We need more Sam Garsts (fewer Michaels and Martins)

While conservatives lean on big money sugar daddies like Michael Dunsmire and Martin Selig to bank roll their initiatives, progressives go to a different sort.

Meet Sam Garst of Olympia, the most prolific signature gatherer for I-937.

While conservatives can pay low wages to get feet on the streets collecting signatures at high traffic locations (Mariner games, the front door at Safeway), Sam and his ilk were out every weekend at community events and progressive gatherings, rounding up as many signatures as possible.

One of things that I liked that Sam said often was “you can’t assume someone has signed.” Even in Olympia, where progressive politics is almost as common as beer, not everyone sprinted to sign I-937 or even knew about it. You can’t be afraid to ask.

Another thing is that I got tons of emails from Sam not only reminding folks to sign, but to collect signatures as well. He didn’t create a new email list, he used the lists that were out there already and asked subscribers to participate. When a discussion on one list questioned putting energy into supporting 937 as opposed to fighting 933, Sam thoughtfully participated, and actually brought the original dissenter (maybe to strong a word?) around.

Sam is a great example why volunteer signature gatherers are valuable to the initiative process and democracy. Paid signature gatherers don’t have any stake in the passage of an initiative beyond getting paid. Folks like Sam have a stake because they believe.
While we can’t ban signature gatherers from being paid, we can prevent them from being paid a bounty for each signature.

We can also (and you kind of knew this was coming) help folks like Sam do their work and help the rest of us be more like Sam by shrinking the minimum size of petitions. By making the petition itself more accessible, the rest of us can easily get our hands on them, making volunteering in and initiative campaign, easier to do.

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Filed under general thoughts, Good folks

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