Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

By Jim Sanders

The Election Day tally is in: Charles T. Munger Jr. has spent more than a half-million dollars to tell Californians that yes on Proposition 40 means no.

In other words, voting yes means opposing the referendum and retaining new Senate districts that were drawn for today's election. No group has formally campaigned to redraw those districts, which are supported now by both the Democratic and Republican state parties.

Even the sponsors of Proposition 40 have abandoned their measure, urging support of the new Senate maps. But Munger and others are concerned that voters mistakenly could check the wrong ballot box.

"There's a big concern about voter confusion," said Aaron McLear, a spokesman for Yes on 40, funded almost entirely by Munger, a wealthy Stanford physicist who has been active in bankrolling various GOP causes this year.

Rejection of Proposition 40 today would rescind the new Senate maps, though candidates newly elected in those districts could take office. The state Supreme Court would decide what changes in the Senate boundary lines, if any, are warranted for future elections.

Munger does not want that to happen.

He has spent nearly $600,000 urging yes on 40, a position supported by groups ranging from the California Chamber of Commerce to California Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of California.

The drive to qualify Proposition 40 for the ballot, which cost nearly $2.5 million, was led by Republican Party interests bent on killing the new Senate districts before they could take effect.

The GOP was concerned that the new districts would bolster Democrats' hopes of capturing the two additional seats needed to secure a two-thirds supermajority in the 40-member Senate.

The Supreme Court allowed the newly drawn Senate boundaries to be used this year despite the referendum, however, after which proponents gave up on their ballot measure - but too late to stop today's vote.

Sponsors of the referendum no longer seek public support, submitting a ballot argument that reads:

"As the official sponsor of Proposition 40, our intention was to make sure its qualification for the ballot would stop the current Senate District lines from being implemented in 2012. The Supreme Court reviewed the process and intervened to keep district lines in place. With the court's action, this measure is not needed and we are no longer asking for a NO vote."


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