SACRAMENTO (CN) - Leaders of a grassroots campaign against California's new child vaccination requirements said Wednesday it fell short of the signatures needed to qualify the referendum for the 2016 general election.
Referendum leaders say they turned in approximately 200,000 signatures from across the state before Monday's deadline, well short of the minimum 365,880 necessary to temporarily stall Senate Bill 277 and put it to vote next fall.
Several counties turned in no signatures while Los Angeles County delivered the most, with an estimated 50,000 signatures.
The referendum was led the last three months by former state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly. Now a conservative talk show host, Donnelly boasted last week on social media that the referendum had well over 300,000 signatures and was well on its way to qualifying for the ballot.
On Monday, Donnelly issued a subdued statement saying that while he was proud to work with referendum volunteers, their efforts were "sabotaged by powerful forces."
"Never before in my political experience have I witnessed such extensive and determined opposition to a campaign," Donnelly said.
Donnelly could not be reached for comment on the referendum and has not responded to reporters since Monday's deadline. A Facebook page ran by referendum supporters was removed Wednesday afternoon after multiple posts from volunteers criticized Donnelly and the referendum's leaders for the low totals.
The referendum's supporters hoped to overturn an immunization bill that toughens vaccination requirements for public school students by removing personal-belief exemptions from parents. Supporters say the bill is necessary to prevent more outbreaks and increase the "herd immunity" created by a high percentage of vaccinated children.
One of the bill's authors, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, reacted to the failed referendum in a statement Wednesday calling the announcement "good news for public health and particularly California's children."