I-1552 backers trying desperately to create self-fulfilling prophecy as July signature deadline nears

Ballot WatchdoggingThreat Analysis

Backers of Initiative 1552, a mean-spirited scheme that would roll back protections for transgender individuals, are running out of time to gather signatures and haven’t got a chance of making the ballot at the rate they’ve been going.

So, in an effort to activate their sleepy base, they’ve announced a $50,000 contribution from a mystery donor and tried their hardest to make it sound like the campaign is on the verge of qualifying, needing only an extra push to get over the finish line.

For example, a June 9th email from “Chris” began as follows:

We are going to make it! I-1552 can be on the ballot, and let me tell you how.

First, because of your tireless work, we have officially passed the 100,000 signature mark! We are weeks ahead of last year’s pace. And last year, more than 170,000 new signatures came in during the last two weeks of the campaign alone.

With your continued good work, we know the flow of signatures will increase in an ever-steepening curve. There are tens of thousands of petitions on the street, and only a small fraction have started to come back. The potential is huge.

While we can certainly afford to celebrate, we cannot afford to rest yet.

As we’ve previously noted, to have only 100,000 of 330,000 needed signatures with less than a month to go before the signature deadline isn’t a good place for a statewide campaign to be. The I-1552 campaign had only 30% of what it needed nine days ago, when June was already one third of the way through.

To qualify, the campaign must amass another 230,000 signatures by July 6th (the deadline to submit is July 7th at 5 PM). That’s an average of 8,215 signatures per day.

The campaign first announced the availability of petitions on February 21st. By June 9th, they claimed to have 100,000+ signatures. So, over the course of one hundred and eight days, they gathered an average of about nine hundred and twenty-six signatures a day.

The campaign hasn’t released an updated signature count since June 9th. But even supposing they’ve doubled the pace since then, they still must increase their average daily signature intake by a factor of near ten just to acquire the bare minimum of signatures needed to pass a random sample check. That’s unlikely to happen.

But having already failed once last year trying to get I-1515 on the ballot, I-1552 backers are loathe to give up now. So they’re trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. By confidently predicting victory, they’re hoping to garner the money, volunteers, and attention needed to mount a massive signature surge. It’s a desperation move.

$50,000 may sound like a lot of money, and the announcement of the contribution generated some press coverage, along with editorial commentary. Joseph Backholm certainly tried to cast it in the most favorable light possible:

This is a big deal, friends. While we had originally planned to pay for 100K signatures, we are hopeful now that we will be able to pay for 150K signatures. People are stepping up financially. Assuming that continues to happen, this will relieve the load from the volunteers. Will you consider a donation of your own today?

What Backholm neglected to say is that $50,000 doesn’t buy a statewide campaign many signatures. At a rate of a dollar of a signature, $50,000 only buys 50,000 signatures. And that sounds like the rate the campaign is expecting to pay, because Backholm said the campaign was previously planning to pay for 100,000 signatures but can now afford 50,000 more with the $50,000 contribution it got.

Some of the signatures already on hand are no doubt from paid petitioners. But even if we pretend none of them were for the sake of analysis, the addition of 150,000 signatures to the total would still leave the campaign with a deficit of 80,000.

That’s a huge deficit to have to overcome with only volunteers.

Volunteer labor hasn’t been producing very much for this campaign so far, and the mere existence of the July 7th deadline isn’t going to generate the signature flood I-1552 backers are counting on. Hence, the campaign is sending out these prophetically upbeat emails. The campaign may be keeping up the pretense that victory is just over the next hill, but the numbers they’re simultaneously dropping don’t support their narrative.

We will continue to monitor this signature drive as July 7th approaches.

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