According to the suit, “The new wording of the ballot title and summary reads as if it was written by the opponents of Proposition 22.”
SACRAMENTO—The Yes on 22 campaign today filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Xavier Becerra alleging he is abusing the power of his office by writing a Prop 22 ballot label and title and summary that is intentionally written to influence voters to oppose the measure. The lawsuit claims the AG’s ballot title is “false, materially misleading, and prejudicial” in violation of the Election Code § 9051 which specifically requires that the Attorney General give “a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the measure” that “shall neither be an argument, nor likely to create prejudice, for or against the proposed measure.”
The Attorney General has been accused many times of writing biased ballot titles and summaries. This week, other campaigns have filed similar suits against Becerra alleging false and misleading voter information prepared by him.
Yes on 22 alleges the original Prop 22 title and summary from January was completely rewritten to give an upper hand to organized labor groups opposed to Prop 22.
“The Attorney General is abusing the power of his office and doing the bidding of his special interest supporters by shamelessly attempting to influence voters to oppose Prop 22,” said Doug Mead, a freelance writer from Palm Springs who drives with Uber Eats and Postmates on the side. “By trying to improperly influence the outcome of the election, the AG is turning his back on tens of thousands of drivers like me who need Prop 22 to protect our ability to earn money and pay our bills on a schedule that works best for our lives.”
From the Yes on 22 filing: “Instead of sticking to ‘fair play,’ the Attorney General has instead crafted the ballot materials for Proposition 22 to aid the opposition campaign.”
In January 2020, the Attorney General wrote an accurate ballot title and summary that impartially described what Prop 22 would do. There have been no changes in the law or in the text of the ballot measure since then. Nonetheless, when he issued the final version on July 3, the Attorney General wrote a completely new, politically biased ballot label and title and summary that is unrecognizable from the original.
The January title: “CHANGES EMPLOYMENT CLASSIFICATION RULES FOR APP-BASED TRANSPORTATION AND DELIVERY DRIVERS.” INITIATIVE STATUTE.”
The new Prop 22 title falsely reads: “EXEMPTS APP-BASED TRANSPORTATION AND DELIVERY COMPANIES FROM PROVIDING EMPLOYEE BENEFITS TO CERTAIN DRIVERS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.”
Nothing in Prop 22 exempts companies from providing benefits. In fact, the words “exempt” or “exemptions” do not appear a single time in the language of Proposition 22. Prop 22 also does not add to the already long list of exemptions to AB5. Rather, Prop 22 establishes a new test under which app-based drivers can qualify as independent contractors or employees, and it requires companies to provide historic new benefits like health care, workers’ comp-type benefits and compensation for mileage, along with a first-of-its kind earnings standard for drivers.
Not coincidentally, the word “exempts” is used frequently by the No on Prop 22 campaign. The No on 22 ballot arguments use the word exempt or exemption four separate times. It is illegal for the Attorney General to write an inaccurate and prejudicial ballot label and summary.
In addition to arguing the Attorney General is using the power of his office improperly to serve the interests of groups opposed to Prop 22, the suit accuses the Attorney General of clear bias against some of the measure’s supporters, based on statements he made when he filed a lawsuit in May 2020 against app-based platforms. In that suit, the Attorney General criticizes the companies for exercising their First Amendment right to support an initiative– including criticizing proponents for “going to extraordinary lengths” to qualify Proposition 22 including launching “an aggressive public relations campaign” in support of the measure. While the Attorney General has the right to file suit against anyone he wants and to vote his conscience on any ballot measure, he is not allowed to bring those sentiments into what are supposed to be fair and impartial ballot descriptions.
Finally, the Yes on 22 lawsuit alleges the fiscal impact summary fails contains technical defects in need of correction.
The Yes on 22 campaign is asking the court to revert to the original, accurate January version of the title and summary, and to make specified technical changes to the fiscal impact summary.
“The Attorney General is playing dirty politics to try to trick the voters,” said Kristina Hope, a former art dealer from Studio City who drives with Uber part time. “Drivers like me support Prop 22 because I can continue to be my own boss while also getting new wage and benefit guarantees. It’s time for the courts to intervene to protect voters’ right to impartial and accurate information.”
On Sunday Attorney General Becerra was condemned again by the San Francisco Chronicle.
“In the case of this year’s Proposition 22, the attorney general’s description all but cries out for voters to reject it. Curiously, the attorney general’s Jan. 2 description for signature gathering was more expansive in spelling out the alternate benefits that would be extended to drivers who remained independent contractors. Organized labor, which heavily finances campaigns for Becerra and other Democrats, is lining up against Prop. 22.”
Link to the petition here.
Link to the Memorandum of Points and Authorities here.