Court of Appeal Asks Secretary of State to Explain Herself

In a victory for the integrity of the ballot process, the Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District issued an order to the Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, to reverse her action giving Governor Brown’s tax hike initiative preference in the ballot materials or to submit a brief justifying her actions by July 30th.  Pursuant to AB 1499, Bowen gave Brown’s initiative the highest available number (Prop 30) on the November ballot.

Photo courtesy of Steve Rhodes, flickr

Assembly Bill 1499 seeks to repeal long-standing statutory law regarding how ballot measures appear on the ballot.

First, Petitions for Writs are rarely granted by the Courts. The fact that this writ was issued less than 24 hours after we filed it is a reflection of the seriousness of this case.

While the Court denied the request for an immediate stay, the short briefing schedule they ordered makes it possible that the proposition numbers could be changed from those designated by Bowen yesterday.  A temporary stay issued by the Superior Court in a related case brought by Molly Munger expired at 5 p.m. yesterday.  Even though Bowen was made aware of the pending HJTA legal action, she proceeded to assign proposition numbers at approximately 5:02 yesterday.

Governor Brown is playing fast and loose with California election law and the Secretary of State should not be an accomplice.  She runs the very real risk of being perceived as a willing participant in the perversion of the integrity of the ballot process, not a defender of it.

I suggest that a safe harbor for Secretary of State Bowen would be to default to the long-existing law related to the numbering of ballot measures.  If she did that, it would be difficult for anyone to complain.

Editor’s Note: The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association intervened in the case brought against the Secretary of State by Molly Munger over the numbering of the ballot propositions. When Munger lost in Superior court, she stepped aside and HJTA appealed.

(Jon Coupal is the President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Originally posted on Fox & Hounds.)