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It’s official: The item that was shaping up to be the big ballot battle of the fall in San Diego is dead.

The campaign to dramatically redraw the city’s contracting and outsourcing practices, led by City Councilman Carl DeMaio, announced this afternoon that it will not pursue a full hand count after the city clerk ruled that it had not gathered enough legitimate signatures to qualify for the ballot.

As we reported earlier this week, the registrar of voters said it didn’t have enough time to do the hand count to get the measure on the fall ballot. And last night the City Clerk’s Office said a hand count, which it had previously said would cost $150,000, couldn’t be done at all under the law because DeMaio’s proposal is a charter amendment.

The campaign therefore would’ve had to sue to keep its measure alive.

Jen Jacobs, the campaign’s spokeswoman, said that would be expensive to the campaign and taxpayers.

But in a press release, DeMaio said he’s prepared to take the measure up again in 2012 if necessary.

The initiative was sunk by the discovery of 30 duplicate signatures in a random sample of 4,033 ballots. That’s an unusually high number and caused the registrar to disqualify enough ballots that the campaign didn’t hit the necessary threshold.

So how did this all happen?

“It’s legitimately a case of bad luck,” Jacobs said.

But the registrar of voters told us yesterday that she normally only finds two or three or four duplicate signatures and that 30 is “unprecedented.”

Jacobs said the campaign has reviewed the duplicate signatures and she doesn’t believe they’ve been sabotaged, as some have suggested.

She did say that only one of the 30 duplicate signatures was gathered by the campaign’s volunteers. The remaining 29 were collected by the La Jolla Group, the outside firm that conducted a majority of the signature-gathering.

I called the head of the firm, Bobby Glaser, and told him I was trying to figure out what happened. He is too, he said. Other than that, he said he wasn’t at liberty to comment.

— ANDREW DONOHUE

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