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California ballot designations push limits of creativity, truthfulness

March 31, 2014|By Kerry Cavanaugh
  • Dan Schnur announces his candidacy for California secretary of state during a news conference in Sacramento.
Dan Schnur announces his candidacy for California secretary of state during… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

It’s that time of the year again, when candidates for elected office push the limits of their imagination and public gullibility with ballot designations.

California gives candidates three words to describe their principal profession, vocation or occupation on the ballot, and the freedom to create one’s persona and potentially sway public perception leads to some creative designations.

However, there are enough checks in the system to ensure candidates don’t mislead voters: The choice of words has to pass muster with elections officials and can be challenged in court, which is why we have several recent instances in which ballot designations have been rejected.

Last week, a judge ruled that secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur cannot call himself a “political reform advocate” on the ballot. The California Democratic Party’s vice chairman challenged Schnur’s ballot designation, saying it was deceptive.

Schnur, who is running as an independent, was a longtime Republican strategist but has more recently worked as a political professor and headed the California Fair Political Practices Commission. His new ballot designation will be “political involvement educator.”

In Los Angeles, county assessor candidate Jeffrey Prang cannot call himself a “deputy assessor” on the ballot. Why? Because the job title does not exist officially within the Los Angeles County assessor's office.

An employee may be called a deputy assessor when authorized to act on behalf of the assessor as an appraiser. But Prang, who works as a public affairs manager in the assessor’s office and serves as a West Hollywood city councilman, isn’t a licensed appraiser. If he won the election, he’d have to get a license.

And the Metropolitan News-Enterprise reported that several candidates for Los Angeles Superior Court judgeships have been ordered to change their ballot designations. They include Helen Kim, a part-time filing deputy in the district attorney’s office who wanted to call herself a “violent crimes prosecutor.” But because the majority of the cases she dealt with have been violent felonies, she will be identified as a “criminal prosecutor.”

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Follow Kerry Cavanaugh on Twitter @kerrycavan and Google+

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