Election Contests Over Two San Mateo County School Bonds Filed Due To Ballot Label Law Violations

‘This case is about the unconstitutional use of public money to win an election’

Election contests over two San Mateo County school bonds were filed in the Superior Court of San Mateo County last week over misleading and law violating ballot labels.

Last year in San Mateo County, several school bond issues appeared on the 2022 ballot. Amongst them were Measures S and W. Measure S specifically covered the Redwood City Elementary School District to issue $298 million in bonds by repairing and upgrading classrooms and labs, upgrading infrastructure, and making safety/security improvements, levying $24 per $100,000 in assessed value. Measure W was similar, covering the Sequoia Union High School District to issue $591 million in bonds to repair and upgrade the infrastructure and classrooms of local high schools, levying $14 per $100,000 in assessed value.

While both bond issues faced opposition, they both ultimately passed on election day last year. Measure S received 17,895 votes in favor over 11,721 votes against, or 60.4% to 39.6%, with Measure W getting 53,317 votes in favor over 31,340 against, or roughly 63% against 37%.

While in most elections this would be case closed, issues against the ballot labels on the measures were soon brought forth. While school bond ballot labels, which are essentially a condensed version of the ballot title and a summary of the measure, have seen an uptick of challenges since AB 195, a ballot issue information requirement bill, was passed in 2017, few were pushed into election contests.

However, both Measures S and W were quickly challenged, with former CFO and California Watchdogs San Mateo County chapter founder Christopher Robell filing election contests against both measures last week. According to Robell, the ballot labels for both measures violate the law.

Measure S, Measure W ballot label issues

“Bottom line is the ballot label contains things it’s not supposed to have (such as argumentative and prejudicial statements describing speculative benefits) and it doesn’t contain things it is supposed to have (such as the nature of the measure which is a tax),” Robell told the Globe Monday. “Also missing is the maximum interest rate and duration of bonds which are required just like when you take out a mortgage. Truth in lending laws are important as we learned in 2008 recession. Ballot label is essentially a sales pitch that goes unchecked by the registrar. It is their job to make sure that the ballot label is complying with statutes and obviously they are not doing that.”

“This case is about the unconstitutional use of public money to win an election. The orchestrated effort to deceive voters has been denounced by three Civil Grand Juries. Deceptive ballot labels that violate statutes is not fair. The school districts’ proponents and their advisors (polling firms, marketing firms, bond counsel) all work, using taxpayer money, to craft a ballet that will ensure a “yes” vote with complete disregard for the laws. Worst yet, the county registrar ignores their mandatory ministerial duty by not rejecting the ballot labels and instead prints and circulates the dishonest ballots (again, with taxpayer money). So we end up with an unconstitutional, rigged election.

“What we have is a rigged election as a result of deceptive ballot labels with no checks and balances. The will of the voters cannot be determined, and the election must therefore be invalidated.”

Robell also noted that other things, such as the bond duration, were also missing from the measure bond labels.

While San Mateo County officials have not commented on the issue, Sandra Dennehy, a legal advisor, told the Globe that legal challenges against the wording of bond measures and propositions have exploded in recent years.

“It’s not a surprise to see  legal challenges against ballot label wording continuing to come up,” noted Dennehy. “In the last few election cycles, we have seen a lot of challenges to the voter guide descriptions, let alone what goes on the final ballot. There are many things wrong  with ballot labels across the state, but I’m not sure if a successful challenge or two can really change the tide on this. There does need to be better independent review and more accountability on the registrar over these though, and that’s where these challenged might help things.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Ninth Circuit Rules CA Election Integrity Project has Standing to Challenge Constitutionality of California’s Election Laws

California’s election ‘anomalies’ are not new, nor have they been fixed

“Over the last decade California has passed laws, orders and regulations that have led to massive irregularities,” the Election Integrity Project California said in a statement Monday announcing a huge legal win.

