Update on Court Case: Measures E and G Ballot Questions

Dear El Dorado County Residents and rural lifestyle supporters,

Here is a quick summary of the Court Case regarding the ballot questions for Measures E and G:

The Judge liked the petitioner’s language better than the County’s language.  However, the law states that petitioner must show that the County’s language was misleading, false, or biased.  Since the County’s language was simply unclear, the Judge was required to rule for the County.  The petition to change the language was denied.

Given the latitude in which the County has to draft the questions, we chose not to appeal the Court’s decision.

We would like to thank all those who sent in contributions to help us take this to court.

Here is more detailed information:
Sue Taylor, as a proponent of Measures E and G, felt that the County wrote ballot questions for Measures E and G that were false, misleading and vague.  At the February 23, 2016 Board of Supervisors meeting, Chairman Mikulaco denied Taylor an opportunity to work with staff to create clearer ballot questions, as seen in these video clips:  https://youtu.be/VqNahS7jlCc

and https://youtu.be/kNSe5XUvIes.

Taylor’s only recourse to improve the ballot questions was to sue the County in Court.

According to California State Law, the election process in California requires that the ballot title and question must reflect the character and real purpose of the proposed measure.  (EC § 9105 and Widders v Furchtenicht (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 769, 781 [interpreting identical provisions for City elections].)

According to Plaintiff’s Legal Counsel:

The proposed ballot questions for both of the measures were so vague that they did not meet the requirement of reflecting the character and purpose of the measures.

Proponents’ proposed ballot questions (see below) provide concise, impartial description of the real purpose of the proposed measures.

If a ballot question violates the Elections Code, the proponents may seek a writ from the Superior Court on an expedited basis. If the petitioner can show by clear and convincing evidence that the ballot question is not a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the measure, then the court may revise the ballot question.

It can be argued that the draft ballot questions prepared by County Counsel provide almost no information about the purpose of the measures.

In the Judge’s ruling he stated that, in order to prevail, petitioner must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the “ballot question” posed to the voters is “false, misleading, or inconsistent with the requirements of section 9105.  Section 9105 requires “the ballot title,… shall give a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the proposed measure in such language that the ballot title shall neither be an argument, nor be likely to create prejudice for or against the proposed measure.”

The Court concluded that the ballot questions need not be “the most accurate, most comprehensive or fairest that a skilled wordsmith might imagine.”

“The County has wide discretion in drafting a ballot question and it need not be perfect.”

“And, while respondent has proposed what it believes is a reasonable alternative, case law firmly establishes the County, as drafter, is entitled to great deference.”

Omission …. in the County’s ballot question is not clear and convincing evidence it is false, misleading, or inconsistent.

Neither of County Counsel’s ballot questions is perfect in its summary of either Measure to be presented for determination.  However, the “test” is not which statement is better, more descriptive or even the most accurate.  The test is whether Petitioner has proven by clear and convincing evidence that either of the County’s questions are false, misleading, or inconsistent [with the requirements of section 9105].

County’s Measure E Ballot Question:

Shall the ordinance be adopted amending the El Dorado County General Plan to (1) change when and how El Dorado County mitigates impacts to traffic levels of service, (2) impose restrictions on use of tax revenue and mitigation fees and on formation of infrastructure financing districts, and (3) require El Dorado County to make findings of compliance with those policies prior to approving any residential development project of five or more units, as more fully described in the proposed ordinance?

Proponent’s suggestion for Measure E Ballot Question:

“Shall an ordinance be adopted to restore the original 1998 El Dorado County Measure Y and then amending it requiring: (1) that roads necessary to prevent Level of Service F for new development be fully completed prior to any discretionary project approval; (2) Local county tax revenue cannot offset traffic impacts of new development; (3) voter approval before allowing future infrastructure financing (bonding) districts; (4) that road funds remain in the road zone where collected?”

County’s Measure G Ballot Question:

Shall the ordinance be adopted to (1) add, amend, or delete fifteen distinct policies in the El Dorado County General Plan concerning land use, agriculture, mixed use, cultural and historical resources, and water supply and (2) preclude El Dorado County from approving any future discretionary project until it implements twelve enumerated General Plan policies related to community design guidelines, cultural and historical resources, water supply, and scenic corridors, as more fully described in the proposed ordinance?

Proponent’s suggestion for Measure G Ballot Question:

“Shall an ordinance be adopted amending the El Dorado County General Plan to: (1) require future decisions for land use changes be based on the land use compatibility matrix; (2) restore 2004 language for mixed-use policies and agricultural buffers; (3) give administrative agricultural relief authority solely to the Agricultural Commission; (4) implement the 2004 cultural, historical, scenic corridor and water policies prior to any future discretionary projects being allowed, (5) remove policies listed in ordinance?”

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