The Union flubs another Elections Office article related to Measure S

My sample ballot arrived yesterday
My sample ballot arrived yesterday

In April I pointed to an egregious reporting error in The Union about the Elections Office. Without checking with the Elections Office, it ran a false and some would claim libelous statement from a pro-Measure S press release: “The ACLU is investigating whether actions taken by the County rise to the level of election tampering.”

I confirmed there was no such investigation, but The Union did not. After receiving notice from the Elections Office, Editor Brian Hamilton issued a major retraction “for our failure to confirm the allegation prior to publishing the news release at TheUnion.com, which inaccurately called into question the integrity of the county elections office with the false claim.”

The Union didn’t seem to learn anything from its mistake, because it is still writing one-sided articles about the Elections Office related to Measure S.

This morning, the newspaper sided with disgruntled candidates with the headline “Delayed sample ballots irk Nevada County candidates.”

The first 10 paragraphs deal with the candidates making a rather astonishing claim that they should somehow be refunded money for their campaign statements because ballot mailings were delayed. I’ve never heard of such a thing. It almost sounds as if they are trying to come up with an excuse if they lose.

But the article never fleshed out the Elections Office side of this story — and it offered no response from an Elections official until all the way down to the eleventh paragraph.

The crux of the story is this, as the Elections Office said in the very first sentence of its press release: “All sample ballots and sample ballot booklets will be in the hands of Nevada County voters in ample time for voter preparation for the November 4 election, although legal challenges (from the pro-Measure S supporters) nearly derailed the process.”

In addition, the ballots were delayed by a distribution snafu involving the post office.

The full statement is here.

Instead of putting this higher in the story, The Union quoted Patricia Smith, leader of Measure S, the medical marijuana cultivation initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot, as stating that delays in the sample ballot mailing could affect the vote on Measure S.

Talk about an “upside down” world. Most of us are tired of the bickering about Measure S. It has come to epitomize the culture wars, political polarization, nastiness and self interest at play in our western county.

One reason Measure S may go down to defeat has less to do with the initiative but how the campaign is throwing everybody under the bus but itself. There is little to no self-introspection.

And The Union has done an extremely poor job of shedding a light on it, going back to the campaign’s defamatory statement about the Elections Office in April, which it published without even confirming.

Measure S has shown the community at its worst.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

36 thoughts on “The Union flubs another Elections Office article related to Measure S”

  1. Barry Pruett thinks The Union article is “right down the middle.” LOL. Like The Union, Pruett also reprinted the lie about Diaz’ office on his blog without bothering to confirm it. http://barrypruett.blogspot.com/2014/04/gregory-diaz-and-election-tampering.html
    Though he later corrected the article by drawing lines through the inaccuracies, the URL still includes the “Gregory Diaz and Election Tampering” headline.

    Not exactly Gibson Dunn & Crutcher material.

  2. The problem lies with you Jeff. I know it is difficult to side against a friend, but I think the actions speak louder than their (inaccurate) words. How can you condone the statements made by the Elections Office and County Counsel to a sitting judge that have proven to be untrue? They stated that the ballots were printed and sitting in the office ready to go out on Oct 7th when they had already called a halt to printing them and knew that while they were in court? This does rise to election tampering so maybe I am psychic!!

    Furthermore, candidates may indeed be entitled to a refund. When I asked for my a refund of the filing fee (for our petition campaign), I was told that it wasn’t refundable. After I insisted they double check their info, they found I was right and issued me a check. It seems the Election Office makes statements without knowing the facts.

    Since you brought up the ACLU, I will respond again that at the time I made the statement, I believed it was true and recanted the statement as soon I found out that it was inaccurate. Can the Elections Office make the same claim? I don’t think so (since they have already admitted that the ballots were not printed or ready to send out on Oct 7th).

    BTW, I still don’t have my voter guide!!

  3. Patricia,
    No, it’s not me, it’s you and some of the Measure S campaign tactics. You “believed it was true” that the ACLU “is investigating whether actions taken by the County rise to the level of election tampering,” but you didn’t bother to check before publishing it? How irresponsible is that? Wow. That reflects on your own integrity and credibility, not mine or the Election Office’s.

