Responding to a lawsuit filed by an anti-tax group, attorneys for the Secretary of State's Office and Gov. Jerry Brown's tax campaign said this week it is too late to renumber the November ballot initiatives.
In a filing with California's Third District Court of Appeal last month, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association alleged that state lawmakers illegally used majority-vote budget powers to change the order of ballot initiatives for the November election. Assembly Bill 1499 had the effect of moving the governor's late-qualifying tax initiative to the favorable top position on the November ballot, Proposition 30.
Attorneys for Brown's tax initiative and Secretary of State Debra Bowen offered no legal arguments defending AB 1499 in their appellate court response. They instead focused on logistical problems that would result from rescinding ballot numbers that Bowen assigned to 11 initiatives last month. Brown initiative attorneys said that would disrupt the elections process and cause chaos among campaigns.
"Beyond the printing and distribution of ballot materials, any change in the proposition numbers would also cause voter confusion," wrote attorney Thomas A. Willis. "The media and campaign committees that have been formed to support and oppose the 10 initiatives have been referring to the measures almost exclusively by number over the last three weeks."
Willis also said that because campaigns generally print materials in bulk early on, rescinding the ballot numbers would cause "significant financial loss to most of the campaign committees."
Lawyers for Bowen said the secretary has no authority to ignore laws passed by legislators. Elections Division Chief Jana M. Lean noted that Brown's initiative has already been labeled Proposition 30 and that the Secretary of State's Office must send voter guides to the state printer no later than 5 p.m. on Aug. 13.