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    Gascón recall proponents file lawsuit challenging election certification process
    • July 7, 2023

    Nearly a year after Los Angeles County election officials doused the campaign to recall District Attorney George Gascón, proponents filed a lawsuit Friday, July 7, demanding certification of their petition, alleging tens of thousands of valid voter signatures were incorrectly and unlawfully rejected.

    The signatures were disqualified in August 2022 due to the registrar-recorder’s flawed counting process and inflated signature requirements stemming from bloated voter rolls, the Committee to Recall District Attorney George Gascón alleges in the complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

    “For nearly a year, the Registrar of Voters tried its best to stymie the review, including blocking reasonable access to the recall petition, blocking access to the voter data needed to evaluate signature rejections, and more,” the committee said in a statement. “The committee was forced to seek and obtain a court injunction to get even a modicum of reasonable access to perform their examination of the recall petition. What the committee found when it obtained that access was astounding.”

    The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office referred questions about the lawsuit to Gascón’s political campaign spokesperson, Elise Moore, who declined to comment.

    The registrar-recorder’ was unaware of the suit until contacted by the Southern California News Group.

    “As with the other claims made by the recall proponents, we will respond in accordance with the legal framework without regard to the political narrative,” said Michael Sanchez, a spokesperson for the registrar-recorder.

    In the past, election officials have defended their handling of the recall petition.

    In July 2022, the recall committee submitted 715,833 petition signatures, of which 520,050 signatures were found to be valid and 195,758 were deemed invalid, according to election officials.

    To verify the sufficiency of the recall petition, the recall committee said, election officials utilized nearly 400 people, most of whom were temporary workers with no background in election law or the registrar’s computer system.

    To qualify for the ballot, election officials maintained that recall organizers required 566,857 valid signatures due to a requirement that the total must equate to at least 10% of Los Angeles County’s active registered voters, which at the time was purported to be 5,668,569.

    The committee alleges the registrar-recorder’s office required the 566,857 signature threshold even though it knew that figure was inaccurate.

    Election officials have since acknowledged in writing that Los Angeles County had only 5,438,400 active registered voters — 230,169 fewer than what was originally claimed — when the petition was submitted, according to the committee.

    Additionally, the recall committee said it has reviewed 94,000 of the 195,758 rejected signatures and has identified at least 20,587 signatures that should have been validated.

    The alleged wrongful rejections include:

    Instances where the signer made a mistake filling out the address section, stopped and moved to the next signature number, and then signed and filled in the information correctly.
    Rejections for canceled voter files, even though the voter signed the petition prior to the cancellation, according to the registrar’s own voter records.
    Rejections for a “different address,” even when the address on the petition matched exactly what appeared in the registrar’s voter file.
    Rejections based on voters being not registered, even when the voter could easily be identified as registered by typing in the name or address on the petition.
    Rejections based on the registration date, meaning the voter allegedly was not registered at the time of signing. In almost all cases, the voter was not only registered, but had been for five to 20 years, the committee said.

    The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office also allegedly disqualified at least 5,597 additional signatures by applying unconstitutional review standards preventing petition signers from correcting deficiencies in their signatures.

    “The gravity of the Registrar’s errors cannot be emphasized enough,” the committee said. “The Registrar disenfranchised over 26,000 Los Angeles County citizens — and likely many more — by wrongly refusing to count their signatures in support of the recall petition.”

    An initial attempt to recall Gascón fizzled in early 2021 when organizers apparently were hampered by the rapid spread of COVID-19. The second attempt, launched in October 2021, was bolstered by a no-confidence vote from officials in 36 cities.

    Gascón, a self-described progressive determined to reform criminal justice in Los Angeles County, has come under fire from some prosecutors and residents who perceive him as being soft on crime.

    Immediately after taking office in December 2020, Gascón issued nine directives that his critics maintain coddle criminal defendants. Among the most controversial were the elimination of cash bail and sentence enhancements and an end to the prosecution of juveniles in the adult court system, regardless of the seriousness of the crime. He has since backpedaled on some of those blanket policies.

    Gascón will be up for re-election in 2024.

    ​ Orange County Register