The Ninth Circuit has ruled that Election Integrity Project®California (EIPCa) and recent and future congressional candidates have standing to challenge the Constitutionality of California’s election laws, regulations, policies and procedures that have weakened or removed integrity from the election process. Though the Constitution gives authority to state legislators to pass laws to manage elections and process ballots, EIPCa asserts they do not have carte blanche authority to pass laws that diminish the value of the lawfully cast ballots.

These laws, orders and regulations culminated “in the 2020 election, when Governor Newsom authorized mailing a ballot to all ‘active’ registrants on the voter rolls and former Secretary of State Alex Padilla gutted signature verification requirements. EIPCa received over 700 affidavits signed under penalty of perjury from EIPCa-trained observers who consistently reported election workers not adequately verifying signatures and, in some cases, counting ballots without signatures.”

EIPCa continues:

“Because neither the state legislature nor Alex Padilla required uniform and secure vote casting and counting procedures, uneven procedures were applied across counties. EIPCa and its co-plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against Governor Newsom, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and thirteen country registrars.

“This lawsuit is monumental because it is the first to challenge the constitutionality of California’s election laws and procedures, and we are the first to get past standing,” says Mariah Gondeiro, the lead attorney who works for Advocates for Faith and Freedom. “If we win, California will be required to enforce secure and uniform vote casting and vote counting procedures.”

“For over a decade, Election Integrity Project®California has researched and documented every aspect of California’s election process and identified how these laws transformed an Election Day into a 60-day election season fraught with easy to manipulate procedures,” says Linda Paine, President of EIPCa. “We are now seeing California Style laws in states across the country creating the same problems that have been witnessed and documented by EIPCa-trained observers in California for years.”

The Globe has covered election “anomalies” and explained some of California’s in 2020:

In 2016 the California Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown ostensibly “legalized” ballot harvesting, allowing a third party to collect ballots and deliver them to election officials, eliminating the ballot protection law that allowed only a family member to return another voter’s ballot.

As I write this, I am receiving many reports from California voters who say their votes have not been counted. Candidates report their districts are only reporting at 59% and worse.

While the Secretary of State says he has until December 11 to announce California’s election outcomes, how did we get here?

Voters’ party registrations were changed right before the June 2016 Primary election, ensuring a Hillary Clinton win over challenger Bernie Sanders, in what was called electronic vote rigging. California was a crucial state for both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but the election was called for Clinton minutes after the polls closed, before millions of provisional ballot votes were counted.

A 2017 study by Stanford University proved that Hillary Clinton‘s campaign pre-rigged the system to steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders. And it was never more apparent than in California where Bernie Sanders voters were likely robbed of a legitimate candidate.

You can read the EIPCa press statement here. 

Click here to read the full article in California Globe

Hundreds of voter guides found in Tower District dumpster, Fresno election officials say

Hundreds of Fresno County voter guides were recovered Friday from a Tower District recycling dumpster, election officials reported. The Fresno County Registrar of Voter’s office was notified shortly before 4 p.m. Friday that about 200 copies of county voter information guides and four copies of state voter guides were found in the recycling dumpster. No ballots were discarded, the registrar’s office said.

The voter guides were properly mailed through the U.S. Postal Service. Elections officials were working to determine which voters were affected to quickly send new copies of the Fresno County voter guides in the coming days. The Registrar of Voters is working with local, state and federal officials to determine how the voting materials ended up in the dumpster and to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.

The Fresno County incident comes on the heels of ballot errors discovered in Merced County. There, 40ballots in the cities of Merced, Los Banos and Gustine were missing certain local races or included incorrect candidates. The Merced County Elections Office said the errors occurred because of mapping issues after new district lines were drawn earlier this year. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Click here to read the full article at the FresnoBee

Election officials are the gatekeepers of our democracy: Natalie Adona and Neal Kelley

Election officials may not top the headlines every day, but without them, our democracy wouldn’t function. These county registrar of voters, city clerks, and volunteer poll workers are also our friends, family members, and neighbors. They not only embody our country’s commitment to government by and for the people, they are specially trained and equipped to ensure that every voter is heard.

