Monday, September 07, 2009

Propaganda to remain on ballot

The committees appointed by the County Council on August 18 to write the voters pamphlet statements against proposed charter amendments 1 and 3 have pointed out to the Pierce County Auditor and the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's office that the ballot titles contain prejudicial language and are not consistent with past practice for ballot titles for charter amendments. The Auditor's office does not want to discuss the issue with the committees and is moving forward with using the prejudicial ballot titles.

Closed County Process

The state process for ballot measures is for the Attorney General's office to consult with the pro and con committees BEFORE writing the ballot title. Not only did the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's office write the ballot titles without consulting the committees, the Auditor and the Prosecuting Attorney's office refused to discuss the ballot titles with the committees outside of court. They informed us that the only way they would discuss the issue was if we sued them. So the committees sued them in Superior Court.

During the lawsuit, the Tacoma News Tribune called the ballot title for amendment 1 "propaganda". This had no visible impact on the Auditor's office or the Prosecuting Attorney's office. They were determined to win the lawsuit based on technicalities, not the merits of the titles.

"Catch 22"

As it turned out, the prejudicial ballot titles were filed by the Prosecuting Attorney's office with the Auditor's office on July 28, three weeks before the committees were even appointed by the County Council. Washington state law requires the Auditor to inform the legislative body which is putting the measure on the ballot and any other interested parties of the filing of the ballot titles.

But there is no process for becoming an interested party. Voicing an interest in becoming a member of a committee to write a voters pamphlet statement or testifying before the County Council on the issue does NOT make one interested in the relevant ballot title, according to the Auditor's office.

The Prosecuting Attorney's office and the Auditor maintained in court there is NO requirement to inform the members of the voters pamphlet statement committees of the filing of the ballot titles or to ever send them copies of the ballot titles. The Auditor's office still has not sent ballot titles to the duly appointed committees. They have not posted the ballot titles on their website. Apparently, they do not view the ballot title of the measure as required reading for voters pamphlet statement committees.

Further, the deadline for challenging the ballot titles was 10 days after the filing. At the state level, this is not an issue since the committees are consulted before the titles are written. But our County Council did not even appoint the committees until after the deadline had passed. According to the Prosecuting Attorney's office, even if the Auditor had informed the committees about the ballot titles upon their appointment, it was too late to challenge.

Prejudicial Language in Ballot Title

The judge acknowledged the Prosecuting Attorney's office and the Auditor were successful in moving the prejudicial ballot titles through the process without anyone noticing by the deadline. During the hearing on the suit, the Prosecuting Attorney's office did not defend the prejudicial language, they only focused on the deadline. Apparently, the office does not care about being prejudicial.

Of course, the Auditor still has the ability to eliminate the offensive language, but she has given no indication of any desire to be impartial or fair. The County Council members want amendments 1, 2 and 3 to pass. Using prejudicial language to help them pass helps the County Council members and they are her friends.

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