Nevada County’s Measure S triggers new squabbling

Keri Brenner, The Union

Both Measure S backers and the Nevada County Elections Office are complaining this week about problems with voter registrations ­— but for different reasons.

“It seems like more and more people have been annexed from the active registration list,” said Patricia Smith, leader of “Yes on S” for Measure S, the revised medical marijuana cultivation ordinance on the Nov. 4 ballot. “This has the potential to change the results of the election.”

Deadline to register to vote is Oct. 20.

Sandra Sjoberg, Nevada County Assistant Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters, said her office has processed all pending voter registration cards, but many came in with missing or incorrect information, so they could not be confirmed, she said.

“The only reason that a voter may not appear as being registered is if they did not complete the voter-registration process, if the voter is inactive or we never received a registration card,” Sjoberg said.

“An incomplete voter- registration card is a card that is missing the required information in order to complete the registration process.”

According to Sjoberg, vote-by-mail ballots were sent out starting Thursday, a delay of about two days to make up for putting the ballots on hold last week amid the complaint filed by “Yes on S” over the ballot language. Most voters, however, should have already received the statewide voter information pamphlets sent out by the Secretary of State’s office, Sjoberg said.

Smith, however, forwarded an email including a quote from somenone who had becomce concerned when she had not received any elections materials this week. When that person checked her registration status, she said she found she was not registered.

Smith advised that everyone confirm their registration status, even if they believe they are active registered voters.

Sjoberg said that a number of new registration cards could not be confirmed because people either used an incorrect address, left out an address or otherwise were unable to contact to confirm a mailing address.

Alternatively, if the office gets back a mailing as “undeliverable,” the voter registration is considered inactive.

She said any rumors that the elections office was stalling on processing registrations was completely false.

“We don’t have stacks of cards waiting to be processed,” she said. “Our incoming basket is empty.”

Meanwhile, another flap regarding Measure S and the elections process surfaced this week when “No on S” backer Don Bessee filed a complaint against Smith with the Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento.

Bessee alleged in the complaint that Smith’s organization, Americans for Safe Access - Nevada County had failed to file the required campaign finance reports with the Secretary of State’s Office.

The reports are required if a campaign is raising or intends to raise more than $1,000.

“The committee has distributed handouts, yard signs, placed radio advertisements and billboards,” Bessee writes in the complaint. “We have found no record of any electronic filings with the Secretary of State’s Office.”

In a check of the Nevada County Elections Office, the Citizens for Fair Laws, “Yes on S” campaign committee did file the required 460 campaign finance report for the period between July 1 and Sept. 30. The committee also lists an I.D. number, which means it was registered with the Secretary of State, according to Sjoberg.

“It’s correct as far as we know,” Sjoberg said.

According to the 460 statement, the committee raised $20,541 in cash contributions during the period, and $4,325 in non-monetary contributions. The largest cash contributors were ASA-NC, which gave $10,000; Grass Roots Solutions of Grass Valley, which gave a total of $7,500 in two payments; and Smith herself, who gave $1,500.

ASA-NC and Grass Roots Solutions are both identified as “small campaign committees” on the 460 forms. Sjoberg said she had no information as yet as to any special requirements for the small campaign committees.

Bessee said his research indicates that small campaign committees are required to file their own campaign finance reports.

Bessee added that his complaint to the FPPC was primarily focused on reports that should have been filed before July 31.

“The (“Yes on S”) committee was formed in April, but there are no reports between May and July,” Bessee said. “They should have filed a semi-annual report by July 31.”

Elise Strickler, senior clerk-recorder assistant in the Nevada County Elections Office, said the committee did file the 460 form on May 28, but that was the last filing until the current one filed on Sept. 30.

“They were early,” Strickler said. “It wasn’t due until Oct. 6.”

Although his FPPC complaint did not mention it, Bessee also pointed Thursday to two other issues: That the “Yes on S” committee did not file any 496 forms, which are supposed to be filed within 24 hours if a campaign committee receives contributions of more than $1,000; and that the committee does not appear to be using its FPPC identification number on its advertisements as required.

“While this (advertisement issue) is not a major violation, they are still not disclosing who’s paying for them,” Bessee said.

Strickler confirmed she had not received any 496 forms from the “Yes on S” committee.

As to the ads, Strickler said “that’s not something I’m monitoring ­— that’s an FPPC question.”

FPPC officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Despite Bessee’s claims, a large “Yes on S” ad that ran on Page A2 of The Union’s print edition on Thursday carries the words, “paid for by Citizens for Fair Laws, 1365485.” The latter number is the FPPC identification number that appears on the committee’s 460 forms indicating the committee was registered with the state.

Meanwhile, a “No on S” campaign committee called Neighbors Who Care was established Sept. 12 with the filing of a form 410, Strickler said. However, that committee has not yet raised more than $1,000 and so is not required to file any 460 campaign finance reports until after that level of fundraising is achieved.

Smith and Bessee are scheduled to square off at noon today in a debate on KVMR-radio, 89.5 FM.