California's Secretary of State Bruce McPherson sat down to talk with the Town Crier Thursday just as Superior Court Judge Gail Ohanesian struck Prop. 77 from the Nov. 8 special election ballot.
The initiative would have handed the Legislature's power to redraw district lines to a panel of retired judges. In recent weeks, McPherson was caught up in controversy surrounding a discrepancy in the reapportionment initiative that he certified and the one that was used to gather nearly one million voter signatures.
McPherson dismissed the hullabaloo, explaining that he was carrying out his duties by certifying the initiative and that he told the attorney general about the change in wording in the initiative soon after he was notified about the problem on June 13.
"From where I was sitting, it was duly qualified," he said of certifying the proposition. "Until I was told differently, it was my duty to put it on the ballot."
He appeared unfazed Thursday afternoon when he received word of the judge's decision. "As secretary of state, my job is to qualify the petitions that are signed by the number of people necessary to put to put it on the ballot have the opportunity to vote on it," he said. McPherson maintained that he did not have a position on Prop. 77, but that the voters who signed the petition "are going to be very upset by that decision."
He added that proponents could take it to the next step by appealing the order.
He also expressed skepticism about whether the initiative would have a sweeping effect.
"I don't think it would make much difference in numbers. I think it would be a difference in the temperament. There's growing partisanship in Sacramento, and I think the general public recognizes that," he said.
Media attention centered on McPherson in mid-July when it was revealed that the version of the initiative he certified for circulation differed from the Prop. 77 text proponents used to gather 950,000 voter signatures.
The day before McPherson spoke with the Town Crier, members of the Legislature announced they would hold a joint hearing in August to investigate why the governor's office failed to notify McPherson about the Prop. 77 differences until after he had certified the initiative.
Asked whether the hearing was warranted, McPherson said, "If they want to do that, that's their discretion. It's interesting that one of them is the chair of the Senate elections committee - Debra Bowen - who is seeking office for secretary of state next year."