Ballot statements and designations are meant to briefly summarize a candidate's qualifications for office. Once the 10-day public review of the statements and designations commenced on March 9, a couple eagle-eyed Menlo Park residents spotted a mistake in Mr. Slocum's, and wasted no time before protesting.
Apparently Mr. Slocum's original language may have created the impression that he was still the county's elections officer by stating, "As your Chief Elections Officer and Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder...," an error the candidate described as unintentional.
Although elsewhere in his statement he included the abbreviation "ret." — for "retired" — the complaint stated that voters might overlook or not understand the shorthand.
"Mr. Slocum attempted to file a ballot designation that was not permitted under the law," said Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith, who is also running for the Board of Supervisors, in a press release. "I raised objections with San Mateo County and they agreed that his ballot designation was improper. Mr. Slocum was forced to change it. Additionally, I objected to some of the language Mr. Slocum used in his ballot statement to describe his former position with the County and San Mateo County Counsel agreed with that objection also and went to court to get this language changed."
The county's current election officer, Mark Church, filed the complaint in San Mateo County Superior Court on March 19. A judge agreed with the concerns and ruled that the language should be tweaked to insert the word "former" where appropriate.
The changes also addressed another error. Mr. Slocum's initial ballot designation described his former position as "retired San Mateo County Chief Elections Officer and Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder," which exceeded the three-word limit, according to Mr. Church. The revised ballot designation now reads "retired San Mateo County Clerk." San Mateo County counts as one word under the election code.
Mr. Slocum, who was first elected to public office in 1986 and served until January 2011, said he didn't feel the new designation was entirely accurate, and also that it certainly was not his intent to try to make anyone think he was still in office. "I did put the abbreviation for retired in there," he said. " If I'd had the intent of being sneaky I certainly wouldn't have put 'ret' up top in the very first line."
Ms. Keith described the incident as very disturbing and commented in a press release, "This was either a deliberate act or a negligent oversight, and either is very troublesome for someone who was in charge of enforcing election laws and is now a candidate for Supervisor."
For his part, Mr. Slocum said he's been around long enough to know that during a campaign, people try to divert other campaigns away from the main issues.
"It's unfortunate that my opponents are focused on semantics, words on a paper and not on the serious issues facing our county," he said. "I am working to share my vision for the future and my solutions for problems like the budget — so that San Mateo County can be a better place to live for all of our residents. I'm continuing to talk and listen to people and it's time to move on."
He is one of eight candidates for termed-out Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson's seat. The district she represents includes Menlo Park, Redwood City, East Palo Alto and unincorporated North Fair Oaks and Oak Knoll.