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Brown's Ballot Manipulation May Backfire

Sacramento judge rejects arguments of political trickery

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Opinion:  Ballot Manipulation May Backfire

Gov. Jerry Brown/Molly Unger

Gov. Jerry Brown and wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Unger are squaring off with competing tax measures for the November ballot.

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Gov. Jerry Brown scored a win Monday in his maneuvering to place his tax initiative, now officially known as Proposition 30, at the top of the November ballot.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that California's Secretary of State had acted properly in re-numbering the ballot order so that Brown's tax proposal will appear at the top.

That decision dealt a blow to Los Angeles attorney Molly Munger, who is sponsoring a competing tax measure.

Her measure is Prop 38. She challenged a move by elections officials to place Brown's plan in the top slot.

Brown signed an urgency bill last month that designated the ballot measure as budget-related, allowing it to be passed by a majority vote. Munger argued that it was a manipulation of the process.

But the judge was skeptical, telling lawyers Monday he was not inclined to micromanage election procedures.

It's easy to see why the governor wants his measure atop the ballot. He's looking for every advantage he can get, given the difficulty of convincing voters to raise taxes.

Recent polls show his measure, to raise the sales tax for everybody and the income tax on California's most well-off citizens, has an approval rating of 54 percent.

That's a precarious spot, since support typically erodes during the campaign combat that leads up to Election Day.

But in placing his measure atop the ballot, Brown is also allowing opponents to accuse him of manipulating the process.

Normally, initiatives are placed on the ballot in the order in which they qualify.

Brown's team is striking back, issuing a statement calling for Munger to stop the "scorched-earth attacks."

Given the low levels of trust voters already have in Sacramento politicians, Brown may have won this round.

But it's the type of move that generates more suspicion among voters.

Author Kevin Riggs, an Emmy-winning former TV reporter in Sacramento, is Senior Vice President at Randle Communications.

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