    I predict Measure S will lose because of the campaigning tactics more than the principles of the initiative (which are understandable). “Politics makes strange bedfellows,” but I’m afraid a lot of people are going to hold their nose and vote just like George Rebane and Don Bessee will.

    It’s time to stop making the Elections Office the “whipping boy” for all the political activists (on the left and on the right) who don’t get their way. For the record, I had never met Greg Diaz until I saw how badly he was being treated in his campaign against Barry Pruett. He’s a longtime professional and is fair minded. We are lucky to have him, particularly among all the tiny town political activists that run around town with their sharpened popsicle sticks.

  4. This is not about Greg Diaz personally. I believe he is a good man. It is about how the office is run. It is not OK to knowingly misstate facts. I think if Measure S was something you cared about passionately, you would have a different attitude. Every voter should be outraged that we were not supplied with voter’s guides before we received our ballots. Don’t you think voters have the right to know what and who they are voting for??

    The Elections Office should have made a statement the minute the ballots and guides were delayed with instructions on where to find the guide online. They did not do this and stayed mum until Pascale unearthed the truth.

    Calling out inequities should not be viewed as underhanded campaign tactics. It is our responsibility as good citizens to demand that our elected officials follow the rules.

    BTW, for the last time, when I made the statement about the ACLU investigating the Elections Office, I had been told by a member of their Board that they would look into the matter. After I sent out my PR, she called back and asked me to hold the information as they needed to vote on the matter. So YES, when I made the statement, I thought it was true or I would never have said it in the first place. I also issued a retraction immediately (within 25 minutes of sending out the PR) Why is that a worse offense than knowingly misstating the facts on something that effects all of us voters??

  5. Patricia,
    Thanks and have a great day. I have an appointment in Sacramento. Be nice while I’m gone, because you’re not in moderation. Cheers. BTW, Don Bessee remains in permanent moderation. He has made some outrageous posts at night, while our family is sleeping. Rather weird dude; gets too overheated.

  6. Listening to Pascale yesterday on KVMR explain the situation it seems like the County did the right thing and the wrong thing at the same time. Easy to do when deadlines are pressing and important possibly changing situations are holding things up. It sounds like Elections office putting a stop on printing was their mistake instead of just a hold, so the county went to the back of line when it came printing material. Who knows maybe they were given the choice of print today or stop the order until the courts decide. After the election is over it would be nice for the Elections office put out a detailed encounter of what happened. I don’t think it was incompetence it was judgement calls that could either way and unfortunately it went the wrong way.

    1. This has become another “only in Nevada County” tale where “up” is “down” and “down” is “up.” (See image below).

      The elections office was at the mercy of the Measure S supporters (who filed the court motion challenging the ballot language late in the process); the county council (who wrote the ballot language and whose mission it was to defend the court case filed by Measure S proponents); the judges (who were juggling the case between judges at the last minute; as it turned out one had a potential conflict of interest); the post office and the printer (who couldn’t find the pallets); and the printer again (no decent slot for printing and “post-production” work) — all toward the end of an election cycle. There were a lot of moving parts.

      Even the critics state it was prudent of the elections office to halt the process (“Halt” and “hold” are the same thing to a printer; you lose your slot. Period). And the critics also concede the office is in compliance with election law as far as deadlines go.

      Being a longtime publisher/editor, I understand how snafus can happen with distribution and printing. You can lose your slot if you have to change course (a “hold” and a “stop” are the same thing to a printer, who has to keep his presses rolling 24/7 to maximize profits. And this includes the addressing and sealing “post-production” process — just as it would the binding and stitching of a magazine). Any printer like this is backed up during an election cycle. A small county doesn’t always have the “mojo” to “cut in line.”

      I’ve also experienced snafus with the local, rural post office when it comes to locating a package that supposedly was delivered. It creates uncertainty.

      There are so many people who should be accepting their share of responsibility for this rather than make the elections office the “whipping boy.”

      The election office press release is a detailed account, including dates and times: https://sierrafoothillsreport.com/2014/10/21/greg-diaz-sets-the-record-straight-for-voters/

      This town is notorious for a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking by people who have not been in the “hot seat” of a particular profession, who are not fully informed of the nuances involved in a profession but are full of hubris, and who have their own self-serving agenda (and in some cases are looking for an excuse if things don’t go their way).

