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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Baker’

Harkey Bill to Fix Bob Baker Problem Signed Into Law

Posted by Chris Nguyen on August 27, 2013

San Clemente Mayor Robert

San Clemente Mayor Robert “Bob” Baker

Many people may recall the rather amusing saga of San Clemente Councilman Robert “Bob” Baker, who had an opponent in the November 2012 election with the same exact name of Robert “Bob” Baker, which OC Political covered here and here last year.

In a nutshell, Councilman Baker (R) was challenged for re-election by a businessman (D) with the same exact name. (In the process, we discovered ballot designations had been created in 1931 to solve this problem, but that clearly took a life of its own.) Under Elections Code 13118, which was left substantially untouched since 1927, when two candidates with the same (or very similar) names were to each select a number to be placed next to their names on the ballot if at least one of them filed a declaration that their names were confusingly similar.

Since Councilman Baker pulled and filed his nomination paperwork first, he got first pick of numbers.  Naturally, he picked the number 1. Easy enough, right? Well, no. Businessman Baker then threw everyone for a loop by picking the number 0. The San Clemente City Clerk initially determined that businessman Baker would precede Councilman Baker on the ballot since 0 comes before 1. Then, the City Clerk sought advised from the Secretary of State, who then recommended the Clerk to do a random drawing to determine who would get listed first (just like the random drawing of the alphabet for the ballot). 0 was drawn before 1, so businessman Baker was listed before Councilman Baker on the ballot.

Businessman Baker eventually dropped out (though his name remained on the ballot), and Councilman Baker was re-elected by a nearly 3% margin. Shortly after the election, his colleagues on the San Clemente City Council selected Baker to be Mayor of San Clemente for 2013.

CITY OF SAN CLEMENTE Member, City Council
Number To Vote For: 2
Completed Precincts: 46 of 46
Vote Count Percentage
CHRIS HAMM 12,308 26.2%
1 ROBERT “BOB” BAKER 10,890 23.2%
JIM DAHL 9,555 20.3%
MIKE MORTENSON 9,145 19.5%
DAVID CLEGG 3,105 6.6%
0 ROBERT “BOB” BAKER 1,995 4.2%

Well, this year, Assemblywoman Diane Harkey introduced AB 1316 in February, which sailed through the Assembly Elections Committee, the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the Assembly Floor, the Senate Elections Committee, and the Senate Floor, getting unanimous votes every step of the way. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1316 into law this month, and it will take effect on January 1, 2014.

Sponsored by the City Clerks Association of California, AB 1316 was supported by the Secretary of State, the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials, and the League of California Cities. Harkey’s office specifically cited the situation in San Clemente as the impetus for the bill, and that was cited by all four official bill analyses in the Legislature (Assembly Elections, Assembly Appropriations, Senate Elections, and Senate Floor).

AB 1316 is quite straightforward.  If any candidate files a declaration declaring that the name of an opponent is confusingly similar, the elections official (the City Clerk for city offices or the Registrar of Voters for federal, state, county, school district, special district, etc.) will now select the number assigned to each candidate with a similar name. The Clerk/Registrar must start with the number 1 and assign the numbers sequentially based on the order that each candidate filed for the ballot. The ballot order will be determined by lottery. AB 1316 also fixed the annoying problem of the number’s location, moving it after the candidate’s name, as existing law had placed it before the candidate’s name.

If Harkey’s bill had been in effect in November 2012, the Councilman would have been Robert “Bob” Baker 1 while the businessman would have been Robert “Bob” Baker 2. Under the pre-Harkey law, as you’ll recall, they were 1 Robert “Bob” Baker and 0 Robert “Bob” Baker.

Due to the inherent advantage of the number 1, I wish AB 1316 had begun with the number 2 instead or that the assigned numbers for the candidates were determined by lottery in the first place.  Oh well.

Sadly (but appropriately), Harkey’s bill also closed my googol loophole: thanks to AB 1316, there can never be a candidate with the number 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Posted in 73rd Assembly District, California, San Clemente | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Ongoing Saga of the Two Robert “Bob” Bakers Running for San Clemente City Council

Posted by Chris Nguyen on August 23, 2012

Robert "Bob" Baker #1

San Clemente Councilman Robert “Bob” Baker 1 (R) is being challenged for re-election by Businessman Robert “Bob” Baker 0 (D).

Ordinarily, we’d run press releases and op-eds under the “Newsletter Reprint” account, but this is such an odd situation that I’m providing separate commentary here.

I’ve previously written about San Clemente Councilman Robert “Bob” Baker (R) being challenged by businessman Robert “Bob” Baker (D).

Elections Code Section 13118 provides that in cases of identical names, the candidates will select a distinguishing mark on a first-come, first-served basis, and that “The distinguishing mark shall be a number and shall be printed in large boldface type at the left of the name on the ballot.”  The incumbent Baker filed the number selection paperwork first and picked the number 1.

