July 17, 2020

COVID-19 time restrictions cause court to order three initiatives to be placed on November ballot

Background Information

On December 17, 2019, the City Clerk certified that four of five initiatives submitted by a proponent had enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. At that same meeting, the City Council directed that a report be prepared pursuant to Elections Code 9212 to address the impacts or effects of the initiatives on the City.

After the City Council heard the Election Code Section 9212 reports at its City Council meeting on January 15, 2020 (link here), the City Council voted to initiate litigation to challenge the three measures.

On July 15, 2020, Judge Walsh held a hearing regarding whether the City should be ordered to place those three remaining measures on the November 3, 2020 ballot. In his ruling ordering the City to either adopt the initiatives or place them on the November 3, 2020 ballot, Judge Walsh stated:

“Here, the City filed its declaratory relief action to test the validity of Mr. Starr’s initiatives. That was an appropriate thing for the City to do if it doubted the validity of the initiatives. It also sought to set a briefing schedule with opposing counsel. This did not come to fruition, and then the Covid interruption shut everything down for close to three months. At this point, with a July 20 deadline to have arguments provided to the Registrar of Voters for inclusion in the voter information packet, time had effectively run out for a comprehensive pre election review of the Starr sponsored initiatives.”

Judge Walsh went on to state that the court had “wide discretion to review post-election an initiative which has procedurally qualified for the ballot. The court is exercising that discretion by this ruling, and expresses no opinion regarding the legal sufficiency of the initiatives. It is simply putting that off for another day should they be approved by the electorate.”

Judge Walsh then set a status conference for November 23, 2020 to determine what further action may be required to resolve all of the issues raised in the pleadings if the voters adopt any of the three measures.

Public Information on Ballot Initiatives

At its January 15, 2020 meeting, an Independent Expert, Russ Branson Consulting, presented Election Code Section 9212 reports on three of the four initiatives that had qualified for the ballot. These reports are available below.

Report: Independent Expert Analysis of Initiatives [Available here]

  • Treasurer Expansion, Meeting Requirements, and Measure O Termination Initiatives

Presentation: More details on the Independent Expert Analysis of Initiatives [Available here]

  • Treasurer Expansion, Meeting Requirements, and Measure O Termination Initiatives