Capitol Alert

California plastic bag ban proponents allege fraud in referendum campaign

A woman walks with a plastic bag in Sacramento, on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.
A woman walks with a plastic bag in Sacramento, on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. AP

Paid signature gatherers deceived voters in trying to qualify a referendum that would overturn California’s ban on single-use plastic bags, according to a complaint environmental groups fighting to preserve the law have filed with Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Plastic industry opponents wasted no time in mounting a campaign to nix California’s yet-to-be-enacted prohibition on single-use plastic bags. They recently submitted what they said were more than enough signatures to place the referendum on the 2016 ballot, thereby suspending the law until voters weigh in.

Tactics for accumulating those signatures included misleading people into thinking they were signing to preserve the ban and referring to Senate Bill 270 as a “tax” (the bill allows grocery stores to charge a minimum ten cent fee for paper or reusable plastic bags), according to a letter sent to Harris on behalf of a coalition of ban supporters called California vs. Big Plastic.

“To ensure the integrity of the state referendum process is not tarnished by criminal behavior, we request an immediate investigation into these reports of voter fraud,” the letter from attorney Lance Olson reads.

The group initially sent a complaint to the office of Secretary of State Alex Padilla, which passed on investigating the objection in order to avoid a conflict of interest because Padilla authored SB 270 last year while he was serving in the state Senate.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.