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Court Upholds Candidate Fees for Ballot Book Space

Times Staff Writer

The San Diego County registrar of voters does not have to make free space available in sample ballot booklets to candidates who cannot afford to place a statement in the widely circulated publication, a Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Mack P. Lovett rejected a request for a court-ordered fee waiver from John Kelley, a three-time candidate for San Diego mayor who is running for county recorder in the June 3 election.

“There’s nothing unconstitutional as far as this court is concerned about the campaign cost that’s being charged by the registrar of voters,” Lovett ruled after brief oral arguments in the case.

Kelley filed a lawsuit last week contending that the booklet, mailed to all registered voters, is a powerful campaign tool and that making space in it unavailable to indigent candidates effectively made it impossible for them to win elections.

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But Ray Ortiz, the registrar of voters, said he did not have the authority to waive the standard fee of $4,275 for a half-page statement in the booklet. In San Diego city elections, by contrast, taxpayers--not candidates--foot the bill for the sample ballot booklets.

Despite Lovett’s ruling, Kelley said he was convinced that the county’s refusal to waive the fees tilted elections in favor of wealthier candidates.

“We’re getting farther away from the constitutional intent of giving the person with a limited income the opportunity to run for office and have a reasonable chance,” he said. His opponent on the June ballot, incumbent recorder Vera Lyle, chose not to place a statement in the sample ballot booklet.

Ever philosophical, Kelley said it was unlikely he would appeal the decision.

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“We’ve lost this one,” he said. “Now we just have to win the election.”


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