California activists targeting a law that aims to protect transgender students were aided by a flurry of late contributions, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state Monday.
Privacy For All Students, proponents of the referendum to overturn Assembly Bill 1266, announced this weekend they had submitted 620,000 signatures - roughly 115,000 more than the minimum - to qualify for the 2014 ballot. Organizers previously said they were confident about reaching the requisite number of signatures but endeavored to get thousands more to serve as a cushion.
Campaign Manager Frank Schubert said he believed the referendum had a good chance of qualifying for the ballot, but he expects it to be close either way.
"The validity rate of volunteer signatures is considerably higher than those for a paid signature drive," Schubert said in an emailed statement. "Historically, elections officials invalidate a significant percentage of signatures but many of our volunteer petitions have a validity rate of over 90 percent. We will be completing our internal validity checks over the next few days, but we believe the referendum has a good chance of qualifying. It's likely going to be very close one way or another."
Over the last two weeks, the group raised more than $79,000 from donors across the state, including $50,000 from Sean Fieler, president of the New York hedge fund Equinox Partners and regular supporter of traditional marriage.
The group also raised $1,000 each from Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, and committees controlled by Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, and Assemblyman Brian Dahle, R-Bieber.
The bill allows transgender students in public schools to join athletic teams and access facilities such as bathrooms that correspond with their gender identities. Authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, it was heralded by supporters as a necessary protection for students who regularly suffer humiliation and bullying.
Opponents, including a sizable contingent from the religious community, contended the law would make students uncomfortable and infringe on the will of parents. A spokeswoman described the effort as an issue of safety and privacy.
Schubert said county elections officials have eight working days to conduct a raw count. The Secretary of State would then order counties to conduct a random sample of signatures as part of a process that takes up to 30 days. Proponents expect the results to trigger a full check of signatures that could take another month, he said.
Editor's note: Updated at 8:35 p.m. with comment from Schubert.
PHOTO: Frank Schubert, who helped lead the Yes on Prop 8 campaign, speaks at a press conference in Santa Ana on Nov. 14, 2008. He helped organize a repeal of the transgender rights bill. The Orange County Register/Michael Goulding