A judge's decision to kick Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting initiative off the November ballot throws another obstacle in the way of Schwarzenegger's efforts to reshape state government.
Judge Gail Ohanesian ruled on Thursday that the initiative's supporters violated the state constitution by using two versions of the measure in the qualifying process.
If the decision stands, only two measures backed by Schwarzenegger will remain on the ballot: a complex plan for imposing new limits on state spending and a proposal to lengthen the probationary period for new public school teachers.
The redistricting measure would ask voters to change the way districts are drawn for members of Congress and the Democratic -dominated state legislature. Schwarzenegger wants to take redistricting power from state lawmakers and give it to a panel of retired judges, a move he says would make elections more competitive.
Even before Thursday's ruling, Schwarzenegger's ballot agenda languished in the polls under almost constant criticism from rival Democrats and labor groups.
Earlier this year, the governor was forced to withdraw a ballot proposal aimed at cutting state support for public employee pensions after flaws were discovered in the initiative's language.
Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson said the governor was disappointed in the judge's decision and hoped it would be overturned on appeal.
Daniel Kolkey, an attorney for Ted Costa, the author of the redistricting measure, argued that differences between the two versions of the redistricting measure are mostly stylistic and resulted from a clerical error.
"The touchstone here is . . . were any voters misled" during signature gathering, he said. "And no voters were misled."
But Ohanesian disagreed.
"The differences are not simply typographical errors," she said. "They're not merely about the format of the measure. They are not simply technical. Instead they go to the substantive terms of the measure."
Ohanesian said the initiative's supporters could still try to qualify the measure for the June 2006 primary election ballot.