      I’m reminded of this:

  7. None of this explains why both County Counsel and Elections staff said in court that the ballots were already printed, that it would cost thousands of dollars to reprint them, and would cause the ballots to go out late. The ballots had NOT been printed, it wouldn’t have cost a dime to fix the biased language, and they were delayed going out anyway.

    If you care about fair elections, you should be upset that our elected officials and taxpayer funded public employees misstated the truth in court to derail a measure they don’t like. Shouldn’t that be up to the people? If they are so sure that Measure S is unpopular with our voters, why did they have to prejudice the outcome?

  8. Patricia,
    When working from the outside against the status quo on any issue they make it so inconvenient and hard by running relative new comers around in circles because they understand how and where the rules can be manipulated. The language of the Measure sounds like someone had their orders and they created a biased summary but using neutral language in the process so the argument then becomes it all about perspective. I have been part of many grassroots movements that get railroaded in the media and on ballot language because it takes ten seconds to ruin it but an hour to try and explain how it was ruined. We are a short attention span society so it is much more effective and easy to ruin things than actually come up with solutions and fix things.

    Great job on even getting the measure on the ballot and despite all the hurdles and last minute crisis managing it has a good chance at passing. In 5 years from now nobody will even remember why this was a such a big issue.

  9. The Elections Office showed prudence in holding off the process given YOUR last minute challenge that nearly derailed the process all together. And it was in compliance with the election law as far as deadlines go.

    And in his ruling the judge said the “largely undisputed” declarations show that there will be substantial disruption to the election process.

    This has been a pattern of this campaign: to throw others under the bus but not be accountable for your own actions.

    It is becoming a bigger issue than the initiative itself, and I predict it will cost you votes.

  10. I agree the language on the ballot will cost us votes. However, since you consider yourself a topnotch reporter, you have yet to address the real issue here – Both County Counsel and elections staff told the Judge that the ballots had already been printed. They hadn’t and since they were the ones to halt the process, they knew full well the ballots would be already be delayed. Even with the delay, the ballots went out on time albeit in a messy fashion. I finally got my voter’s guide yesterday after I had already cast my ballot. I guess fair and open elections are not that important to you?

    Calling officials to account is hardly “throwing them under the bus” as you state. It is our job (and yours) to make sure they follow the law. (Last time I checked, perjury was still illegal). Please see Ben Emery’s post. This type of behavior is common and unacceptable. How would you like it if a conservative person were in the Elections office and they let ballot language for gun control say, Passing Measure X will put children in harm’s way? Principles matter and they need to exercised uniformly across the board no matter what side you are on.

  11. I will be so happy when the election is over. Maybe the assumptions, misrepresentations and lies will decrease greatly. Some will do almost anything to get their measure approved or get elected.

  12. You still have not addressed the issue that the County misstated the facts in court. Or don’t things like that matter to you? I guess it’s a worse offense to speak truth to power than to hold them accountable. I can’t wait until an issue you care about comes up that gets treated with the same disregard by the County.

  13. Jeff,
    Thanks for your input on the printing language. I don’t think Patricia is calling out the Elections office for wrong doing other than manipulated the language in court to save their butts. I have been a sideline viewer in this election season and don’t know the specifics. I think our Elections Office is very and good filled with very friendly competent people. I voted for Diaz and will again. This doesn’t mean they handle everything perfectly. Those who got measure S on the ballot have been working double time to do so for a long time, I signed the petition and promoted it on FB and other social media outlets. For no other reason than to allow voters to have a say. When your kid that you have put so much time and energy into might fail due to outside forces it is a tough pill to swallow.

    The Royal ordinance was 100% a law enforcement take at being fair and our very conservative constituent ignoring BOS, other than Lamphier, took it hook, line, and sinker. As you know, also thank you for all the support, I am a medical cannabis user not for pain or side effect symptoms but for killing cancer. My THC extract is definitely not for recreation and I take personal offense when people (Anti Medical Cannabis Legalization) make claims that “ALL” medical cannabis users are just people wanting to get high. There is nothing fun being so out of it I need to ask my wife to put the glass of water in my hand to try and get rid of the extreme cotton mouth in the middle of the night. I am so out of it I cannot stand up safely and walk to get a glass of water on my own. Not much fun, that is why the dose is supposed to be taken a couple hours before bed so the most potent times are slept off. A person needs to take supplements with the extract to help them function during the day. I am trying to fight off Stage III c cancer in every way I can. The funny thing is I am not for recreation legalization but am a strong supporter of decriminalization of cannabis and all non manufactured drugs. I am a supporter of legalization of medical cannabis since it needs to be done in a very controlled manner for people to understand and use it to its fullest potential. Dispensaries need to be located in the same complexes as hospital pharmacies, Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, ect… Where pharmaceuticals are sold medical cannabis products should be allowed in or near, period.

