Two competing petitions with thousands of signatures – one to ban commercial and recreational cannabis cultivation and another to regulate it – were rejected by the Calaveras County Election Department on Friday and are unlikely to appear on the November ballot.
Calaveras County-Clerk Recorder Rebecca Turner said both petitions had formatting errors that invalidated some or all of the signatures.
“I looked at them for a couple of days and tried to make them work, but I just couldn’t,” said Turner.
Turner said the petition to place an outright cannabis ban on the November ballot was rejected because every section of the submitted signature pages failed to include the full language of the proposed measure as required by the state elections code.
Turner’s rejection letter, dated June 2 and sent to ban proponent Alice Montgomery of Arnold, said the code requires the notice of intention, including text of the proposed ordinance, to be attached to the petition.
“That was not done, so zero signatures could be counted,” said Turner.
The petition to regulate medical and recreational cultivation and commerce also failed to meet the elections code for similar reasons, she said. The title and summary of the proposed ordinance is required on both sides of each page. Only one side of each page had the required information.
“So we could only count the signatures on one side of the page,” said Turner. “When you are signing it, you should be able to see what you are signing.”
Her June 2 rejection letter to Prapanna Randall Smith of Murphys also said the ballot title and summary is required to be printed across the top of each page where signatures will appear. This was not done on all the pages, said Turner.
The elections code required 1,571 valid signatures for each or the petitions. Turner said the elections department counted 1,032 valid signatures; not enough for the petition to place the regulation measure on the ballot.
Turner said the petitioners have two options now – they can seek a court order to amend the section or sections that failed, or they can start of the process from the beginning.
She said that while the deadline to ensure placement on the November ballot was June 1, she is willing to try to get new signed petitions processed in time – within the next 30 days – to meet the November ballot deadline.
“But there is absolutely no guarantee on this” she said. “We have elections coming up next week and that will keep us busy for some time.”
As of Friday afternoon, spokespersons from both groups were unavailable for comment on their petition rejections.
However, in an email to the Enterprise Thursday night, Jeremy Carlson, a spokesman for the measure to regulate cannabis, said, “The Elections Department has apparently determined the word 'page' to mean a single side of a sheet of paper. However, that causes a different problem. If signatures can only appear on the side of a sheet which has the Title and Summary, and the declaration must follow the signatures but can only be on the back if there are also signature spaces on the back, there would be no room on the page for a signature box."
He added, "We will have our attorneys working on it first thing in the morning.”
Both groups appeared at the election department on Tuesday, lugging heavy boxes filled with pages of signatures. The group to ban cannabis turned in their petitions about 1 p.m. and group to regulate commercial and recreational cannabis turned theirs in about an hour later.