There are two ways for a proposition to get onto the ballot. The first is by the state legislature submitting an issue directly to the voters. The second is by a group of people gathering enough signatures of registered CA voters (currently 373,816). Sometimes known as “Direct Democracy”, this process was created as a way for the voters to bypass an unresponsive state government and institute a law or constitutional amendment. The high number of required signatures ensured that the proposal had enough popular support to be placed on the ballot.
However, the creators of this process did not foresee the use of paid signature gatherers. These are most of the people you see circulating the petitions for ballot initiatives, and they are usually paid about two dollars per signature. These “ballot mercenaries” have replaced the armies of passionate volunteers that were originally envisioned when the referendum process was started.
As a result, anyone with about $2 million can get an initiative on the ballot, forcing voters to debate a proposition that may have no real merit to begin with. The best solution would be to ban the use of paid signature collectors. This would not only return the system to its original intent, but would drastically reduce the number of propositions that currently overwhelm voters every election.
Unfortunately, the courts have declared that money is a form of speech, and cannot be impinged. This is a position that has been challenged by many people, without success.
So, please, READ the summary before you sign it. Ask the circulator if they are being paid for your signature (they're legally required to tell you), and, if so, who is paying them. The more you know, the better.