County Clerk Recorder Gregory Diaz, who likes to issue mind-numbing press releases that promote the competence of his office, has quietly admitted that his novel interpretation of a section of the election code was wrong.
Diaz sent a certified letter to Patricia Smith, chair of Americans for Safe Access Nevada County, conceding he was wrong when he told the group it needed 9,923 valid signatures instead of 9,131 to qualify a medical marijuana initiative for the ballot.
The information was buried in a press release from ASA-NC announcing its first meeting of the new year. “Now that we have excluded the over and under votes to calculate the number of signatures we needed, I am certain our initiative will pass,” Smith said in the press release.
The dispute was caused by Diaz’s interpretation of a section of the state election code that spells out how many signatures are needed to qualify an initiative for the ballot. The code says the number required is 20 percent of all votes cast in the county for governor in the most recent election.
The most recent governor’s race was in 2010, when 45,657 votes were cast in Nevada County for the various candidates for the office. Twenty percent of that total is 9,131, the presumed number of signatures needed to qualify an initiative for the ballot.
Diaz had a different interpretation. He said you also needed to include undervotes–people who voted in the election but didn’t make a selection for governor. When you add those to the votes cast for governor, the number of signatures needed to qualify an initiative jumped to 9,923.
“My interpretation is based on intent,” Diaz said at the time. “If you have a contest with two selections running and you vote for one, the intent is clear. If you don’t fill out that section of the ballot, your intent is that you didn’t want to vote for anyone.”
Conservative activist Barry Pruett, who lost to Diaz in 2010 and has been a frequent critic since then, pointed out in his blog that Orange County, Los Angeles County, and the California Secretary of State don’t use Diaz’s interpretation of the code, and that the clerk recorder’s interpretation is wrong.
Pruett was right, and Diaz was wrong. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the press release from the Rood Center.