I was recently in San Diego for a conference when I heard a commercial on the radio discouraging people for signing petitions to try and place measures on upcoming ballots because doing so would leave signers open to identity theft. The commercial used the following scare tactics (you can listen to the entire commercial here)
“California doesn’t license or bond signature gatherers. Many of them are from out of state and move from city to city to carry petitions. Anyone can do it, even convicted felons and forgers…The legislature even called it an identity theft starter kit.”
Collecting a specific number of petition signatures is an important part of getting new measures onto a ballot so people can vote on it. The way to typically accomplish this is for volunteers to stand in areas with high foot traffic where they ask people if they were willing to sign the petition. The person signing needs to write their name and address so that the signature can be verified.
So will signing a petition to place a measure on a ballot really increase the likelihood of identity theft? It makes little sense to me and seems much more like a scare tactic. The main problem with the reasoning that signing petitions will increase your chances of identity theft is that a signature and address aren’t things that an identity thief can do much with by themselves. Further discrediting this line of reasoning is that this information is readily available in phone books and on the Internet where it can be obtained in far greater quantities with much less effort, so it makes little sense for identity thieves to spend the time and effort to collect this information on the streets.
If you are truly concerned about identity theft, here are a number of identity theft prevention steps you can take. In the mean time, feel free to sign any petition for any measure you would like to see on a future ballot without fear of someone stealing your identity.