Sounds easy enough, right?  Well, not exactly.

The challenger Baker selected the number 0.  Whichever Baker has the lower number gets listed first on the ballot.  The Orange County Registrar of Voters and San Clemente City Clerk determined the number 0 is lower than the number 1 (amused/sad sidenote: only in election law does that need to be determined).  Therefore, the Registrar and Clerk concluded that 0 Baker would be listed before 1 Baker.

Had I been in the second Baker’s shoes and couldn’t get the number 1, I would have selected the number googol (yes, that’s how it’s spelled):

There is nothing in the Elections Code stopping a candidate from selecting googol to distinguish themselves from an identically-named candidate.

The Robert “Bob” Baker issue in San Clemente shows that the 85-year-old process for distinguishing identically-named candidates needs reform.

Perhaps identically-named candidates should be forced to use middle names if they both have middle names and the middle names are different.  (By the way, it’s Donald for Councilman Baker and John for Challenger Baker.)

Another option is to require the Clerk/Registrar randomly select a positive integer between 2-9 for each identically named candidate.  We already do a ballot order lottery in California to randomize the alphabet, so it would make sense to have a random number assigned to identically-named candidates.  The rationale on the range 2-9 is you’d keep it at a single-digit number without having the number connotations that come with 0 or 1.  (Obviously, there’d need to be a backup clause in case a dozen people with the same name ran: perhaps, a random positive integer between 21-99 could be selected, so everyone has a two-digit number without the connotations attached to the numbers 10 or 13.)

Nonetheless, the two Robert “Bob” Bakers of San Clemente must proceed under the current rules.  Barring judicial intervention that declares 0 is not a number for purposes of the Election Code (it could happen: after all, the U.S. Supreme Court case of Nix v. Hedden determined that while the tomato is botanically a fruit, it is legally a vegetable), Councilman Baker has implied a messaging strategy on the numbers in his his press release: calling challenger Baker a zero.  With the positive connotation of the number 1, the incumbent Baker could promote himself as “San Clemente’s #1 Choice” or something like that while continuing to blast the other Baker as a zero, with that number’s negative connotation.

Incumbent Bob Baker made a smart pick with 1 but just had the misfortune of facing off against a more Machiavellian Bob Baker, who picked 0.

We’ve received no word from the other two San Clemente Robert Bakers (one Republican, one Democrat) on which Robert Baker they’re backing, though since there’s two Council slots available, they could back both Bakers on the ballot.

I must say that I can sympathize with Councilman Baker: there are 21 Chris Nguyens and 62 Christopher Nguyens registered to vote in Orange County.  There were even 2 Chris Nguyens in my class in college (one from the Bay Area and another from Florida).

Here’s the press release from incumbent Robert “Bob” Baker 1 that came over the wire on Friday…

Incumbent Councilmember “Bob Baker 1” Says Sham Challenger “Bob Baker 0” Gamed the System To Gain an Unfair Advantage.

Robert “Bob” Baker  (“Bob Baker 1”) is seeking reelection to the San Clemente City Council this November.  A second Robert “Bob” Baker (“Bob Baker 0”) has appeared out of thin air to challenge his namesake, leading voters to ask “Will the real Bob Baker please stand up?”

The California Elections Code calls for similarly named candidates to use numerical distinctions to differentiate themselves for the voters.  City Clerk Joanne Baade is listing the Bob Baker who chose the lowest number to appear first among the two Bob Bakers on the ballot.  This is where the situation gets “curiouser and curiouser” like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

The incumbent Bob Baker, who was the first Baker to file his candidacy papers and to select a number, chose the number “1,” reasonably concluding that he had secured the first, and thus lowest, number and would appear above the newcomer Bob Baker on the ballot.  The new Bob Baker, however, instead of logically choosing any number from 2 upward, was allowed to select “0.”  The story should have ended there, with the Clerk rejecting the Johnny-Come-Lately Baker’s selection and requiring him to choose number 2 or any other positive integer besides 1.

But no, instead, the Clerk issued a statement that “Robert ‘Bob’ Baker No. 0 will appear immediately before Robert ‘Bob’ Baker No. 1 on the ballot because zero is a lower number than one.”  Really?

Political scientists have proven, and the California Supreme Court has acknowledged, a “primacy” effect in which the higher up a candidate’s name appears on the ballot, the more likely that candidate is to gain extra votes (often in the amount of several percentage points) over and above those whose names appear lower on the list.  So ballot position matters, which is why the Secretary of State performs a “randomized alphabet drawing” for each election.

Bob Baker 1 expressed surprise at this development, stating “Someone can be 1st in line, but no one can be 0st in line, can they?”  “And do winners of races come in 1st place or 0th place?”  Baker 1 surmised that another candidate recruited Baker 0 to run in order to confuse the voters and dilute Baker 1’s votes.  “San Clemente’s voters are quite intelligent,” said Councilman Baker, “and they will see through this charade and vote for the Bob Baker who doesn’t play games with the electoral process but merely wants to continue serving the City as a member of the Council.”  A voter, who did not want her identity revealed, said “Having served in the U.S. Navy for 7 years and as a commercial pilot for 30 years, Bob Baker 1 is a hero, whereas Bob Baker 0 is a “zero.”

