Friday, August 12, 2005

Supreme Court allows redistricting initiative on November ballot

Proposition 77 is back on the ballot due to a California Supreme Court decision this afternoon. Excerpts from the AP story are below.


The California Supreme Court ruled Friday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to change the way legislative districts are drawn should be placed back on November's special election ballot.

The 4-2 decision overturns a state appellate court ruling that removed the measure because of a wording dispute.

In its ruling, the San Francisco-based court said it was unconvinced there were different meanings in the versions of the measure that were submitted to the attorney general for review and shown to registered voters for their signature to place it on the ballot.

"We conclude that it would not be appropriate to deny the electorate the opportunity to vote on Proposition 77 at the special election to be held on November 8, 2005, on the basis of such discrepancies," the majority wrote.

The decision is a victory for the Republican governor, who has made the redistricting initiative a centerpiece of his so-called "year of reform."

The initiative seeks to strip lawmakers' power to draw congressional and legislative boundaries in California and instead shift that responsibility to a panel of retired judges.

In a statement, Schwarzenegger said he was "pleased that the people of California will have an opportunity to vote on Proposition 77. ... Close to one million Californians signed petitions demanding redistricting reform, and today their voices have been heard."

Supporters submitted enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot, but Attorney General Bill Lockyer sued to remove it after its backers disclosed that they used a different version of the initiative during the certification process.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled in Lockyer's favor, striking the measure from the ballot July 21. Earlier this week, the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento rejected, in a 2-1 vote, an attempt by its backers to restore it.

Lockyer said he was disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision and said he had brought the challenge to defend the integrity of the initiative process.

"The outcome in this case presents a serious danger of opening up the initiative process to bait-and-switch tactics that deceive voters and erode their trust," he said in a statement.

Voting to overturn the Sacramento appeals court were Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Justice Marvin Baxter, Justice Ming Chen and Richard Aldrich, a Los Angeles appellate justice sitting on assignment.

Dissenting were justices Carlos Moreno and Joyce Kennard. Justice Kathryn Werdegar was unavailable and did not participate.

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