Yamada Bill on Ballot Arguments Moves Forward Over Objections From Granda

Share:

assemblymember-mariko-yamada

Jose Granda, the oft-times critic of the Davis School District, tried to take his fight to the legislature on Tuesday.  His target this time was legislation sponsored by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, which would close loopholes that became evident during March’s parcel tax election.

AB 1626 has already unanimously passed in the Assembly, but it encountered some opposition on Tuesday in the Senate Elections & Constitutional Amendments Committee as it passed on a party-line, 3-2 vote.

Mr. Granda was there and spoke for over 10 minutes in opposition to the bill, which he called a personal assault on him.  He argued that it was both voter intimidation and unconstitutional, despite the fact that the bill actually grants the power to the County Elections Officials in school parcel tax elections that elections official already have in state, county and city elections.

It gives a county elections official authority to seek a writ of mandate to amend or delete errors or omissions in election materials in special district and school district elections.

“Changing the law to allow election officials to perform a well-established function of the office in all local elections serves the voters of California by ensuring that arguments presented to them are accurate and honest,” said Assemblymember Yamada.

Back in January, County Clerk Freddie Oakley believed ballot arguments submitted against the Parcel Tax by two opponents were false and misleading.

In the case of Davis’s Measure C, Yolo County Clerk Freddie Oakley believed the argument submitted for inclusion in the sample ballot contained incorrect and misleading information about all-mail ballot elections.

However, since the law did not allow her to contest the false statements, former Yolo County Clerk Tony Bernhard, a resident of the school district, was asked to intervene and file a writ of mandate with the Yolo County Courts to remove portions of the argument.

The court ultimately struck portions of the argument proven incorrect.

“The law doesn’t permit me to sue myself,” the county clerk told the Vanguard in January.  “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 at the time that she planned to meet with Assemblymember Mariko Yamada and request for her to sponsor legislation that would make these laws consistent.

“The allowance for the timely action of those Elections Officials who are most aware of the content will save the counties and districts the cost of reprinting materials as errors are discovered later,” said Yolo County Clerk/Recorder Freddie Oakley. “I thank Assemblymember Yamada for her leadership in establishing an equal standard to contest ballot arguments at all levels of elections.”

The Republican dissent was unrelated to Mr. Granda’s arguments.  They argued that they did not want more power given to county clerks or judges who they argued may be “activist.”

This too seems a strange objection, given the fact that Clerk-Records already possess this authority in state, county and city elections.  Moreover, this only streamlines the process and avoids the need for a third party to bring the challenge to court, as happened with Tony Bernhard.

In short, denying this legislation would do nothing to prevent an “activist” judge from ruling on the matter.

As the Senate analysis noted, “This issue recently received attention with a local Yolo County school district parcel tax measure. While the law allows opinions in ballot arguments and the author can discuss any issue they wish, the county elections official believed that the argument submitted to the official for inclusion in the sample ballot contained incorrect and misleading information about all-mailed ballot elections.”

However, they add, “The law did not allow the Yolo County Elections office to contest the false statements. To ensure the dissemination of information based on fact, the official had to find a qualified voter willing to go to court on behalf of the county in time to meet legal deadlines. A court ultimately struck portions of the argument proven incorrect.”

Furthermore, according to the Assembly analysis on the legislation, the county clerk would not have the authority to determine whether the language was false and misleading, only the ability to directly challenge questionable language in the courts.

The analysis provided by the Assembly notes, “This bill would also authorize the elections official to seek the above-described writ of mandate or injunction in the context of a district or school district election.”

The bill amends two critical portions of Section 9380 of the Elections Code.

Under subsection (b)(1) it would read: “During the 10-calendar-day public examination period provided by this section, any voter of the jurisdiction in which the election is being held, or the elections official, himself or herself, may seek a writ of mandate or an injunction requiring any material to be amended or deleted. The writ of mandate or injunction request shall be filed no later than the end of the 10-calendar-day public examination period.”

And under (3) it would add: “The elections official shall be named as respondent and the person or official who authored the material in question shall be named as real parties in interest. In the case of the elections official bringing the mandamus or injunctive action, the board of supervisors of the county shall be named as the respondent and the person or official who authored the material in question shall be named as the real party in interest.

Simply put, the first change allows the elections official, himself or herself, to challenge during the 10-calendar-day public examination period and the second change would name the Board of Supervisors as the respondent if the elections official challenges.

According to analysis from Senator Lou Correa, who chairs the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments, specifically this bill allows “in the case of district or school district elections, the elections official in the jurisdiction in which the election is being held, during the 10-calendar-day public examination period, is authorized to seek a writ of mandate or injunction requiring the amendment or deletion of any or all of the following election materials concerning a measure that will appear on the ballot.”

