An initiative to reverse a San Jose-wide ban on polystyrene food take-out containers failed after election officials found that more than half the signatures endorsing the measure were made-up or otherwise unusable.
Signature-gatherers deployed by a group of restaurant owners used shady tactics to collect 21,000 of the 38,784 submitted signatures, the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters determined after a monthlong review. Some 15,000 looked to be fabricated. City Clerk Toni Taber said her office received complaints that petitioners exchanged gift cards for signatures to homeless people. Those gift cards turned out to be worthless. The Mercury News reported that the District Attorney’s Office received a complaint about the signatures, but didn’t find enough evidence to pull together a criminal case.
An initiative requires 21,046 to make it on the June ballot. Petitioners would have to start all over if they want another shot.
The ban took effect for restaurant chains at the start of this year and begins for small businesses in 2015. During hearings leading up to the ban—voted in by City Council last summer to reduce the waste that ends up in storm drains and waterways—restaurant owners argued that switching to alternative food containers would cost more money and put some people out of business.