      1. Thanks Greg,
        Journey is a perfect word to describe our time on this earth. It is also the term I use for the afterlife that follows. A person never feels more alive when we are hitting peak/ trough of some sort of happiness, sorrow, suffering, and love. This roller coaster of living treatment to treatment with testing all throughout allows us to hit all off the peaks and troughs on a weekly basis.

  14. Ben,

    We certainly support your use of medical marijuana and have prayed for your recovery, and we have commented here about our friends in Reno whose children require it:

    “Chris and Hugh Hempel of Reno have twins, Addi and Cassi, who have a rare disease called Niemann–Pick type C, often descibed as Children’s Alzheimer’s. Its seizures can be reduced by a component of cannibis, and Hempel has experienced the way opinion can change rapidly within her own family.

    “I think when it touches you personally, it’s a lot easier to understand,” Chris Hempel said, recalling that her parents—both in their 70s—were dead set against any marijuana therapy.

    “My parents were completely against it until they understood I wasn’t trying to get my kids high,” she said. Information on therapeutic uses to which marijuana can be put helped keep peace in her family.
    http://www.newsreview.com/reno/bandwagon/content?oid=12899712

    Having said that, the BOS did come up with a plan. And Patricia’s group decided to come up with their own initiative that it thinks is superior. All understandable.

    Where this “community conversation” went awry was political finger pointing and lack of accountability. It was Patricia’s group that jeopardized the ballot mailing process by challenging the content so late in the game. The group should have challenged the ballot language earlier if it felt that strongly about the issue.

    Now I feel like the group is “scrubbing the deck of the Titanic with a toothbrush” with its claims. From the progressive’s perspective, this initiative had a marvelous opportunity to coalesce the progressives, not only for Measure S but for progressive candidates. It had an opportunity to “get out the vote.” My perception is that the momentum has faded. Like too many initiatives here, it was long on passion and determination but short on execution.

  15. It might well be that Measure S got shafted on the ballot language, but I think not. In my opinion the ballot language was entirely accurate. So things even out. I certainly am not going to look at the language when I vote NO, except in curiosity.

    The illegality of marijuana makes it valuable and this value is what drives the story around it. If it was legal there would be far less crime, no demand for Measure S, and far less people that think it is god’s gift to humanity; and those that truly need it would have it.

    Right now we need to balance the possible value of the drug against all of the harm that it causes, including thousands of destroyed lives.

  16. Jeff,
    I wouldn’t disagree with your assessment of the entire process of measure S. Grassroots Democracy is a long hard road that has very little rewards but when they do come it is sweet and usually long lasting. I think the S vote is a toss up. I will vote yes and think the whole marijuana issue is ridiculous on so many levels. I have always felt this even prior to the cancer diagnosis.

    1. Ben, I also pray for your healing and will also be voting YES regardless how it’s worded on the ballot. My mother was extremely conservative yet she was willing to try cannabis to ease her suffering. I wonder if a few negative people who saw their loved ones writhing in pain from cancer would rethink their own position. Believe me, it’s one of the saddest things to watch your loved one dying in front of you and there is nothing you could do to help other than pray.

      I hope you and your Dad are enjoying the World’s Series together.

    2. Jeff,
      I hope you didn’t think I was lumping you into the category of being rabid anti marijuana, I know you aren’t. Almost all my opinions on Measure S on Sierra Foothills Report have been more as an objective opinion until a portion of the October 25, 2014 at 9:52 am comment.

      We are very thankful for you and your family’s support throughout this whole experience as well. The support from everyone has been overwhelming for me at times, so much so I get teary eyed thinking about it.

