The Jury Talks Back


What happens if the elections office misspells a candidate’s name?

Filed under: California Politics — aphrael @ 6:21 pm

A Peace and Freedom party candidate for Governor is upset – and rightly so – that the state misspelled his name in the printed voter’s guide. It is too late to fix the problem without enormous expense, so the state isn’t going to; the window of opportunity for that has passed.

This brings to mind a more serious question, though: what is the effect if the name is misspelled on the ballot?

Section 13103 of the California Election code requires that the ballot contain “the names of all qualified candidates”, and Section 13104 requires the old name to be used when the candidate changes his name within one year of the election, unless the name change was the result of marriage or a court order.

Section 18401 makes it a misdemeanor to prints or circulates such a ballot a misdemeanor, but this isn’t helpful: the state isn’t going to prosecute all of the poll workers in the district for the ‘crime’ of handing out the ballot which the county elections office told them to hand out, and the punishment for a misdemeanor is hardly going to act as a deterrent to the kind of human error which would cause one to confuse ‘Mohammad’ with ‘Mohammed’.

This evidently hasn’t been an issue; I wasn’t able to find a single reported case in California in which a court ruled on the ballot misspelling of a candidate’s name.

Could a candidate who discovered this misspelling before the election sue, looking for an injunction ordering the ballots to be reprinted?

Could a candidate who discovered the misspelling after the election sue to void the election result (assuming he could demonstrate that voters were actually confused by this?)

Ideally you’d want both of these outcomes, but the Elections Code doesn’t seem to call for them; could a court, using equity power, interpose them anyhow?

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