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The future of Bay Meadows

By Aaron Kinney
Thursday, December 20th, 2007 at 5:17 pm in Aaron Kinney, Bay Meadows, Elections Office, San Mateo, San Mateo County.

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The ruling last week against Friends of Bay Meadows by a state appeals court panel centered around 36 signatures that were collected in 2005 for a petition to save the Bay Meadows race track from demolition.

The group tried to argue that the signatures in question, which were collected from people who needed assistance in filling out the form, because of infirmity or for some other reason, should have been counted.

The 2005 petition campaign fell just short of the number of signatures needed to challenge a City Council decision approving the redevelopment of the track.

But the panel upheld the 2006 ruling of San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum, who found that the signatures were not accompanied by a second signature in the margin by a witness to the act, as required by law.

The relevant section of the state Election Code states that, when a person is assisted in filling out a petition, the deed “shall be witnessed by one person by subscribing his or her name thereon.”

The Friends argued that the extra signature wasn’t necessary, since the signature gatherers signed off on the petitions at the bottom anyway. The court disagreed.

The odd thing, Friends’ attorney Stuart Flashman pointed out, is that it doesn’t matter who signs next to an assisted signature. Theoretically, it could be a random passerby or a Caltrain conductor. All that matters to the Elections Office is the presence of a signature.

Flashman sais the state Legislature ought to clarify the law to remove any confusion. In this case, the confusion of signature gatherers with respect to election law proved to be costly.

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