Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tax hike foes denied sample ballot extension - Sacramento Bee

A Sacramento Superior Court judge rejected a request from a watchdog group Monday to extend the deadline for a sample ballot argument against a proposed city of Sacramento sales tax increase.

Mayor Kevin Johnson earlier this month failed to meet the deadline to turn in an argument against the sales tax.

Judge Michael P. Kenny's ruling means the sample ballot will now go out without an opposing argument against the proposed sales tax increase.

Kenny said Eye on Sacramento failed to identify a "ministerial duty" that would require the city clerk to extend the deadline.

"I think you're asking for too much," he said.

Craig Powell of Eye on Sacramento argued that the clerk abused her discretion because she failed to extend the deadline.

"We're extremely disappointed," Powell said after Kenny's ruling. "The interests of voters and taxpayers … have been compromised."

Opposition campaigns against sales tax increases are often underfunded, so sample ballots are one of the few places where voters can learn both sides of the issue, Powell said.

Sacramento County joined the city in opposition to Eye on Sacramento's request. Election officials said the delays would create election problems, including possibly not getting ballots to overseas voters.

An extension would have to be granted to allow rebuttal arguments against an opposition argument, city and county attorneys said.

Trying to circumvent that process would have required the judge, in effect, to rewrite the elections code, they said.

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Call The Bee's Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @ BradB_at_SacBee.

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