IN a race against the clock, LandWatch Monterey County and other supporters
of the community general plan filed an emergency motion for a preliminary
injunction this week with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to get the
initiative placed on the June ballot.
The move to the appeals court is in response to U.S. District Judge James
Ware’s ruling last week that the initiative violates the Voting
Rights Act and cannot be put in front of voters.
“We are appealing the district court’s order,” said Bryce
Gee, attorney for Strumwasser & Woocher, the law firm representing
initiative supporters. “But because the appeal process takes awhile,
we are asking for an injunction to put the initiative on the ballot pending
Ware noted in his ruling that Monterey County, because of its large Spanish-speaking
population, is subject to the Voting Rights Act, which requires that certain
election materials be published in English and Spanish.
The motion for an injunction, filed Tuesday, says that courts of appeal
in two other circuits have “expressly held that citizen-sponsored
initiative petitions do not have to be circulated in languages other than
English” under the Voting Rights Act. It goes on to say that “appellants
and thousands of other local and state initiative proponents throughout
the state have for years been circulating — and continue this day
to circulate — initiative petitions in English.”
But Ware’s decision was based on a ruling last fall from the 9th
Circuit that recall petitions had to meet the requirements of the Voting
Rights Act. The opinion in that case, Padilla vs. Lever, strongly implied
that initiative petitions would also be subject to the same requirement.
And Carlos Ramos, a member of the Latino Voting Rights Coalition, said
there were problems with the way signatures were gathered for the initiative.
“We heard about people being profiled,” Ramos said. “There
were a lot of instances of [Latino] people walking by and petitioners
would turn around and talk to people more profiled as voters.”
Initiative backers have denied Spanish-speaking voters were ignored and
that everyone was given fair explanation of the initiative.
Ramos also reacted sharply to county Supervisor and initiative backer Dave
Potter’s comments to the Pine Cone last week that the voting rights
lawsuit was merely a “tactic” to prevent the initiative from
seeing a ballot.
“As community members, we were at the board of supervisors meeting
in October to remind them that the Voting Rights Act was critical and
crucial to Monterey County,” he said. “It's not the merits
of the initiative — whether you agree or disagree with it —
it’s the process. What Dave Potter is desperately trying to do is
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco must decide on the injunction
by April 6 since that’s the time county Registrar Tony Anchundo
said he must have a judicial decision in order to place the initiative
on the June 6 ballot.
All of the ballot materials including ballots and sample ballots, must
be submitted to a printer by April 21 in order for them to be mailed to
voters by May 16, a requirement under state law, the injunction notes.
Apart from LandWatch, the motion filed Tuesday lists William Melendez,
Ken Gray, Salinas city councilwoman Jyl Lutes and Carolyn Anderson as
plaintiffs in the case.
The initiative is in response to an updated general plan county supervisors
have been working on for six years.
Supervisors’ new plan, dubbed GPU4 was recently released. The general
plan initiative would severely restrict development in the county and
direct growth towards five, mostly Latino communities. Supporters of the
initiative argue it would prevent out-of-control growth, while opponents
say it would drive up housing costs and jeopardize property rights.