SACRAMENTO--A Sacramento judge ruled Thursday that the state must count thousands of signatures collected in two counties for a referendum seeking to overturn a new law regarding transgender students.
The law allows transgender students to participate in school programs and use facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity instead of their sex. A coalition called Privacy for All Students has sought to block the law through a ballot measure.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen had refused to count some 5,000 petition signatures submitted in Mono and Tulare counties because the referendum's supporters had failed to submit them by the Nov. 10 deadline.
But because Nov. 10 was a Sunday and the next day, Nov. 11, was Veteran's day, Judge Allen Sumner of the California Superior Court in Sacramento ruled that the signatures were filed timely on Nov. 12. The judge also said the supporters "substantially complied" with the filing deadline by unsuccessfully attempting to submit the petitions before Nov. 10.
Evan Goldberg, chief deputy secretary of State, said historically the law had been interpreted that "90 days meant 90 days." But, he added, "the judge has ruled otherwise and of course the Secretary will comply with that interpretation."
Brad Dacus, president of the conservative legal group Pacific Justice Institute, which represented the referendum's proponents, said "every Californian regardless of ideology should be encouraged by this ruling that strongly supports the fundamental right to have referendum signatures counted when they are delivered to county clerks ahead of the referendum deadline."
"These rights are too important for the Secretary of State, or a county clerk, to play politics when they don't like a particular referendum," Dacus said.
Supporters of the measure submitted around 619,000 signatures to be counted. It must have 504,760 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Counties are currently checking random samples of the submitted signatures to estimate how many are valid; the results of that sampling is due Jan. 8.