ICYMI: “Biased Ballot Measure Titles Distort Our Democracy”

Southern California News Group Editorial Board Slams Attorney General Becerra’s Prop 15 Title and Summary

SACRAMENTO, CA – On Tuesday, the California Secretary of State publicly released the official voter information guide for the November election. The guide included a biased title and summary for Prop 15, the $11.5-billion property tax increase, written by Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The Southern California News Group editorial board, representing 11 newspapers, called Becerra’s title and summary “misleading, if not completely false.” The editorial board urged the Legislature to move the task of writing titles and summaries for statewide ballot measures to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office instead, as Becerra’s biased descriptions only erode trust in government.

Read excerpts from “Editorial: Biased ballot measure titles and summaries distort our democracy” below:

“Attorney General Xavier Becerra released the titles and summaries for the measures that will appear on the Nov. 3 statewide general election ballot, providing more evidence, as if any was needed, that this is a job for a neutral, nonpartisan analyst, not a partisan elected official…

“The title and summary of Proposition 15 are not only tilted toward one side, they are less than fully accurate. Property in California is not taxed on “purchase price.” It’s taxed on fair market value at the time of purchase, adjusted annually for inflation with increases capped at 2 percent per year. If the market value of a property declines below its assessed value, it is reassessed at the fair market value.

“To say property is currently taxed on the “purchase price” conveys an impression that property taxes do not rise at all, which is misleading in a way that favors the measure’s proponents, who seek to raise taxes. It’s also misleading, if not completely false, to state that Proposition 15 “increases funding sources.” It doesn’t add new sources, it increases taxes on the existing sources: businesses in California.

“The official title and summary of a measure should be clear, accurate and neutral. Often, it’s the only thing busy voters read on a long ballot before making their decision.

“This isn’t the first time Becerra has written ballot material that misleads voters…

“Ballot measures propose significant changes to the law and ask voters to make important choices that cannot easily be reversed. Tricking the electorate into believing they’re voting for one thing when they’re really getting another is a formula for increased cynicism. Distrust of government can spill over into other issues, and the consequences can be very severe…”


No on Prop 15 – Stop Higher Property Taxes and Save Prop 13, a bipartisan coalition of homeowners, taxpayers, and businesses, has been fighting to protect Prop 13 and oppose a split-roll property tax for more than a decade. For more information, please visit www.NOonProp15.org.