The main points of that suit have been covered well by other media, but the sanjuanislander.com had to issue three versions of the same story over the past few days because of confusion (by our Prosecuting Attorney's Office) over what was actually approved by voters. It all has to do with Section 4.34 of the Charter, which sets forth rules for changing residency districts.
All along, one of the arguments made by plaintiffs in the CRC suit has been that the propositions separately modified overlapping sections of the Charter in a potentially conflicting and confusing way. Plaintiffs argue that the propositions presented at least the theoretical risk that a voter could have simultaneously approved and rejected the same Charter language. While appearing to deal with separate and mutually exclusive issues, the three propositions actually amended identical secondary provisions of the Charter.
Now, it appears that such a possibility may no longer just be theoretical. At the moment, it looks like we actually may have multiple versions of Section 4.34 of the Charter. Last Thursday, the plaintiffs filed a new petition asking the Court:
The citizens of San Juan County are left completely in the dark as to which version of 4.34 controls, if any. Is it the 4.34 amended by Proposition 1? Or the 4.34 amended by Proposition 2? Or the 4.34 amended by Proposition 3? There is simply no way to know.The controversy over Section 4.34 arose because the Winter Council is discussing whether to ask voters to entertain yet another change to the number of districts and representatives on the Council. Some versions of Section 4.34 say this can be done only by the CRC, whereas other versions of Section 4.34 leave this question open and allow for change by initiative and ordinance.
As stated by the plaintiffs in their petition this week:
Perplexingly, the voters have seemingly amended three different versions of Section 4.34 - two versions of which are in direct conflict with each other. That is, one version (the Proposition 1 version) now evidently prohibits the alteration of the boundaries of districts by both County Council ordinance and popular initiative, and two versions (Propositions 2 and 3) remain silent on this change and evidently keep section 4.34 in effect with no substantial (although somewhat differing) alterations.The plaintiffs go on to say:
Also setting aside for the moment the constitutional propriety of whether the power to both amend by ordinance or by initiative can be so suspended in such a manner, it defies explanation that the County can exist with the state of the law in such contradiction. Petitioners pray that this conflict impresses upon the Court the need for an expedited hearing schedule and, a preliminary injunction staying the election scheduled for April 23, 2013 until this matter can be dealt with rationally.No matter how you feel about this latest turn of events, I think many of us can agree with the following assertion in the plaintiffs petition.
In sum, political chaos reigns in San Juan County.Legal chaos too!