Bill clarifying arguments in ballot measure submissions headed to governor

Friday, June 30, 2017
“For future elections, SB 665 will hopefully prevent the confusion we saw over ballot argument selections for a local measure in the 2016 election.” ~ Senator Moorlach
SACRAMENTO, CA – Senate Bill 665, Sen. John Moorlach’s bill clarifying potential signatories for the arguments in ballot measure submissions, has been approved unanimously by both houses of the Legislature. It now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
The proposal originated from a situation in Orange County where two purported bona fide associations of citizens submitted competing arguments against a local school bond measure. Without a clearer set of guidelines for how to proceed, the Registrar of Voters held a random drawing to pick which argument to use. Despite having a bona fide association present substantial arguments against the bond, the ad hoc group won the drawing.
The losing association, as well as the Orange County Board of Supervisors, challenged the decision in Orange County Superior Court, contending the ad hoc association did not represent a bona fide citizens’ group. The Registrar of Voters replied that, under existing law, it was unable to make a proper determination of which submitter’s argument should receive priority. Superior Court Judge Andrew Banks dismissed the case, citing the lack of guidance in state law and the First Amendment.
At the state level, current law requires the Secretary of State – and county Registrars of Voters for local measures – to randomly select one of the arguments for printing in the voter information guide, if more than one argument for or against a state measure is filed within the time prescribed.
Among other things, the bill clarifies the precedence for selecting arguments for or against a measure, giving priority to elected officials, then proponents of a measure, then associations, and finally citizens. And it requires associations backing or opposing a measure to provide its bona fides, such as articles of incorporation.

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