As election officials, we know just how much work goes into ensuring that our elections are free, fair, and secure. We’ve also seen firsthand the challenges facing our public servants in recent years: the immense political pressure, intimidation, and disinformation that has fueled a disturbing uptick in violent threats. It’s a reality we must face and work together to address.

That’s why, with the midterm elections quickly approaching, now is the time for our leaders to act and provide the necessary resources and funding to protect our elections officials and keep elections safe in 2022 and beyond.

The continued spread of disinformation following the 2020 election has emboldened election deniers to act out against the very people safeguarding our democratic process. Fearing for their safety, and that of their families, an increasing number of election officials are leaving their jobs. In Gillespie County, Texas, which voted overwhelmingly for former President Trump in 2020, an entire elections office recently resigned, with officials citing threats and stalking as the primary driver for the mass departure.

During the past year alone, the Department of Justice has examined more than 1,000 threats made against election officials, finding that 11 percent were serious enough to merit a federal criminal investigation. The FBI, in recent testimony before the Senate, also said that the volume of incidents is so high that it does not have adequate systems in place to process them.

We’ve seen and experienced the kind of intimidation that has forced many of our peers to fear for their safety. And one thing is clear: our nation cannot wait for this inflammatory rhetoric to cross an even more dangerous line. We need to act quickly to protect the civil servants who keep our elections running.

A bipartisan group of senators recently introduced legislation aimed at updating the Electoral Count Act to make the election certification process less prone to the kind of manipulation or subversion that we saw after the 2020 election. This legislation is important, and we hope Congress passes it swiftly. That group also introduced a companion piece of legislation that would target anyone who threatens or intimidates election workers, voters, poll watchers, or candidates. The bill would increase the maximum penalty for such actions from one year in prison to two.

This is an important start, and we applaud the senators involved for paying attention to this issue, but we must do more to stop this harmful trend of harassment and intimidation so that we can truly protect the people running our elections.

That includes new funding streams, through the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, or the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), that election officials can utilize specifically for threat monitoring, safety training, privacy services, and home security.

Earlier this year, the EAC expanded the use of federal election security funds for physical security and social media monitoring at the state and local level. This is a step forward, but more federal resources are needed to combat ongoing threats and harassment against our election officials.

Collaboration among federal, state, and local officials can also help prepare specific plans of action. Looking at Orange County, by creating a task force with members from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, state and local law enforcement, we have become better able to assess and address threats against poll workers and others. This kind of enhanced information sharing and coordination should be implemented across the country.

In several counties across the nation, calls to law enforcement regarding instances of intimidation are often met with questions such as, “Is this even a crime?” It’s vital that election officials and law enforcement work together proactively before elections, which should include training to increase their awareness of threats so they can become more effective in addressing them.

Additionally, we need more support systems in place for election officials to protect their physical and mental health. Harassment takes a toll. Counseling and emotional support should be offered to help workers on the front lines. Likewise, physical security should be offered to protect those at work and at home when their safety may be jeopardized.

Thankfully, we are beginning to see signs of progress around the country. Already, several states have either introduced or passed legislation aimed at protecting election workers. In Maine, a new law classifies threats against election workers as a crime and offers de-escalation training to civil servants. In California, a bill has been introduced to keep election officials’ home addresses private. In Washington state, it is now a felony to threaten election officials online.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Oakland Sued Over Ballot Measure to Allow Noncitizen Voting

Lawsuit says judge struck down similar San Francisco law

A judge’s recent ruling that a San Francisco law allowing noncitizens to vote in school board elections is unconstitutional threatens a similar plan in Oakland, as well as efforts in other cities like San Jose.

The same organizations and law firm that won their case against San Francisco’s 2016 law sued Oakland officials Aug. 16 to keep their proposed measure off the November ballot.

“Oakland’s noncitizen voting measure should be removed from the ballot because it will be a waste of public resources to spend money … to submit a measure to voters that can never be enacted,” the complaint said. “Allowing a vote on an unconstitutional measure will undermine the integrity of the initiative process.”

Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said the city has yet to be served with the complaint and could not comment.

Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb, who is leading the effort to get the measure on the ballot, believes it is legally sound because it would not directly extend voting rights to noncitizens, but allow the city to do so if it is not prohibited by state law.

“There’s no legal basis for their lawsuit,” Kalb said.

In January, the San Jose City Council voted to study the possibility of letting noncitizens vote in municipal elections, but they weren’t pressing to get a measure on the November 8 ballot.

San Francisco voters extended voting rights to noncitizens – both legal and unauthorized residents – to cast ballots in school board elections in 2016, and the Board of Supervisors extended the law indefinitely in 2021.

The conservative nonprofits United States Justice Foundation, based in Phoenix, and the California Public Policy Foundation in Laguna Niguel filed suit, arguing the provision was unconstitutional.

In a July 29 ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard B. Ulmer, Jr. agreed, citing the California Constitution stating that only “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this state may vote.” Ulmer also noted that several sections of the Elections Code say voters must be U.S. citizens.

Ulmer rejected the city’s argument that the state constitution’s “may vote” language isn’t restrictive.

“By the same logic, children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our constitution does not allow,” Ulmer wrote, adding that had the constitution said “shall vote,” it would have made voting mandatory in the state.

Ulmer’s ruling came just days after the New York Supreme Court justice struck down a New York City law passed in November that would have let 800,000 noncitizens who are permanent legal residents or authorized to work vote in municipal elections, citing similar barriers in the state constitution.

On Aug. 12, Ulmer also rejected San Francisco’s request to stay his ruling while the city appeals, saying he disagreed with the city’s contention that the case presented “difficult questions of law.”

“This is not a difficult or close question,” Ulmer wrote.

The Oakland lawsuit argues that the city’s voters have “a constitutional right in avoiding the vote dilution that flows from extending voting privileges to those not authorized to vote in the state.”

James V. Lacy, the lawyer representing the organizations that sued over the measure, argued it would benefit Asians, Hispanics and Whites who have larger shares of noncitizens among them at the expense of Oakland’s nearly one in four Black residents. But Kalb said the city is home to a large number of noncitizen African immigrants as well.

There is a history of noncitizen voting in the United States. New York allowed it for school elections until 2000. Advocates for the Oakland measure said noncitizens could vote in the United States until 1926. Sin Yen, spokeswoman for Chinese for Affirmative Action, which led the coalition that campaigned for San Francisco’s law, said noncitizen voting efforts are also afoot in Santa Ana, New York, Boston and Chicago.

Advocates argue that immigrant parents of kids in city schools shouldn’t be denied a voice in their governance just because they aren’t citizens. Oakland estimates that 13,000 of 230,000 voting-age residents are noncitizens of various ethnic backgrounds, including Hispanic, African and Asian.

“If you’re a parent or legal guardian of children under 18, you should be able to decide who runs the schools,” Kalb said. “It seems so obvious, like such a no-brainer. It’s sad there are some people who don’t want that to happen.”

Critics say they’re not anti-immigrant but that extending the vote to noncitizens unfairly benefits foreigners at the expense of the country’s own citizens.

“The purpose of our lawsuit is not to denigrate noncitizen rights in the state – noncitizens have all kinds of rights,” Lacy said. “But the idea of voting is something completely different. If you talk to a general person in the state about what is the qualification for voting, the general feeling is, well, you have to be a citizen.”

Click here to read the full article at The Mercury News

California Judge Overturns San Francisco Law Allowing Noncitizens to Vote

New York City’s identical law was recently struck down by a judge

In 2016, San Francisco voters approved a charter amendment allowing certain noncitizens to vote in school board elections. The Charter amendment also gave the County Board of Supervisors authority to extend the noncitizen voting authorization beyond 2022. On November 2, 2021, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors extended indefinitely the ordinance allowing noncitizens to vote beyond 2022.

In March 2022, California attorney James Lacy filed a lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco over this law arguing that San Francisco residents have a clear interest in ensuring their school board elections follow state law, especially because state taxpayers partially fund school districts.

