One thing is for sure, that Democrat State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, like all his colleagues in the Legislature, despises Adolf Hitler. Regardless, DeSaulnier’s new law to require petition signature gatherers to wear a badge saying “I am paid to do this” in 30 point type is the functional equivalent of and conceptually based on the same cognitive justification as Nazi Germany’s law that required a Jew, when in public, to stitch on their clothing a big Star of David, the symbol of that religion. Just as Hitler wanted the public to know who the Jews were, and see something negative in that, DeSaulnier wants the public to know that a signature gatherer is employed to do what they do. And the joint intention of the Government regulations in both instances are to single out and sully the person wearing the badge in the eyes of the public.
Why does it matter that a signature gatherer is paid to obtain signatures? The right to petition government is a fundamental First Amendment based constitutional right. It is a hyper-right in California where we also have a state constitutional right to initiative and referendum. Any restrictions on those rights must comply with the very highest level of judicial scrutiny, sort of like the need to prove a murder case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and perhaps even stronger in First Amendment law. Professional signature gatherers are engaged in empowering these expressive constitutional rights and courts have found for ages that the fact that someone is paid in the process does not reduce the right one iota. Thus, a law that compels negative speech (the badge), and that could reasonably be seen to discourage the ability of the petition circulator to obtain signatures, or cause people whom would otherwise participate but because of confusion about the meaning of the badge turn away, is unconstitutional.
There is little doubt that DeSaulnier’s bill is just one element of a general legislative assault by liberal Democrats to regulate and reduce these constitutional rights in the people, according to an article on the front page of the Los Angeles Times today.
Abuses involving signature gathering are no more widespread in our society than abuses in other campaigns, including those of the individual members of the Legislature who voted on this ill conceived bill. We do not live in a perfect world. For this reason the singling out of signature gatherers for these badges, like Hitler’s singling out of Jews, is neither legal nor just. And we are lucky to live here in America and California, where we have a constitution to protect our rights and an independent court system that will surely rectify and overturn DeSaulnier’s un-American legislation, (at great legal expense to the California general fund) because as the cognitive justifications are the same, there is of course no comparison in the terrible and horrific results of such thinking in Nazi Germany.