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Penal Provisions of the California Elections Code: Direct Democracy

‘Every person is guilty of a misdemeanor who knowingly signs his or her own name more than once to any initiative’

By Chris Micheli, February 11, 2022 3:16 pm

There are penal, or criminal, provisions of California’s Elections Code. These laws are provided in Division 18. Chapter 7 deals with Initiative, Referendum, and Recall.  Article 1 deals with Improper Signature-Gathering Tactics. Section 18600 makes every person guilty of a misdemeanor who:

  • Circulating, as principal or agent, or having charge or control of the circulation of, or obtaining signatures to, any state or local initiative, referendum or recall petition, intentionally misrepresents or intentionally makes any false statement concerning the contents, purport or effect of the petition, or the petition’s Official Top Funders disclosure required, to any person who signs, or who desires to sign, or who is requested to sign, or who makes inquiries with reference to it, or to whom it is presented for the person’s signature.
  • Willfully and knowingly circulates, publishes, or exhibits any false statement or misrepresentation concerning the contents, purport or effect of any state or local initiative, referendum, or recall petition, or the petition’s Official Top Funders disclosure required, for the purpose of obtaining any signature to, or persuading or influencing any person to sign, that petition.
  • Circulating, as principal or agent, or having charge or control of the circulation of, or obtaining signatures to, any state or local initiative, intentionally makes any false statement in response to any inquiry by any voter as to whether the person is a paid signature gatherer or a volunteer.

Section 18601 specifies that any person working for the proponent or proponents of an initiative or referendum measure or recall petition who refuses to allow a prospective signer to read the measure or petition is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Section 18602 provides that any person working for the proponent or proponents of a statewide initiative or referendum measure who covers or otherwise obscures the summary of the measure prepared by the Attorney General from the view of a prospective signer is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Section 18603 states that every person who offers or gives money or other valuable consideration to another in exchange for his or her signature on a state, county, municipal, or district initiative, referendum, or recall petition is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Section 18604 specifies that, upon conviction of a violation of any provision of this article, the court may order as a condition of probation that the convicted person be prohibited from receiving money or other valuable consideration for gathering signatures on an initiative, referendum, or recall petition.

Article 2 deals with False or Ineligible Signatures on Petitions. Section 18610 state every person who solicits any circulator to affix to any initiative, referendum, or recall petition any false or forged signature, or to cause or permit a false or forged signature to be affixed, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Section 18611 states that every person is punishable by a fine not exceeding $5,000, or by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment, who circulates or causes to be circulated any initiative, referendum, or recall petition, knowing it to contain false, forged, or fictitious names.

Section 18612 specifies that every person is guilty of a misdemeanor who knowingly signs his or her own name more than once to any initiative, referendum, or recall petition, or signs his or her name to that petition knowing himself or herself at the time of signing not to be qualified to sign it.

Section 18613 provides that every person who subscribes to any initiative, referendum, or recall petition a fictitious name, or who subscribes thereto the name of another, or who causes another to subscribe such a name to that petition, is guilty of a felony and is punishable by imprisonment for two, three, or four years.

Section 18614 states that every person is punishable by a fine not exceeding $5,000, or by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment, who files in the office of the elections official or other officer designated by law to receive the filing, any initiative, referendum, or recall petition to which is attached, appended or subscribed any signature which the person filing the petition knows to be false or fraudulent or not the genuine signature of the person whose name it purports to be.

