizers. That’s partly because it’s rare for organizers to have clear lines of authority, partly because those organizers are usually inexperienced, often they don’t have definite funds available, and partly because the experienced petitioners know how and often do exploit the inexperienced organizers.
I’m not surprised to hear about the recent problems with the West Virginia petition drive. They had an inexperienced organizer who didn’t have an appreciation in advance of how hard it is to find productive petitioners and match them with productive places to collect signatures.
This post is to give a disgruntled West Virginia petitioner a place to air controversies. I trust that will be covered at length in the comments section since I don’t have first hand knowledge of the issues.
I expect people will find little of substance in what I’ve written here. I mostly wanted to post the pictures.
Here’s a picture of the Texas turn in of signatures in 2004.