Patterico's Pontifications


Dafydd: 77 Shenanigans

Filed under: Court Decisions,Politics — Dafydd @ 11:29 pm

Hello, folks, it’s me again.

Welcome back, Dafydd.

Did you miss me?

Um… who were you, again?

Ahem. Those of you following the endless kerfuffle over Proposition 77, the on-off-on again ballot measure to take redistricting out of the hands of the pols and plop it into the mits of a gaggle of “Special Masters” (I’m abruptly reminded of the Felix the Cat villain the Master Cylinder, and his sidekick Rock Bottom) will be interested in this newest twist.

Daniel Weintraub posted the following on his excellent Bee-blog California Insider:

Prop. 77 chicken scratch

This amazing document, posted on the Secretary of State’s web site, has become the subject of a legal dissing match between Attorney General Bill Lockyer and supporters of Proposition 77.

Lockyer’s lawyers and spokesman have claimed that the document, which is almost illegible through a series of edits and proofreading remarks scrawled all over it [having written and edited many documents, I had absolutely no difficulty reading it — DaH], is a copy of the initiative circulated by proponents of Prop. 77 to gather signatures for their measure. He’s now citing the mess as another reason why he refuses to write a new title and summary for the version of the initiative that was circulated to voters.

Ted Costa, the chief sponsor of the measure, says the document is not what he circulated. He says he is not sure where the document came from but he insists his group circulated a clean, typewritten copy of its initiative, albeit a slightly different version than the one submitted to Lockyer for review. [Once again calling myself as a witness, I actually read and signed the original petition when it was circulated at my local Ralphs supermarket… and I can guarantee it was a clean, typewritten copy with no holographic edits… because if it had any, I would never have signed it. — DaH]

Anyway, it’s worth taking a peek at the document to see what they are fighting over.

UPDATE: An alert reader (aren’t they all?) points out that all of the initiative meaures have at least a few chicken scratches on them. Indeed, these appear to be marks from the legislative counsel’s office. Some are printing instructions, like spacing for paragraphs, while others are small changes in code sections and other legal matters. Beyond that, the Prop. 77 version also includes handwritten changes that reflect the now famous differences in the versions submitted to the AG and circulated to the voters. It’s still a mystery though, as to who wrote those changes in. Costa says it wasn’t him.

What nobody seems to have figured out yet is that the document with the so-called “chicken scratches,”which comes from the California Secretary of State’s website, is in fact exactly the same as the document posted on the website of Attorney General Bill Lockyer… that is, the printed portion of it is identical to the AG’s version.

But the holographic edits — what Weintraub calls the “chicken scratches” — actually would, when implemented, make this document instead identical to the version available on the website of Ted Costa’s group, Fair Districts Now, which both sides stipulate is the version that was circulated as a petition. (Well, nearly identical; some trivial corrections on the Secretary of State’s version do not appear on either of the other two versions.)

That is, the Secretary of State’s document is actually a set of instructions for turning the Attorney General’s version into the version actually circulated by Fair Disctricts Now.

Let’s pause to ponder that a moment. The hand-edited version contains a few corrections that are not implemented on either “official” version, as I said: for example, in several places, written-out numbers like “twenty-four” are crossed out, and the equivalent numeric version (“24″) is handwritten; also, in several places where a code section is referred to as, e.g., “subdivision (c) (1),” it is hand-corrected to “paragraph (1) of subdivision (c).” But other than these trivialities, all of the differences appear to be covered by the holographic corrections on this document.

On the first page of the Secretary of State’s document is a brief handwritten note, which appears to me — I am not a trained handwriting expert — to be in the same handwriting as the later corrections (for example, the lowercase o in “Prop 77″ has an identifiable angle in the two-o’clock position also found in the edits). The note says “Prop 77″ at the top of the first page, with “#1072 Jeff to SOS 7-1,” followed by a set of initials; I can only identify the first letter of the initials… it’s a J (for Jeff, I assume — big help). The second letter could be a D or an O.

The three possibilities are: (1) somebody at Fair Districts Now read the AG’s version, realized it differed from the circulated version, and made corrections for the Secretary of State to implement; (2) somebody at the Secretary of State’s office had both documents, noticed the discrepencies, and made the corrections, routing the hand-edited document to his boss; or (3) somebody in Bill Lockyer’s office spotted the differences and wrote corrections, so that the Secretary of State’s office would be able to correct the text.

But in any event, the critical point is that, according to the date handwritten on the edited document, these corrections were in the Secretary of State’s office a full week before the Attorney General filed suit, on July 8th, to remove Prop 77 from the ballot because the version he had did not match the version that was circulated for signatures.