Article 3 deals with Improper Payments to Prevent Petition Circulation and Filing. Section 18620 provides that every person who seeks, solicits, bargains for, or obtains any money, thing of value, or advantage of or from any person, firm, or corporation for the purpose or represented purpose of fraudulently inducing, persuading, or seeking the proponent or proponents of any initiative or referendum measure or recall petition to abandon, fail to file, stop circulation, or prevent the petition from qualifying as an initiative or referendum measure, or the recall petition from resulting in a recall election, is punishable by a fine not exceeding $5,000, or by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Section 18621 states that any proponent of an initiative or referendum measure or recall petition who seeks, solicits, bargains for, or obtains any money or thing of value of or from any person, firm, or corporation for the purpose of abandoning the same or stopping the circulation of petitions concerning the same, or failing or neglecting or refusing to file the measure or petition in the office of the elections official or other officer designated by law within the time required by law after obtaining the number of signatures required under the law to qualify the measure or petition, or withdrawing an initiative petition after filing it with the appropriate elections official, or performing any act that will prevent or aid in preventing the initiative, referendum, or recall proposed from qualifying as an initiative or referendum measure, or resulting in a recall election is punishable by a fine not exceeding $5,000 or by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Section 18622 specifies that every person who offers to buy or does buy from a circulator any referendum, initiative, or recall petition on which one or more persons have affixed their signatures is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both. This section is not intended to prohibit compensation of a circulator, for his or her services, by a proponent of the petition or his or her agent.

Article 4 deals with Threats and Theft to Prevent Petition Circulation and Filing. Section 18630 states that every person who threatens to commit an assault or battery on a person circulating a referendum, initiative, or recall petition or on a relative of a person circulating a referendum, initiative, or recall petition or to inflict damage on the property of the circulator or the relative, with the intent to dissuade the circulator from circulating the petition or in retribution for the circulation, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Section 18631 provides that every person who forcibly or by stealth takes from the possession of a circulator any initiative, referendum, or recall petition on which one or more persons have affixed their signatures is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Article 5 deals with the Refusal of Circulators to Turn in Petitions. Section 18640 provides that any person working for the proponent or proponents of an initiative or referendum measure or recall petition who solicits signatures to qualify the measure or petition and accepts any payment therefor and who fails to surrender the measure or petition to the proponents thereof for filing is punishable by a fine not exceeding $5,000, or by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Article 6 deals with the Misuse of Signatures on Petitions. Section 18650 prohibits anyone from knowingly or willfully permit the list of signatures on an initiative, referendum, or recall petition to be used for any purpose other than qualification of the initiative or referendum measure or recall question for the ballot is a misdemeanor.

Section 18650 prohibits anyone from knowingly or willfully permitting the list of signatures on an initiative, referendum, or recall petition to be used for any purpose other than qualification of the initiative or referendum measure or recall question for the ballot. Violation of this section is a misdemeanor.

Article 7 deals with False Affidavits Concerning Petitions. Section 18660 specifies that every person is punishable by a fine not exceeding $5,000, or by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment, who makes any false affidavit concerning an initiative, referendum, or recall petition or the signatures appended to an initiative, referendum, or recall petition.

Section 18661 states that every public official or employee is punishable by a fine not exceeding $5,000, or by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment, who knowingly makes any false return, certification or affidavit concerning any initiative, referendum, or recall petition or the signatures appended.

Article 8 deals with Filing Petitions to Defeat an Initiative or Referendum. Section 18670 provides that every person is guilty of a misdemeanor who, either as principal or agent, files in the office of the Secretary of State, county elections official, or in the office of any other officer designated by law to receive the filing, a petition or any section of a petition relating to the Constitution or the laws of this state, authorized by the Constitution or laws of this state regulating the statewide initiative or referendum, with the intention of thereby defeating that initiative or referendum measure that is embraced in the petition.

Section 18671 states that any petition, or any section of a petition, filed by any person other than the proponents of an initiative or referendum measure and with an intention of defeating an expression of the public will is null and void.

Article 9 deals with the Misuse of Campaign Funds. Section 18680 provides that every person who is entrusted with money or things of value for the purpose of promoting or defeating any initiative, referendum, or recall petition or any measure that has qualified for the ballot is a trustee of the money or things of value. If a person wrongfully appropriates the money or things of value to any use or purpose not in the due and lawful execution of the trust, the person is punishable by a fine not exceeding $5,000, or by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

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