State of Jefferson initiative fails to qualify for ballot in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

State of Jefferson initiative fails to qualify for ballot in Nevada County

Alan Riquelmy and Liz Kellar
Staff Writers

The Nevada County Elections Office reported Monday that the State of Jefferson initiative has failed to qualify for the ballot.

The ballot measure would have asked Nevada County voters if they support leaving California to form a new state. It would have had no power if approved at the polls. Instead, Jefferson supporters hoped a win would lead the Board of Supervisors to approve a resolution in favor of the new state.

The petition was submitted to the Elections Office on Jan. 28, with 5,270 signatures affixed to the petition.

According to a news release from Nevada County Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz, there were a total of 3,733 valid signatures. Supporters needed 3,840 to qualify for the ballot, meaning the petition fell short by 107 signatures.

Twenty-nine percent of the gathered and submitted signatures were ruled invalid. Of the 1,537 signatures deemed insufficient, 282 were disqualified because they were duplicates.

By far the greatest number of invalid signatures — 588 — were disqualified because the signer was not registered; another 378 signers provided an incorrect address, according to the Elections Office.

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Eddie Garcia, a Jefferson supporter who delivered the petition to the elections office, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

"We're glad not to have to go through an election," said Margie Joehnck, Nevada County Coordinator for Keep It California, adding moments later, "I'm not sure where they're going to go with this. There doesn't seem to be any interest."

Joehnck argues that a new state would lead to higher taxes, not lower, as Jefferson supporters have claimed. Both Jefferson advocates and Keep It California have sparred for months over financial projections.

"It seems like it's kind of dead in the water to us," Joehnck said of the local Jefferson push.

Joehnck said Keep It California wants to be more than a single-issue opposition group. The group agrees with Jefferson supporters about the problems the northern state faces, but disagrees on the right solution.

The measure failed to get enough signatures to satisfy legal requirements in time for the June ballot, though it could have appeared on the November general election ballot if enough signatures had been verified.

In February, Nevada County elections officials said the non-binding measure didn't pass an initial, 500-signature verification process. That meant the elections office had to check the thousands of signatures on the petition.

According to officials, 377 names out of the 500 random signatures selected were valid, with three of the 500 signatures turning out to be duplicates.

Those duplicates, as well as the number of valid signatures, affected the mathematical formula used by elections software. That software predicted only 3,672 out of a target 3,840 signatures would be valid, or 95.6 percent — not enough to avoid a full count of all signatures.

As it turned out, the software prediction was quite close to the actual percentage, of 97.2 percent.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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