Comparing Signature Gathering Costs on Initiatives 732 and 735

In Washington State in 2015, two different initiative campaigns are gathering signatures for initiatives to the legislature in 2016. The two campaigns are Initiative 732 by Carbon Washington for a carbon tax and Initiative 735 by WAmend to amend the US Constitution to overturn the corporate “Citizens United” decision by the US Supreme Court. Both campaigns started in 2015 collecting signatures in April and May.  The final deadline to file all signatures is December 31, 2015. This report details initial costs for getting signatures through Sept 30, 2015 and an update comparison as of Dec 1 for both campaigns. A final analysis will be done in Jan 2016.

It is important to put these two campaigns in perspective by looking at their signature count and also their cost.
CarbonWA reported as of Oct 16 that they had 270,000 signatures in hand
WAmend on Oct 16  had 172,500 signatures in hand.
The difference was 97,500 signatures.
The last fundraising and expense report with the PDC for both campaigns was for Sept. While the signature count was 2 weeks later, for comparison points we used the most recent time we had the same reporting date for expenses. As of the end of Sept:
Carbon WA income $547,968
Carbon WA expenses $ 527,211
WAmend income $215,026
WAmend expenses $ 138,949
Carbon Washington so far had paid $238,273 to  Your Choice Petitions to collect signatures.
In addition they paid out $62,241 to individual signature gatherers.
Their total cost for paid signatures was $300,514.
The difference between the two organizations in total expenses is $527,211 – $138,949 = $388,262.
Again the difference in signatures is 97,500.
So spending $388,262 dollars more dollars (including $300,514 in paid signatures) yielded them a total of 97,500 more signatures.
Averaging the total signature cost  per campaign means dividing the total expenses by the total signatures. Using the available comparable figures we have the cost per signature is
Carbon WA    $527,211/270,000 signatures equals $1.95 per signature
WAmend $138,949/172,500 signatures equals $.81 per signature.
Updated to Dec 1, 2015:
Initiative 732 raised $691,408.23 through Nov. 30,2015
Their expenditures were $656,477.69
Their signature count on Dec 2, 2015 was 334,000
Their cost per signature was 656,477.69/334,000 = $1.97/signature which was about the same as through Sept.
Initiative 735 – WAmend -raised $258,610.43 through Nov 30, 2010
Expenditures were $209,299
Signature count Nov 30, 2015 was 225,320
Cost per signature = $209,299/225,320 = $.93/signature
Fix Democracy First for I-735 – raised $91,774.48 through Nov 30, 2015
Expenditures were $36,433.38
Signature count Nov 30, 2015 was 13,439
Cost per signature  $36,433/13,439 = $2.71/signature
Note – higher cost included termination of a contract with a paid signature gathering firm, remaining costs per signature will be less $1.50/signature, $1.75 over 200 signatures, $2.00 over 400 signatures
 Updated  through Dec 31st, 2015
Initiative 732 raised $753,156 by Dec. 31st
 Expenditures were $737,180
Signature count Dec 31, 2015 = 363,126
The cost per signature was $737,180/363,126 = $2.03 per signature
A 3% sample found 262,940 valid signatures
The invalid rate was very high at  27.59% Initiative 735 raised $282,065
Expenditures were $267,988
Signature Count by WAmend Dec. 31, 2015 = 293,410
cost per signature was $282,065/293,410 = $.93/signature
Signatures were collected using full time paid staff organizers, volunteer signature gatherers and a limited number of phone bank and signature gatherers in the last month who were paid $15/hr as part time employees. WAmend collected  87% of the signatures turned.
Fix Democracy First for I-735 raised $111,323
Expenditures were $105,374
Signature count by Fix Democracy First  Dec 31st was = 43,843
cost per signature was $105,374/43,843 = $2.40/signature
Signatures were collected using paid signature gatherers paid by the signature as independent contractors. Fix Democracy First collected 13% of the signatures turned in.
Combined campaign expenditures were $387,439
combined signature count from WA State Secretary of State was 333.040
combined cost per signature = $387,439/333,040= $1.16/signature
The Washington Secretary of State determined by 3% sample that I-735 had a 18.44% invalid rate, meaning that 271,627 signatures were valid. This was about the usual average invalid rate. The sample was taken from the combined total of signatures. A minimum of 246,273 valid signatures are needed to validate an initiative in 2016. This is based on 8% of those that voted in the last Governor’s race in 2012.  After the 2016 election this number will be adjusted to equal 8% of those voting in the 2016 Governor’s race.


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