Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs v. Norris

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Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs v. Norris was a court case decided in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by judges Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, Susan P. Graber and Carlos T. Bea.

The split, two-to-one decision struck down as unconstitutional the portions of sections 9202 and 9207 of California Elections Code that require the identity of ballot measure proponents to appear on petitions during circulation. Section 9202 required initiative petitioners to submit a signed notice of intent, and section 9207 required that notice to be displayed on every petition sheet during circulation. Together the two sections prevented a petition's sponsor from maintaining anonymity during circulation of initiative petitions. The appellate court decision ruled that these sections of law did not satisfy exacting scrutiny and invalidated them.[1][2][3]

The court majority opinion said, "The precedents of the Supreme Court and this circuit have emphasized the importance of anonymity at the point of contact with voters... Voters who wish to know the identities of official proponents need only make a trip to the City Clerk’s office or search for the publication of the petition in their newspapers of general circulation."[3]

The decision also upheld the original district court decision preventing corporations, associations, groups and anything other than a qualified voter from sponsoring an initiative petition. The court ruled "that associations do not have a First Amendment right to serve as official proponents of local ballot initiatives."[3]

Background

Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs v. Norris upheld in part and struck down in part a previous decision by Southern California District Court Judge Roger Benitez. The suit was originally brought to court as the result of a local ballot initiative sponsored by a union. The group Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs and Fair Competition (Chula Vista Citizens), an unincorporated association, and the Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego, Inc., an incorporated association of construction-related businesses (the Associations), jointly sought to place an initiative on the local ballot in 2008 that "mandat[ed] that the City or Redevelopment Agency not fund or contract for public works projects where there [was] a requirement to use only union employees." Since non-electors cannot sponsor initiatives, two members of Chula Vista Citizens, Lori Kneebone and Larry Breitfelder, agreed to serve as the measure's official proponents. However, Kneebone and Breitfelder did not print their names on the face of the petitions, instead providing the statement, "Paid for by Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs and Fair Competition, major funding by Associated Builders & Contractors PAC and Associated General Contractors PAC to promote fair competition." City Clerk Donna Norris, the defendant, subsequently rejected the submission because the proponents' names were absent from the petitions.[4]

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