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San Diego City Council Votes Against Proposal To Shorten Ballot Pamphlets

Photo by Katie Schoolov

A woman casts her vote at a polling place at University Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego, June 7, 2016.

San Diego City Council To Consider Proposal To Shorten Ballot Pamphlets


Todd Gloria, councilman, San Diego


The proposal aimed to decrease the size of the voter pamphlets and the cost of printing the ballots. Last week, San Diego City Clerk Elizabeth Maland said the projected cost of the general election could reach $5.5 million, well over the budgeted $4.17 million.

San Diego voters will see not just one but two ballot pamphlets in their mailboxes, each more than 100 pages long.

The San Diego City Council voted against a proposal to post the text of two citizens initiatives online instead of in a ballot pamphlet that will be mailed to voters before the November election.

The proposal aimed to decrease the size of the voter pamphlets and the cost of printing the ballots.

One of the initiatives would fund construction of a Chargers stadium and convention center annex. Its full text is 119 pages long. The other would prohibit a waterfront expansion of the current convention center and encourage educational and park uses of the Qualcomm Stadium site if the local National Football League franchise vacates the premises. Its full text is 77 pages long.

Both need voter approval because they would raise hotel room taxes.

The text of the initiatives will be sent in a supplemental voter pamphlet separate from the ballot pamphlet that details each race and ballot proposition. The November ballot will include 12 city propositions, two county propositions and 17 state propositions.

Printing the supplemental pamphlets could cost between $800,000 and $1 million, said City Clerk Elizabeth Maland.

The vote to skip printing the full ballot language for the two initiatives failed on a 4 to 2 vote. Council members Todd Gloria and Sherri Lighter voted yes, while council members Lorie Zapf, David Alvarez, Marti Emerald and Scott Sherman voted no. Council members Chris Cate, Myrtle Cole and Mark Kersey were absent.

Emerald said she feared not printing the full language would hurt democracy.

"I'd like to think everyone will read it, we know they probably won't, but for those who care about the outcome of these important issues, there’s nothing like being armed with information," she said.

Gloria said the election could cost the city up to $5.5 million, but the city has only budgeted $4.2 million. He said the money to print the supplemental pamphlet could me better spent.

"That's more than we spend on (Americans With Disabilities Act) repairs in a year, almost four times what we spend on summer jobs for youth, it's the value of a fire engine, it could house by my estimate about 150 additional people in the serial inebriate program for the homeless," Gloria said. "This is a real money. It's 2016, I think it's perfectly reasonable to put this online."

Maland said the city of Encinitas will have a supplemental pamphlet printed for a ballot measure, while the county of San Diego and San Diego Association of Governments will place the text of two propositions online, which is allowed by the state elections code.

If the text of San Diego's initiatives were placed online, voters could have requested printed copies, Maland said.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said that while placing the initiatives online is legal, the city has never done so before. The city is obligated to fully inform voters and operate in a fair and impartial manner, he said.

"These two initiatives are very complicated. I've heard many in the community who want to look under the hood, to look at the specifics," Goldsmith said. "I think that is very, very important."

He said the Chargers proposals not only outlines the tax increase but how it will be spent on construction. The Citizens Plan for San Diego, from lawyer Cory Briggs, has several different elements, including the tax increase, the fate of the stadium land in Mission Valley, a new downtown zoning area and new local environmental law, he said.

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