Each argument was accompanied by a document entitled, “Form of Statement to be Filed by Authors of Arguments,” which was signed by Don Schweitzer and Brett Murdock; Schweitzer was identified by the title “Mayor” and Murdock by the title “Mayor Pro Tem.” The name of the city council did not appear on the documents submitted in opposition to the initiatives. on July 3, 2012, the city clerk transmitted the arguments in favor of and in opposition to the initiatives to the Orange County Registrar of Voters by electronic mail.
The trial court denied the motion for a new trial, and Vargas timely appealed from the judgment.
On November 6, 2012, one initiative was approved by the voters; the other was rejected.
Following briefing and a hearing, the trial court granted the petition in part and denied it in part.
The only change ordered by the court was the addition of the following line before the city clerk's attestation to the signature block at the end of the ballot arguments: “By: Brett Murdock, Mayor Pro Tempore.” Judgment was entered, after which Vargas filed a motion for a new trial.
Consistent therewith, it has been said that an action which originally was based upon a justiciable controversy cannot be maintained on appeal if the questions raised therein have become moot by subsequent acts or events.” (Finnie v. Certain exceptions exist to the actual controversy requirement, however. Respondents have failed to provide any evidence supporting this claim, however.
One exception is that an appellate court may consider an appeal that, while moot, raises an issue of broad public interest that is likely to recur, but might avoid review. More importantly, this case presents the broader issue of whether an elections official may amend an argument for or against a ballot measure, based on what he or she believes is the intent of the argument's author.The city clerk again transmitted the arguments to the registrar by electronic mail, with the same instruction regarding the change in the names of the parties making the arguments, quoted ante.Again, the materials on the city's Web site and otherwise publically available did not state the registrar had been provided with different information regarding the authors of the rebuttal arguments.In this case, we hold the city clerk does not have the authority to change an argument, or the accompanying statutorily required signature form identifying the author of the argument, to effectuate what the city clerk believed was the author's intent.The signature form is a required part of a ballot measure argument.We do so because the issues presented are of significant public interest and are likely to recur while evading review, given the timeframes applicable to elections.