Election law expert Brad Hertz of the Sutton Law Firm, who teaches Election Law at Chapman University Law School and is former President of the California Political Attorneys Association, said “The City Clerk’s actions make no sense, and Bob Baker 0 should not have been allowed to designate himself as such.”  Hertz pointed to Elections Code section 13117, which states that “… all state measures … shall be numbered in a continuous sequence, commencing with the number “1” and continuing in numerical sequence for a period of 10 years from the year of commencement.  At the completion of a 10-year cycle, the numbering sequence shall recommence with the number “1” at the next election….”  Hertz, who commonly litigates election law matters, and with whom Baker 1 has consulted, said “If common sense does not carry the day, then at least this analogous Elections Code section should guide the City Clerk to realize that “1,” not “0,” is the first and lowest number in the context of ballot position.”

Posted in San Clemente | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

San Clemente Councilman Robert “Bob” Baker Challenged by Another Robert “Bob” Baker

Posted by Chris Nguyen on August 7, 2012

Councilman Robert “Bob” Baker

In what will be one of the most entertaining races this November, Republican San Clemente City Councilman Robert “Bob” Baker may face his most formidable/helpful/confusing opponent ever: businessman Robert “Bob” Baker.

On July 16, the first day of filing, incumbent Baker pulled papers for re-election.  Then on July 26, challenger Baker pulled papers to run.  On July 31, incumbent Baker filed his papers.  Yesterday, August 6, challenger Baker filed his papers.

Good news for the Bakers, the Legislature thought of this already.  In a 1931 Los Angeles Times article, Senator George Rochester (R-Los Angeles) announced that he was introducing SB 300 to remedy the problem of candidates with similar names.  Governor James Rolph (R-San Francisco) signed SB 300 into law.  SB 300 has survived in substantially the same form as it did 81 years ago and is now known as Elections Code Section 13107.

What is Section 13107?  Well, we all know it as the section providing for ballot designations, the little words appearing under a candidate’s name that describes his/her profession, occupation, or vocation.  Yes, ballot designations – the source of many lawsuits and in many cases, the key to a candidate’s victory – started out as a way to deal with similar names.

Incumbent Baker wants to use “Councilmember/Retired Aviator” as his ballot designation while challenger Baker wants to use “Businessman” as his.

Unfortunately, Senator Rochester solved a problem that had already been solved four years earlier.  In 1927, Assemblyman James Finn (R-San Francisco) wrote AB 1170, which was signed into law by Governor C.C. Young (R-San Francisco).  AB 1170 survives to this day in substantially the same form as it did 85 years ago and is now known as Elections Code Section 13118:

The following rules apply whenever any person who is a candidate for any office believes that some other person with a name that is so similar that it may be confused with his or her name has filed or will file a nomination paper for the same office:

(a) The candidate may, at the time of filing his or her nomination paper, or within five days after the time for filing nomination papers has expired, file with the county elections official a statement that shall be in substance as follows:

“I ____, believe that some other person, whose name is so similar to mine that it may be confused with mine, has filed or will file a nomination paper for the same office for which I have filed a nomination paper, and I therefore request and direct that number ____ be printed with my name on the ballot as a distinguishing mark.

_____  _____ Name 
Candidate for the officeof  ”

(b) The distinguishing mark shall be a number and shall be printed in large boldface type at the left of the name on the ballot.

(c) If two or more candidates for the same office designate the same distinguishing number, the first candidate who filed his or her nomination papers shall have the number, and other candidates who designate the same number may file papers designating other distinguishing numbers.

(d) In addition to the designated number or numbers that the county elections official shall place on the ballot when the above conditions are met, he or she shall place on the ballot, immediately following the designation of the office and immediately preceding the names of the candidates to be voted upon, the following warning in boldface type:

“Warning! There are two (or applicable number) candidates for this office with identical names.”

This warning shall also be included, in boldface type and in a prominent manner, on any sample ballot, ballot pamphlet, or other mailing sent by the county elections official, prior to the election, to persons eligible to vote for this office.

Incumbent Baker has already requested the number 1.

It’s unclear what the effect of having two Robert “Bob” Bakers on the ballot will be.  Voters may select up to two candidates since two council seats are up.  Might San Clemente voters cast their for both Bakers?  Or will they be confused and split the Baker vote?  Only time will tell.

There are four Robert Bakers registered to vote in San Clemente – two Republicans and two Democrats, and three of whom are between the ages of 60-64 while the fourth is 51.  No word yet on if the other two Robert Bakers are going to run.

Posted in San Clemente | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

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