California now has more than 80 potential ballot measures for next year’s election, after two new proposals last week. But only a fraction of them will likely appear in front of voters.
It only costs $200 to file a ballot measure, so the current list includes a cigarette tax and a minimum wage hike, as well as ferret legalization and a ban on shellfish.
What separates the serious from the fanciful are hundreds of thousands of signatures.
"By signatures, I mean registered voters from different parts of the state," says Democratic political strategist Gale Kaufman.
Kaufman says that will take $1.5 to $3 million.
"In order to make sure you don’t have duplicates or you don’t have people who aren’t registered, it’s a difficult process," says Kaufman.
She expects no more than a dozen measures to have enough backing. But Republican strategist Beth Miller says it’s more difficult than usual to pick which ones.
"More than any other election, there’s more moving pieces this year," she says.
Initiatives need fewer signatures than usual, due to low turnout last election, plus—for the first time—proponents can withdraw their initiatives.
Both strategists expect the newest initiatives to make the cut. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s gun control proposal would create background checks for ammunition buyers and ban high-capacity magazines.
Billionaire donor Charles Munger wants to require lawmakers to post bills for 72 hours before taking a final vote.
Of course, Miller points out whatever measures do qualify face a further winnowing.
"There are many who will have the money to qualify the measure, but may not have the money to run a real, effective campaign to communicate to the voters," says Miller.
That can cost tens of millions of dollars.