Saturday, July 23, 2005

Redistricting issue denied ballot status

Election measure rejected by court

Scuttling of redistricting plan is a big blow to governor's agenda.

By Jim Sanders -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, July 22, 2005
A Sacramento judge tossed the cornerstone of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's government overhaul agenda from the Nov. 8 special election ballot Thursday, killing a plan to change how political districts are drawn.

Proponents immediately vowed to appeal the ruling, hoping to save a measure that calls for redistricting to be taken out of lawmakers' hands and given to a panel of retired judges. This was headed for the ballot as Proposition 77.

"It's a round - but it's only one round," said Daniel Kolkey, an attorney for proponents Ted Costa and Fair Districts Now.

The ruling marks another major setback for Schwarzenegger, who previously has had to abandon ballot proposals for teacher merit pay and changes to the state's pension system.

"The governor is disappointed that the ruling has silenced the voices of 950,000 Californians," said Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez called on the Republican governor to abandon the Nov. 8 election.

"All along, my preference has been a legislative solution to redistricting," said Núñez, D-Los Angeles. "It's time we get on with that instead of wasting $50 million on a special election."

Superior Court Judge Gail D. Ohanesian, after a two-hour hearing, ruled that proponents inadvertently but illegally violated constitutional procedures to qualify an initiative.

Specifically, Ohanesian found that proponents used a different version of the measure to solicit voter signatures than was sent to state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to launch their drive.

The court ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed July 8 by Lockyer, who argued that constitutional errors could not be overlooked.

"We have to have certainty in the law," Deputy Attorney General Vickie P. Whitney told Ohanesian during the hearing.

"Has the integrity of the process been compromised? The answer is yes."
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