Score one for plain words in California politics. A Sacramento judge is stepping in to rewrite the misleading words that Attorney General Xavier Becerra used to summarize a gas tax repeal now making the signature-gathering rounds.
The fed-up judge is going after the partisan sleight of hand that attorneys general use to confuse voters and aid partisan causes in the way they write the summaries that sit atop signature-gathering petitions and the ballot if they qualify.
Depending on the spin, the title and summary can undercut or boost a brewing campaign. It’s an artful dodge that past attorneys general from both parties have used for decades.
The attorney general’s wording is “misleading” to the point where “an ordinary, reasonable elector, who is otherwise unfamiliar with the initiative, would not be able to discern what the initiative would do,” wrote Judge Timothy Frawley of Sacramento County Superior Court. The words “tax” and “fees” are missing from the summary, though those levies are the entire point of the would-be ballot measure.