How many signatures required to repeal Measure Q? Confusion reigns

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November 20, 2011

SMART rail logo.PNG

In September 2011, a group called RepealSMART began collecting signatures on an initiative with the aim of overturning Measure Q, a quarter-cent sales tax that was approved by voters on November 4, 2008.[1] By the deadline for submission, insufficient signatures had been gathered, and the SMART Board proceeded with reconstruction of the track.

The motivation for the repeal effort was that due to cost increases since the vote in 2008, SMART significantly scaled back what it intends to do with the money raised by the Measure Q sales tax. Opponents therefore said that the voters are not getting what they voted for, and should have the opportunity to vote on the sales tax again, with the facts in front of them about the smaller rail line segment that SMART is now building. SMART's current plan, as of November 2011, is to build a line from Railroad Square in Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael. This, according to the agency, would be done by about 2016.[1]

SMART is a two-county agency (Marin County and Sonoma County). The election on the repeal initiative, if it qualifies for the ballot, will have to be administered in each of the two counties. The board of SMART decided that it, instead of county election officials, would supervise the petition process and an eventual election on a repeal measure. After the board of SMART made that decision, it ordered those supporting the repeal petition to attach a 167-word title and summary to the petitions that it devised. This 167-word statement was written by the SMART board.

The California Secretary of State said that in arrogating to itself the power to serve as an election agency, the SMART board had overstepped its bounds. Those circulating the petition therefore refused to attach the SMART-board-written statement to their petitions.[1]

In a November 15, 2011 letter, the California Secretary of State decreed that it is the established election officials of Marin County and Sonoma County who will administer the election. In that letter, the statewide election authority also identified the section of California election code that they believe should govern the petition process. That code requires that petitioners collect about 39,000 signatures.

Clay Mitchell, the co-chairman of RepealSMART, believes that the number of required signatures is 15,000, as per Proposition 218 (1996).[1]

See also