Conference President Rick Callender and the California – Hawaii State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have taken legal action in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Sacramento against California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, asking that a statement included in the Argument Against Proposition 26 in the ballot pamphlet for the November 8 Statewide General Election be removed. 

Proposition 26 would permit federally recognized Native American tribes to operate dice games, roulette and sports wagering on tribal lands. On-site wagering at privately operated horse-racing tracks in four specified counties for betters 21 years or older would become legal as well. The proposition also imposes a 10% tax on sports-wagering profits at horse-racing tracks and directs a portion of revenues to enforcement and problem-gambling programs. 

The lawsuit is challenging a statement from the “No on Prop 26” opposition using a quote from former president of the NAACP’s Los Angeles branch Minnie Hadley-Hempstead. Hadley-Hempstead’s opposition statement read as follows: 

“We oppose Prop 26 to protect young people from developing lifelong gambling addictions that often lead to ruined finances, relationships, even homelessness and crime.” 

Minnie Hadley-Hempstead 

Retired teacher and President Emeritus of the Los Angeles NAACP Branch 

The lawsuit claims the quote gives “the false and misleading impression” that the NAACP opposes Prop 26. The NAACP endorsed Prop 26 in February. In addition, the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP has not endorsed the No on Prop 26 campaign. 

The NAACP Bylaws prohibit local branches from taking positions contrary to the state branch The lawsuit also raises concern about how the quote was obtained. 

“The NAACP is proud to stand with Indian Tribes in strong support of Prop 26 to help further Indian self-reliance,” Callender said in a statement given to California Black Media (CBM). “We are outraged that the card room casinos and their No on 26 campaign would deceptively use the NAACP name in its arguments despite our strong support. We are suing to have these dishonest statements removed from the ballot arguments so it does not mislead voters.” 

Callender’s lawsuit points out that the position ‘President Emeritus’ does not exist within the NAACP and the only branch that can clear use of the trademarked term “NAACP” in support or opposition of any legislation is the state branch of the organization. 

A declaration in support of the lawsuit from Hadley-Hempstead describes how she believes she was misled or misunderstood when she was asked to give the statement by Betty Williams, former president of the Sacramento Chapter of the NAACP. Hadley-Hempstead declared that she was under the impression that Williams still worked for the state branch and believed that her statement against Prop 26 was in solidarity with Callender and the state branch’s position. 

“If I had known that Ms. Williams wasn’t working on behalf of NAACP, I would have said no right away…… As a long-time NAACP member, I would not agree to lend my name to a public document that took a contrary position to the official NAACP position and would not knowingly violate the NAACP’s bylaws.” Hadley-Hemstead says in her declaration.

“The card room casino operators responsible for the deceptive No on 26 campaign have a well-documented and deplorable track record of flouting the law,” Callender said. “They’ve been fined millions for violating anti-money laundering laws, misleading regulators, and even illegal gambling. We are suing to prevent their misleading statements from appearing in the voter information guide sent to tens of millions of voters.” 

The Elections Code provides for a 20-day period to review the ballot materials and file any legal challenges. Because all legal challenges to ballot materials for the Nov. 8 Statewide General Election must be completed by Aug. 15, the lawsuit was filed on August 1. 

Coverage will continue as this story develops.

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