If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. It is not a seagull. People will, understandably, refer to it as a duck. Deciding to call it a seagull does not cause it to cease being a duck and does not transform it into a seagull. With me so far? An election held by a California city is an “advisory election” if its purpose is to enable only the city’s registered voters to voice their opinions on substantive issues in a non-binding manner. City advisory elections are subject to the California Election Code’s general requirements and prohibitions.
Now consider the following scenario. A small California city’s leaders, and the elections system vendor they hire, plan an election that in all respects is described by California Elections Code section 9603. The city leaders and vendor publicly and consistently refer to the planned activity as an “advisory vote” and “advisory election.” The city is notified that the election will be illegal, both because it will use an Internet voting system, prohibited by the Elections Code, and because the system is not state-certified, as required by the Elections Code. With just two weeks to go, the city’s leaders and vendor respond by re-labeling the planned activity a “poll” or “community poll” but make no other changes.