Thursday, July 21, 2005

Breaking News: Judge tosses redistricting measure off ballot

From The Sacramento Bee:

Judge tosses redistricting measure off ballot
By John Hill and Jim Sanders -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 4:47 pm PDT Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Sacramento judge Thursday tossed Proposition 77 from the Nov. 8 special election ballot, saying proponents of the redistricting overhaul initiative did not follow legal procedure in circulating their petitions.

Backers of the initiative said they would appeal Judge Gail D. Ohanesian's decision.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed the suit earlier this month, asserting that the initiative's backers should be forced to play by the rules that require his office to approve measures and give them titles and summaries before they're circulated among voters.

Proposition 77 was intended to strip the Legislature of its power to draw political district lines every ten years. Instead, a panel of retired federal or state judges would draw distinct lines for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Legislature and the Board of Equalization.

The version used by Proposition 77 backers to gather signatures differed in several ways from the one submitted to Lockyer. While the first said judges would be "selected" to draw elective district lines, for instance, the second used the word "nominate."

The one circulated among voters did not contain a paragraph, referring to "fair and competitive districts" drawn by judges in earlier decades, that was part of the initiative submitted to Lockyer.

Proposition 77 backers said that the differences, the result of a clerical error, were "stylistic and immaterial" and should not be allowed to prevent voters from considering an important measure.

Lockyer, on the other hand, said that accepting the differences would open the door to "bait and switch" initiatives in which voters saw something different that what was reviewed by the Attorney General's Office.

Of 80 measures submitted to his office this year, Lockyer said, only Proposition 77 failed to meet the requirements, and "should be sent back to the starting line."

When Proposition 77 proponents discovered the mistake more than a month ago, they notified Secretary of State Bruce McPherson. McPherson then asked Lockyer's office whether he had the authority to decide which version to put on the ballot.

McPherson said that he intended to put the initiative on the ballot unless a court ordered him not to.

The initiative is one of three being pushed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The others would put strict limits on state spending and making it harder for teachers to get tenure.
Hat tip to CS for the heads-up.

Rick Hasen and others predicted (and I agreed) this would happen. This is, of course, only round one - there will be appeals, etc, so don't go celebrating yet if you were hoping for its removal. Frankly, given that we'd perhaps be left with the Legislative proposal, don't celebrate at all.

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