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Judge blocks annexation because district discarded 1/3 of petition signatures

San Jose Mercury News reports: A judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked one of the region's largest land preservation districts from annexing the San Mateo County [California] coast, citing concerns that officials discarded too many protest signatures from residents who want the issue placed on the November ballot.

The decision comes just before the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District was to add 140,000 coastal acres to its territory. It sets up a showdown in court later this month that could ultimately put the issue on the ballot -- or scuttle the protest effort.

After a six-year campaign that included advisory votes, aggressive campaigning and legislative wooing, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum ordered a hearing July 22 to consider the disputed protest petitions.

Forcum was troubled that county officials disqualified nearly 33 percent of the 5,340 protests submitted -- a ``staggering number,'' he said -- and called for a more ``inclusive'' process that wouldn't disenfranchise voters. Several dismissed protest petitions had technical problems, such as listing post office boxes instead of home addresses. -- Annexation of coastal land put on hold (MercuryNews.com)