The Secretary of State had all the necessary corrections in hand to turn the AG’s version into the circulated version a week before the AG filed his lawsuit and nearly three weeks before Judge Gail Ohanesian agreed, on July 21st, to remove the measure from the ballot. Did Lockyer mention at trial that they already had the corrections before he even filed suit? Clearly, somebody took the trouble to go through the two versions line by line and write the corrections that would be necessary to make the AG’s version identical to the circulated version… so why did that somebody not simply make those corrections himself, thus averting the AG’s lawsuit and keeping Prop. 77 on the ballot for voters to decide?

But perhaps I just answered my own question.

6 Responses to “Dafydd: 77 Shenanigans”

  1. Dafydd–

    It’s actually more complicated than that. Really. We do need to know who “Jeff” is, of course. I presume that he works for the SoS, since otherwise the informality would be strange.

    On 7/1 the SoS had many thousands of identical examples of the version submitted to voters, in the form of completed petitions. Has no one a scanner? Why is THIS the version that is posted? It is almost like someone wanted to make the severity of the changes manifest and more than manifest, as the BASE version is one with lots of edits and corrections.

    According to several reports, the SoS asked the attorney general for a ruling on which of the two versions was supposed to go on the ballot: the AG’s version or the petition version? The AG responded with a lawsuit instead of an answer. As it stands, the ballot version would be the petition version, as that’s the one 950,000 people signed, but that could change.

    The real question about the chicken scratch version is why isn’t the petition text cleanly shown on the SoS web site?

    Kevin Murphy (9982dd)

  2. Kevin – the SOS website is probably showing the version of the document which was sent to the printer. That’s the impression i’ve gotten from reading other marks in previous initiatives over several years: what’s on display is the *corrected proof* sent back to the printer for preparation of the printed document.

    I’m not sure of this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s an election code provision requiring that the corrected proofs be placed on public display, and that Bill Jones’ office put procedures in place to put the corrected proof on the web during the public display period.

    If that interpretation is correct, then I would also presume that the corrections were made by the SecState’s office after they started receiving petitions and before they sent the document down to the printer.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  3. Section 9092 of the Election Code says:
    “Not less than 20 days before he or she submits the copy for the ballot pamphlet to the State Printer, the Secretary of State shall make the copy available for public examination.”

    That’s a fairly strong statement: the copy sent to the printer must be made available for examination.

    I think it’s fairly clear that the files on the Secretary of State’s website are images of the copy sent to the printer. I don’t see anything suspicious here; it’s standard behavior in publishing for the copy of a document sent to the printer to be heavily marked up.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  4. No, there are no printing marks on here, and this is not a printers proof with corrections. These are all normal editing marks (used by editors, not printers), and this is literally the same document (probably word processed) that the AG had; it’s not printed with the font or typographical elements you’d find in the printed ballot.

    To describe it as best I can, this is the sort of thing that in the old days would have been sent to the steno pool for retyping before being sent to the printing department. No printer would accept this.

    A printer’s markup would have information about typeface, sizes, borders, weight, and so forth. At least, the ones I have seen always had those. This isn’t that; this is a normal edited copy.


    Dafydd (f8a7be)

  5. The copy sent to the printer for the petitions was clearly NOT what we have here — that was done months and months ago and likely never saw the SoS or AG’s office.

    The printer’s copy for the ballot pamphlet did not have to be this markup — it culd have been a simple copy the ballot petition that they obviously used to create this markup. As Dafydd points out, it probably WAS, as no printer would accept this except at gunpoint. It was done this way for lawsuit reasons.

    Kevin Murphy (9982dd)

  6. Kevin Murphy:

    It was done this way for lawsuit reasons.

    But it was “done this way” a week before the lawsuit was even filed!

    What possible public purpose is achieved by suing to get a duly circulated, signed, and certified ballot proposition removed from the ballot on grounds that what the circulators gave you differed from what they circulated — when you not only have the circulated petitions but also the editing markup that would quickly (like, within ten minutes werping) turn the “bad” version into the “good” version?

    This is insane. I worked as a tech writer for many years, and I got drafts of tech manuals back from the developers with far more corrections and edits than this thing. I wasn’t kidding about the ten minutes: that was part of my job, rewriting the copy to include the changes from the developers, testers, and support people; and I could have made these changes over a single lunch, and still had time to finish my sardine, anchovy, limburger, and onion sandwich.

    Since both the Secretary of State and the Attorney General had the correct versions available, what could possibly justify removing it from the ballot?

    Why would a judge issue that ruling? It’s barking mad. Surely a judge should have as a primary consideration doing the least damage to the democratic process. If nearly a million Californios sign a petition for a constitutional amendment, and if it’s certified, then the proper legal position to take is that if there is any way to salvage that proposition, the judge should grab at it.

    In this case, the “salvage” operation would have taken less time and effort than doing the LA Times crossword puzzle… and I mean that literally.


    Dafydd (f8a7be)

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