April 3, 2023 

Press Release - For immediate release

Contact: Christopher Robell (650) 245-7395   chris_robell@yahoo.com  

Blog: ballotlabel.blogspot.com

Redwood City Voter Seeks to Invalidate Local Bond Measures 

On March 29, 2023, Christopher Robell filed election contests in the Superior Court of San Mateo County to set aside the Measure S (Redwood City Elementary School District's $298 million bond) and Measure W (Sequoia Union High School District's $591.5 million bond) elections.

The issue: the Measure S & W ballot labels, which are the 75-word ballot questions that are often the only thing voters read before they vote, were misleading and not in compliance with the law. Mark Church, Registrar-Recorder of San Mateo County, is the elections official for both elections but did not reject these measures. 

Historically, there has been an ongoing problem of the unsuspecting public being misled by municipal bond advisors who write the ballot label for profit. To address the issue, the California State Assembly passed AB-195 which became law on January 1, 2018. Sections of that law govern the way local governments can present bond measures on ballots:

  • Measure shall be a true and impartial synopsis of the purpose of the proposed measure, and shall be in language that is neither argumentative nor likely to create prejudice for or against the measure.
  • If the proposed measure imposes a tax or raises the rate of a tax, the ballot shall include in the statement of the measure to be voted on, the amount of money to be raised annually, and the rate and duration of the tax to be levied. 

Mark Church was notified on March 19, 2018 and again on August 2, 2018 that school districts were engaged in creating ballot labels that violated the law, including Elections Code sections 13119(a), (b), and (c).  

Section 18401 makes it an offense against the elected franchise to print and circulate ballots that do not comply with Section 13119.

The ballot labels for both Measure S and Measure W are enormously non-compliant and appear to be intentionally so and by design.

Mickie Winkler, Former Mayor of Menlo Park and also a Former San Mateo County Civil Grand Juror states "ballot measures are notoriously misleading. It is incumbent on the Registrar to ensure the voters are not deceived by the way the ballot measure is presented". 

Dirk van Ulden, Former San Mateo County Civil Grand Juror says "three Civil Grand Jury reports in nearby counties in just the past two years have highlighted the pervasive problem of deceptive ballot labels. Measures S and W are no different.  The Registrar has a duty to ensure elections are fair and honest, and when they don't, they are complicit, and the integrity of the election is compromised".

Election contests are put on a fast-track to decision. The court has set the trial of the contest for April 18, 2023 at 9:00 am in Department 28 at the San Mateo County Courthouse at Courtroom 8A, 400 County Center, Redwood City. 

On November 8, 2022, 205 out of the 297 local tax measures on the ballot across California counties passed because the ballot labels were engineered to achieve passage. Mark Church conducted the elections for 14 of those local tax measures; 13 passed. 

The statutory to deadline to file an election contest against any of those local tax measures is in June or July and varies by county, city, or district.

"The title of the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury's report is 'If You Only Read the Ballot, You are Being Duped'.  That sums up the problem, and now we need the help of the courts to fix this. Otherwise, voters will continue to be deceived and cheated out of billions of dollars.", says Christopher Robell.

Christopher Robell is a retired CFO and founder of the San Mateo Watchdogs chapter of California Watchdogs.

For more information and updates, please follow ballotlabel.blogspot.com.

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