“The State of California has a long-standing requirement that voters must be United States citizens,” the lawsuit by James V. Lacy; Michael Denny; United States Justice Foundation; and California Public Policy Foundation opens with. “This requirement applies to every election in the state, even those conducted by charter cities, because determining voter qualifications is a matter of statewide concern where state law supersedes conflicting charter city ordinances. Therefore, the San Francisco ordinance authorizing noncitizen voting in elections for the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is unlawful and may not be implemented.”

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer just ruled in favor of Lacy et. al. “A San Francisco law allowing noncitizen parents to vote in local school board elections was overturned Friday by a judge who said the California Constitution permits only citizens to vote,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The Globe spoke with Lacy just before the hearing about the unconstitutionality of the law. He said the local law violates the California Constitution and Elections Code.

Lacy also noted that New York City’s identical law was recently struck down by a judge, which would have allowed 800,000 non-citizens to vote, setting an important precedent.

The judge said allowing non-citizens to vote “is contrary to the California Constitution and state statutes and cannot stand.”

The judge told a lawyer for the city that the power of charter cities such as San Francisco to regulate municipal affairs “does not override the Constitution,” the Chronicle reported.

“A permanent injunction has been issued to stop San Francisco from processing noncitizen voting and the Court has invited Lacy and the plaintiffs to file a motion to claim attorneys fees against the City for the action.”

“When noncitizens vote in an election, the voting rights of citizens are wrongly diluted,” Lacy said.

The lawsuit said school districts are funded with the taxes paid by each of the state’s taxpayers into the state’s general fund. When SFUSD spends taxpayer funds, it is not spending local taxpayer funds; it is spending state taxpayer funds. In this regard, everyone in the state has an interest in SFUSD’s expenditures. From that interest, everyone in the state also has an interest in ensuring that SFUSD’s governing board is elected in accordance with state law.

Lacy’s lawsuit said “While section 5 of article XI of the State Constitution gives charter cities power over their own municipal affairs, this section does not authorize Ordinance Number 206-21 because voter qualifications for school board elections are not municipal affairs.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Judge Strikes Down San Francisco Law Allowing Noncitizen Parents to Vote in School Elections

A San Francisco law allowing noncitizen parents to vote in local school board elections was overturned Friday by a judge who said the California Constitution permits only citizens to vote.

The ordinance, the first of its kind in the state, was approved by city voters as Proposition N in 2016, took effect in 2018 and was extended indefinitely by the Board of Supervisors in 2021. It allows noncitizens, including undocumented immigrants and legal residents, to vote for school board candidates if they are a parent or guardian of a school-age child and are not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

A lawsuit by conservative organizations cited a provision of the state Constitution that declares, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.” Lawyers for the city contended the “may vote” language did not prohibit a local government from authorizing others to vote, but San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer disagreed.

“Transcendent law of California, the Constitution … reserves the right to vote to a United States citizen, contrary to (the) San Francisco ordinance,” Ulmer said in a ruling that prohibits the city from enforcing the ordinance or counting noncitizens’ votes.

Based on the logic of the city’s argument, he said, “children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our Constitution does not allow.”

If the Constitution used the word “shall” instead of “may,” Ulmer said, it would require everyone 18 or older to vote. Mandatory voting is the law in some nations, such as Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Egypt and Thailand, but not in the U.S. or any of its states, the judge said.

He also cited a state law passed by the Legislature that specified, “A person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen.” Such laws “address matters of statewide concern: education and voter qualifications,” and cannot be overridden by a local government, Ulmer said,

Ulmer had signaled his views at a hearing Thursday, when he told a lawyer for the city that the power of charter cities such as San Francisco to regulate municipal affairs “does not override the Constitution.”

James V. Lacy, who challenged the ordinance along with his organizations, the United States Justice Foundation and the California Public Policy Foundation, said the ruling was “a verdict in favor of election integrity in California.”

Jen Kwart, spokesperson for City Attorney David Chiu, said the ruling is disappointing.

Click here to read the full article in the San Francisco Chronicle

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