New Complaint Filed in California Voter Guide Lawsuit

On July 13, Paul Merritt filed this amended Complaint in Merritt v Padilla, c.d., 8:16cv-606. This is the case over the California Voter Guide, a pamphlet sent to every registered California voter. Candidates for federal or state office can pay to have a statement in the Guide. Under state law, no part of a candidate’s statement may be amended unless a voter or the Secretary of State files a lawsuit for that purpose during the “public examination” period, before the book is printed.

But Paul Merritt, who was a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016, had his statement altered, even though neither the Secretary of State nor anyone else filed such a lawsuit. The Secretary of State didn’t even tell Merritt that his statement had been changed, and Merritt only found out when the Orange County elections office informed him. Merritt had written that he was a “registered independent voter” (which was true) but the Secretary of State changed it to read he had “no party preference.” This amended complaint alleges that the Secretary of State violated Merritt’s due process rights. The judge in this case already ruled that the Secretary of State did not violate Merritt’s First Amendment rights, but allowed this amended complaint to be filed over the issue of the procedure the Secretary of State used.


New Complaint Filed in California Voter Guide Lawsuit — 2 Comments

  1. The voters guide had a heading that included the picture of the candidate, their name, and their party affiliation (preference). It also had a trailer that included contact information. It makes sense to standardize that information, since the name and party is what would appear on the ballot.

    The statement that appeared in the voters guide begins.

    “California make history . . . elect an independent Senator Merritt. Elect an independent thinker. Elect the person, not the Party-in-power’s …” (first ellipsis in guide; second ellipsis to indicate that I have not quoted Merritt’s entire statement)

    A reasonable person reading this statement (and the rest of it) would conclude that Merritt believes that he is independent-minded. A reasonable person might also infer other things, but that is not the fault of the Secretary of State.

    It is dubious whether Merritt was apprised by the Orange County Registrar’s office that his statement had been censored. The statement was apparently submitted to the SOS. Orange County would have no basis for making any such conclusion.

    There is no evidence that the State Voters guide was ever altered. The only reason in statute for the Secretary of State to sue would be if the printer had modified the guide when typesetting it.

    How do you know that Merritt is a registered independent?

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