Sacramento, CA – Advocates from the Empower California Voters coalition, a collection of over 100 community organizations fighting for good government, voter protections, environmental justice, racial justice, lower-income community empowerment, and worker rights, celebrated the passage of AB 421 (Bryan) by two-thirds majorities in both houses of the state legislature today. The bill strengthens California’s direct democracy by giving California voters more information on who is funding referendums and clearing up current ballot confusion where a “yes” vote on a referendum to overturn a law means keeping the law. 

“Big Oil, Big Tobacco, fast food giants and other deceitful corporations have exploited a confusing referendum process in order to turn back communities’ hard-fought legislative wins; that stops now.” said Tia Orr, Executive Director of SEIU California. “Clearing up confusion on the ballot means putting power back where it should be: in the hands of voters.” 

AB 421 gives voters the tools to understand who is behind a measure. The bill requires the name of the top funders of the referendum to appear in the state voter information guide. Starting on January 1, 2025, the law would require the names of supporters and opponents in the ballot arguments to be printed on the ballot label. 

AB 421 clears up ballot confusion.  AB 421 proposes a common-sense solution to voter confusion by replacing “yes” and “no” with “keep the law” and “overturn the law.”

AB 421 matches up rules to withdraw referendums with the rules to withdraw state initiatives, allowing proponents of a referendum to withdraw the measure after the petition and signatures are submitted to elections officials but before the measure qualifies for the ballot. 

“AB 421 pulls the curtain back to expose the wealthy corporations paying millions to undo laws communities fought to pass in the state legislature,” said Melissa Romero, Senior Legislative Manager of California Environmental Voters. “By shining a light on who is funding referendums, AB 421 gives voters more power by giving them more information to understand the real motivations behind these measures.”

“When three in four voters say the way referendums are worded is too confusing, it’s clearly time for the legislature to act to empower California voters,” said Veronica Carrizales, Vice President of Policy and External Affairs for California Calls, citing a recent PPIC survey.  A separate University of Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies poll also recently found that 76% of all Latino, Black, AAPI and Native American voters support clearly identifying whether the referendum they are voting on is designed to uphold or overturn existing law.

Empower California Voters is a growing coalition of over 100 organizations dedicated to fulfilling the true intention of California’s referendum process: ensuring that voters, not corporations, have a greater voice in California’s democracy and our policy-making process.