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STOP files lawsuit against City Clerk in attempt to reverse disqualification of petitions

The anti-arena coalition has officially filed a lawsuit against the City Clerk and the City to try to reverse the Clerk's decision and get their initiative on the the June ballot.

Courtesy of the Sacramento Kings

The anti-arena coalition isn't going down without a fight.

Last Friday, City Clerk Shirley Concolino rejected STOP's petitions on the grounds that they were fundamentally flawed and did not meet state election code.

The next step in the process came today, as STOP has elected to file a lawsuit against Concolino and the city.

Nick Miller of the Sacramento News & Review reports:

Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal-the two groups vying to put the initiative on the June ballot-submitted an application in Sacramento Superior Court this week challenging the city's ruling. They argue that their signature-gathering efforts amount to "substantial compliance" with election requirements.

But there's more: The legal challenge also accuses the city clerk of bias and misconduct.

Initiative proponents, and even a few City Hall insiders, are calling the city clerk's decision a "calculated political move" that had little to do with the law.

STOP claims that the City Clerk rejected the petitions for political reasons along with other claims of misconduct, including losing a form that stop said it filed in June.

The decision on whether to uphold or reject Concolino's decision will now be put in front of a judge, and due to the March 7th deadline for initiatives in order to get to the June Ballot, it's likely a decision will come sooner rather than later.

In his piece (which you should read in its entirety), Miller cites a couple of election-law experts regarding STOP's chances:

Steve Churchill, a local attorney and election-law expert, says that while judges are supposed to default to the initiative proponents in these types of cases, he has little clue how a legal challenge will play out.

On one hand, "the court must jealously guard the initiative process," he said. But "the problem with [the STOP] petition is they're trying to get an overall, horseshoes and hand grenades pass" when there are multiple mistakes, he added.

Rick Hasen, a law professor at UC Irvine, says a judge will foremost ask: "Were voters likely to be mislead?"

"The courts will sometimes excuse minor imperfections in petitions on grounds that the will of the voters, or the will of the petition signers, should be followed," he explained, then adding, "But they're not willing to cut too much slack."

This lines up with what myself and others have heard:  judges tend to give leeway to the voters, but won't forgive all mistakes if they're too egregious.  Whether that is the case this time will be up to whichever judge hears this case.