At issue are two excerpts from the Argument against Measure C – the renewal of the Davis School District’s Parcel Taxes that were passed by the voters in Measure Q and Measure W.
The first passage in question is: “This mail election is a questionable undemocratic process which significantly reduces oversight to maintain the integrity of an election. It eliminates the poll workers and observers from both sides so there is a lack of independent supervision during the opening and counting the ballots. If you do not want to be financially abused and believe in fair elections, VOTE NO on C.”
The second passage reads: “”This mail election is a questionable process. It completely changes fair elections. It eliminates the poll workers and vote counting with both sides present. Ballots are opened and counted only by the elections office staff. During Measure A, 16,033 ballots were opened and counted before the polls closed. It is time to say no more taxes and no more unfair elections. VOTE NO ON C.”
Mr. Bernhard argues that these statements are “false, misleading or inconsistent with Chapter 6 of the Elections Code (Elections Code 9500 et. seq.) because they are neither for nor against the bond measure which is the subject matter of the election. Rather this language seeks to impugn the integrity of the election process which Petitioner has spent his career upholding.”
“My understanding of the law is that the object of a ballot argument is to address the merits of the proposition and not to make comments on other civic or political issues,” current County Clerk Freddie Oakley told the Vanguard on Tuesday afternoon.
One of the odd quirks in the current law is that the County Clerk cannot herself challenge ballot language in a school board race. So the former County Clerk has filed a writ of mandate against the current county clerk to “have language he thinks is irrelevant and false and misleading removed from the ballot pamphlet before it’s printed.”
“The law doesn’t permit me to sue myself,” the Clerk told the Vanguard. “In a school board election I can’t. In a county election I can ask for a writ of mandate against arguments that are false and misleading. But only in county elections – the law is not consistent.”
Freddie Oakley said that she plans to meet with Assemblymember Mariko Yamada and request for her to sponsor legislation that would make these laws consistent.
Ms. Oakley also informed the Vanguard that neither she nor her office was not required to defend the language. Mr. Granda and Mr. Randall are also listed as the respondents in this matter.
In contrast to the ballot arguments put up by opponents Jose Granda and Thomas Randall, Mr. Bernhard argues that “this language seeks to impugn the integrity of the election process which Petitioner has spent his career upholding.”
However, he claims, “All mailed ballot elections are conducted lawfully in accordance with California Elections Code Sections 4000-4108.”
Moreover, “Contrary to the assertions contained in these Arguments, there is no diminution or abrogation of the opportunity of supporters and opponents to observe all aspects of the election process. Observers are welcomed to observe any and all parts of the election process, including the signature verification, opening and counting of mailed ballots.”
“I honestly think that this court action serves the purpose of increasing election fairness,” Freddie Oakley told the Vanguard. “I’m extremely grateful to live in a society where we have judges to help us interpret the law and the facts.”
In their ballot arguments, Mr. Granda and Mr. Randall argue that Measure C is not, in fact, a “renewal of existing taxes,” but rather “it is a new tax.”
“If it were a renewal, they would be asking tax payments for four more years at a cost of $1,280 ($320) per year. Instead, this NEW TAX is for five years at a cost of $1,600,” they argue.
However, according to the Vanguard’s calculations, $1600 over five years works out to the same $320 per year that people are paying now.
They continue arguing: “You do not know exactly how much you will end up paying. The School Board tacked on an automatic increase per year based on the CPI “Consumer Price Index” which goes up every year.”
They add, “This new tax is acquiring a variable interest debt where you do not even know much the payment is going to be.”
The matter will be heard in Department 15 at 8:30 am on Thursday morning.
—David M. Greenwald reporting