Update: On the evening of June 24, 2020—the same date we published the post below and the day before the original deadline for verification of signatures—the Secretary of State announced that the CPRA reached the signature verification threshold and qualified for the fall 2020 ballot.  While the Mactaggart lawsuit will now be a mere footnote in the history of the CPRA, any way you look at it, this was a successful week for Californians for Consumer Privacy.

On June 19, 2020, the Superior Court for Sacramento County, California issued a ruling providing relief to the promoters of the California Privacy Rights Act ballot initiative (the “CPRA”).  We wrote here about the potential problem with the timing of the signature verification process required for the CPRA to qualify for the Fall 2020 ballot, but that issue now appears to be resolved.

The specifics are to be ironed out in a further order to be jointly proposed by the parties, but suffice it to say that the procedural issue with the timing of signature verification will not prevent the CPRA from appearing on the Fall 2020 ballot.  For now, the Court ordered as follows:

“The Court finds the appropriate remedies shall include one of the following:

  1. a writ of mandate directing the Respondent to notify the counties to complete the random sample process for the subject initiative on or before June 25, 2020; or
  2. a writ of mandate directing Respondent to give the counties until June 26, 2020 to complete the random sample process, at which time, if the initiative otherwise qualifies, Respondent will certify the initiative; or
  3. any other remedy the parties find suitable that is consistent with the Court’s ruling.”

In its ruling and at oral argument, the Court observed that both “Petitioners as well as Respondent and his staff worked diligently with regard to the subject initiative, and unfortunately were confronted with numerous obstacles unique to the COVID-19 pandemic.”  Because the right to bring ballot initiatives is enshrined in California’s Constitution, the Court found that a one-day delay in submission of the signatures for verification is, “as a realistic and practical matter, . . .  inappropriate to prevent the electorate from voting on a measure due solely to such defect.”

Although counsel for the Secretary of State pointed out that “should [the CPRA] fail to qualify for the ballot by June 25, 2020, [it] can simply be placed on the November 2022 ballot,” the Court held that “such a delay in the ability of more than 931,000 California voters who signed petitions to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed initiative power is indeed an irreparable harm.”  Curiously, the Court noted that “the subject matter of this initiative involves the constitutional right to privacy declared inalienable and guaranteed by Article I, section 1 of the California Constitution,” but did not seem to take into account the California Consumer Privacy Act (the “CCPA”), which already guarantees many data privacy rights for Californians and came into effect this year.

As of June 19, eleven counties were still in the process of verifying signatures for the CPRA, and the initiative needed roughly 139,000 more verified signatures to qualify.  We are continuing to follow the process, but with 931,000 signatures gathered in total, it seems highly likely the CPRA will meet the threshold of 623,212 verified signatures to qualify for the Fall 2020 ballot.

The full text of the Court’s June 19 ruling can be found here.