They add, “This bill provides that in any case where an elections official seeks a writ of mandate or injunction pursuant to this bill, the board of supervisors of the county shall be named as the respondent and the person or official who authored the material in question shall be named as a real party in interest.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Share:

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

11 thoughts on “Yamada Bill on Ballot Arguments Moves Forward Over Objections From Granda”

  1. medwoman

    I fail to see how anyone could construe this bill as partisan or as anything other than completely fair. True the precipitating incident was because of erroneous information put forth by individuals opposing a tax. The next time it could just as easily be from someone favoring a tax.
    Can any one really argue that they would prefer to see misleading material remain highly visible to allowing any citizen to make a challenge ?
    Really ?

  2. E Roberts Musser

    So long as the determination as to whether the language is misleading is decided by an [i][b]impartial[/b][/i] third party – which in this case will be the courts…

    Of course one may have doubts that courts are always impartial…

  3. rusty49

    Good point ERM. How about when a school district wants to impose a tax and threatens to layoff a certain amount of teachers and do away with many vital programs when in reality that was never really in the cards?

  4. wdf1

    rusty49: [i]How about when a school district wants to impose a tax and threatens to layoff a certain amount of teachers and do away with many vital programs when in reality that was never really in the cards?[/i]

    You have only to look at other school districts to realize that you’re off base. In this economic downturn, other school districts have cut way back or eliminated their athletics program, their libraries and librarians, their elementary music program, their elementary science program, reading and math aides, and 7 periods for high school to cover college prep and tech/voc classes. Measure C secured funding for those programs for another 5 years. If Measure C had not passed, then the district would have had to cut an additional $6.5 million more than the $3.5 million they already cut.

    If other school districts were keeping all those things and not passing parcel taxes (and were not a “basic aid” district), I would take you seriously.

  5. rusty49

    wdf1, you miss the point. School districts will often threaten with the sky is falling types of drastic cuts when in reality they would’ve never really had to cut as much as they had threatened. I feel that is false and misleading and should be looked into also.

  6. Anne

    Rusty: The sky is falling. Right now the district barely has enough cash to borrow to make payroll because the state is deferring cash payments to districts. Do you understand what happens if the district runs out of cash?

  7. rusty49

    Anne, you miss the point too. This article is about FALSE AND MISLEADING ballot arguments. They will often threaten with far greater cuts than needed in order to get the measure to pass. I’m saying that those arguments should be looked into also. Stay on topic.

  8. wdf1

    rusty49: [i]School districts will often threaten with the sky is falling types of drastic cuts when in reality they would’ve never really had to cut as much as they had threatened. I feel that is false and misleading and should be looked into also.[/i]

    Compared to 6-10 years ago, I think the current district administration tends to be more conservative with their projections in developing a budget. There are several inputs that cannot be determined months in advance, such as number of employees who choose to retire, district enrollment fluctuations (families moving in and out), course enrollment patterns (what secondary students choose to sign up for), availability of one time money (for instance if the board and DSF agree to a fundraising campaign), and legislative changes to the state budget that affect local districts. The district doesn’t assume any rosy projection until it materializes.

    I believe a conservative approach is warranted in these times, but I can see how it bothers people. District employees don’t want to see any more pink slips issued than necessary, and get annoyed by it. And folks who don’t follow the district budgeting process closely may not realize what’s going on and think that it’s misleading. But when the district declares what is funded by a school parcel tax, then they follow it strictly. And again, you have only to look at what has been lost by other districts to get a sense for what is possible in DJUSD with or without school parcel taxes. I don’t find school board ballot arguments false or misleading in this context.

    Cuts are real, employees were laid off, and it does affect the quality of education, even though the district tries to minimize the impact as best as possible. Also, there are scenarios in which the district could be even more conservative in its budgeting, but choose not to, probably because it would be more intolerable at the time.

  9. medwoman

    [quote]rusty49: School districts will often threaten with the sky is falling types of drastic cuts when in reality they would’ve never really had to cut as much as they had threatened. I feel that is false and misleading and should be looked into also. [/quote]

    I think that one thing that has not been given enough emphasis in this discussion is the ethical issue related to intent. Whether one is asking for funding as a member of a public entity, or whether one is making a ballot argument, there is always the possibility of being “misleading”. One of the questions of importance for me is whether or not the intent is to mislead. For example, if Mr. Granda truly believed that all of his statements were strictly factual, he should indeed stand by them, even if he is proven incorrect and they are removed.
    This is a case of being unintentionally misleading and to me should be without any judgmental repercussions.
    Likewise, if the school board has made their best estimate, based on the limited information available to them at the time, even if that best estimate is proven incorrect, they were still acting in good faith and should not be denigrated for this.

    This is an entirely different matter from knowingly making a misrepresentation. Say for instance, I am promoting a new project that I estimate will cost my department $ 5,000 dollars, but I ask for $10,000 just in case I get lucky, this is clearly unethical and frankly in my opinion should cost me the management portion of my position. I get the sense from some of the posts that the latter example is what posters believe the school board and other public officials are doing. I do not believe this is true. If anyone has actual numbers to demonstrate that I am incorrect, I would certainly revise my opinion.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for