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March 3 ballot is finally out (including typos)

February 9, 2009 | 10:45 am

election, los angeles, march 3, villaraogosa, solar power, measure b, city clerk, ballot Your March 3 city ballot is now available online. Click here for a link to the Los Angeles city clerk's search function; enter your street number and street name to see what's on your ballot.

There are many different versions, depending on your City Council district and school board district. Residents in some areas outside the city of Los Angeles, such as San Fernando, will have a ballot with just a school board race and the community college trustees; no mayor, controller, no city attorney, no solar or other ballot measures. In Burbank, you'll just get the community college trustees. The city of L.A. runs those elections, even for the areas that aren't in Los Angeles.

This information went up over the weekend. As we wrote in an editorial earlier this month, it's very late in the process to post the full text of the ballot measures, given the fact that the campaigns are in full swing and voters could begin voting by mail a week ago. This language was simply unavailable to voters unless they came downtown and asked for a hard copy at the Election Division of the City Clerk's Office, located at "Piper Tech," where the city government repairs its wrecked police cars and lands its helicopters.

Here at Opinion L.A. we tried to make up some of the difference by posting the full text on Vote-O-Rama so readers could see what they were being asked to vote on.

Why did the clerk's office take so long? First, do note that it met the legal deadline to get the vote-by-mail ballots out, and that there is no deadline for posting information online (see Sec. 401 of the Elections Code here). The clerk must translate the materials into other languages (you can go online to get Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Tagalog vote-by-mail applications), and that takes a lot of time. The City Council sent them five ballot measures in November, soon after the national election was over. But still. It's very late. Besides which...

...they still made mistakes. Nothing huge, as far as I can tell, but it seems like a rather sloppy job and does not inspire confidence. For example, check out the language of Proposition B. "Shall the Charter and Administrative Code be amended to…" etc., etc. Fine so far, but now look at the explanatory materials. "Should the Charter and Administrative Code be amended to…" etc., etc. Shall? Should? Why the difference? Standard ballot measure language is "shall," which in election context means "must." "Should" really just means "ought," as in, "Hey, d'ya think we oughta amend the charter? Not sayin' we will, but just askin'." And at the end of that paragraph – should the code be amended to "approve a variety of funding mechanism?" Missing an "s" there, folks.

Nitpicking? Sure. But little mistakes like these in official ballot materials make one wonder if there are any more significant goofs.

This isn’t the clerk's fault, but here's another inconsistency that does nothing to help voters understand what they're voting on: They're asked on the ballot whether they want to adopt (in Proposition B) the "Solar Energy and Job Creation Program." But when you flip to the back and find the actual law that would be adopted, it's called the "Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles Program." Again, hardly a big, substantive deal, but also hardly helpful to be so inconsistent in an already complex ballot measure.

And then there's this: Are these "propositions," "measures," or "charter amendments"? I recently assured a colleague that all were equally correct, because based on past practices all the ballot ever actually said was "A," "B" etc. But it turns out I was wrong, because the one everyone has been calling "Measure B" is on the ballot as "Charter Amendment and Ordinance Proposition B," while each of the others is "Charter Amendment A," "Charter Amendment C," etc. See, B changes not just the city charter, but also ordinances in the Administrative Code. In the pro and con arguments, though, it's Measure B, not Proposition B.

OK, enough ballot minutiae. Here at the Times editorial pages, we endorsed in the school board races Saturday, but are still discussing the other races and plan to endorse in coming weeks. In a break from past practice, we will soon post audio excerpts of interviews between measure proponents and opponents. We invite you to listen in and join the deliberations by comments to this and other election blog posts.

Photo: Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times

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