  17. Thanks Annie,
    The winding down of life is a painful one indeed, especially when the physical pain is bad. Sitting there watching a loved one in pain and not being able to do anything but sit by and watch is horrible for everyone involved. I am sorry to hear about your experience with your mom’s end of life pain. The lesson must be in there somewhere but it is hard to find, maybe it is to help us have the strength to deal with our own mortality better. I don’t know.

    We watched all but one game together of the post season. My wife and I went down to SF to visit our kids and get away for a couple days before the next round of chemo starts in November, we ended up watching the game at a bar down the street from the stadium. It was cool to be packed in together with a couple hundred other fans watching the game.

  18. Ben, I am so glad to hear that you are progressing on your road to recovery and good health. Also for your support of Measure S. We only want to help anyone in your situation have a safe and secure source to get medicinal-grade cannabis if and when they need it.

    I’ve been out tabling and have found that sentiments are running in our favor. Some people are voting for Measure S because they are so outraged by the County’s tactics to defeat us. (8 – 9 people out of 10 say they are supporting Measure S). Hopefully, it will pass resoundingly on Nov 4th, but I will keep on plugging for patient’s rights until my last breath.

    I am on the committee that is drafting the language for the 2016 initiative to legalize marijuana – and I will not budge from insisting that it will be a statewide issue (rather than county by county. If a County wants to ban cultivation or distribution, they will have to let their citizens vote on it first.

    Jeff, I believe we are on the same page as to the merits of Measure S. If you vote NO on S, I will be very surprised given your friend’s situation in Reno. I still maintain that it is not OK for County officials to misstate facts in court to protect their butts, but I guess each of us have to decide where our ethical boundaries lie.

  19. Thanks Patricia,
    Hopefully as I recover my full strength I can be of some help with the movement. Also there is a tentative plan being schemed by myself and another person with cancer to open up a Cancer Food Bank/ Center so people with cancer could have access to health promoting food that will help them recover better and keep their bodies as healthy as possible during their duration of treatments and beyond. Cancer doesn’t discriminate against any level of the Socio Economic Status and think we could probably find the funding to get this idea off the ground. I have talked with a few people from SNMH about the idea and they were very supportive.

    I believe in legalization of medical cannabis and complete decriminalization of recreation drugs that are not manufactured. Legalization of medical is for the very reasons you stated and also for medical accuracy and usage we need to understand and control it like any other pharmaceutical product. I know I had to go to the Bay Area to meet with the organization to get a full 3 month extract/ oil THC cancer treatment with instructions and hotline numbers for being able to adjust the dosages. Basically you have to be a person of faith in the product to make such expensive purchase and follow the very primitive instructions of increasing doses at the beginning stages. I was sold on cannabis when I took 7 days of CBD 7:1 in late April 2014 and it reduced the inflammation enough for me to be able to function on a somewhat normal level for the first time in 6 weeks. That week ended 3 days before I started my first chemo treatments, so I know for sure it was the CBD.

  20. Almost everyone I’ve spoken with is probably voting no on S. Our vote has little to do with patient rights (neither for or against). We would like to see more parties come to the table and put together something that better represents the community as a whole. I sincerely hope you are feeling better, Ben, very soon.

  21. Ben, I would certainly be interested in helping you establish a Cancer Food Bank that promotes wellness through nutrition. We know that sugar feeds cancer so teaching good nutrition and lifestyle choices would be an important tool for patient recovery. Let’s talk to the Banner Grange about setting this up.

    My long term goal would be to establish a floating cancer clinic in international waters where patients could enjoy a
    cruise while healing. It would offer cannabis therapies, nutrition, yoga, mediation, dance , etc. In a civilized world…. I think people tend to forget that cannabis was in every doctor’s satchel before the ban in 1937.

  22. Patricia,
    When I finish all my treatments and get my strength back I will be in touch. I still have at least 6 more months to go before I start to fully recover from all of the poison, radiation, and surgeries. The stage and symptoms of my cancer made going the chemo/ radiation route very easy because I was starving to death. I lost 35lbs in 6 weeks and couldn’t eat. I talked with Dr Devlin of Highland Spring Wellness Center, Grass Valley and he told me the chemo/ radiation/ surgery route was the correct choice in my situation. He was also the Doc that got me in touch with the cannabis group for the TCH treatment.

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