Registrar denies petitioners’ request to observe recall signature count

Recall “L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon” campaign volunteers and supporters begin to unload the boxes of signatures from the back of a moving truck so that they may be submitted to the L.A. County Registrar of Voters office in this July file photo. July 6, 2022. Courtesy photo.

Despite the campaign organizers making repeated requests, officials with the L.A. County Registrar of Voters said Thursday they are holding firm on their decision to not allow observers to monitor the ongoing signature verification process for the petition to recall District Attorney George Gascón. 

While supporters of the recall contend they have a right to observe the process under the California Voter Bill of Rights, officials in the Registrar’s Office argued that L.A. County’s Election Observer Program pertains specifically to elections and not recall attempts, and therefore the closed-door count may continue.  

“Comparing observation-related activities of an election to a recall attempt is not an accurate comparison,” said Mike Sanchez, a spokesman for the Registrar’s Office. “An election does allow for public observation, and Los Angeles County has an Election Observer Program where members of the public can watch election-related activities. A recall attempt and its verification/certification activities are not the same.” 

Sanchez said the decision made to exclude monitors for the recall is justified under California Government code 6253.5, which is also outlined L.A. County’s “Guide to Recall” publication.  

“Some voters may have concerns about possible harassment if they sign an initiative, a referendum, and/or a recall petition,” the L.A. County recall guide reads. “Government Code Sec. 6253.5 provides that such petitions (and any memoranda prepared by the elections official in examining the petitions) are not deemed to be public records and are not open to inspection.”  

Sanchez added that not allowing monitors has been the standard practice for all petition verifications – including statewide petitions and the 2021 California Gubernatorial Recall Petition.    

However, the rejection of their request on these grounds has not deterred the petitioners, who have been asking for more transparency in a process that began earlier this month, when the recall campaign submitted approximately 717,000 signatures in support of holding a special election to oust the county’s top prosecutor. 

Since the signatures were submitted on July 6, the staff at the L.A. County Registrar’s Office has been combing through the various signatures compiled in the recall petition, working to validate each one based on a number of factors that include, but are not limited to: ensuring the signature is from a registered voter, that their signed address is the same as the one on their voter registration, and that the registered voter did not sign the petition more than once, among other criteria.  

Tim Lineberger, a spokesman for the recall campaign, said the petition is now in a part of the process that can be frustrating for those who have spent the last few months working to surpass the required 566,857 signatures to get the special election on the ballot, and it’s why they wanted people observing how signatures are verified or disqualified.   

“The Voter Bill of Rights specifically says voters have a right to ask questions about election procedures and observe the election process,” said Tim Lineberger, a spokesman for the recall campaign. “We believe that the counting of the recall petitions and verification of the signatures is part of the election process.”   

“It’s simply a transparency and oversight process that is allowed in normal elections and with any other ballot counting process,” Lineberger added.  

On July 14, the Registrar’s Office announced it had completed the random sample of 5% of the total number of signatures, or 31,179 signatures, and concluded that enough were valid and they could now begin the process of fully checking the remaining signatures. 

The Registrar’s Office has until Aug. 17 to determine whether the petition has enough signatures to cause a special election against Gascón. If the total number of valid signatures dips below the required number of 566,857, then the petitioners will have 21 days from the certification of insufficiency to examine what signatures were disqualified and why.  

Officials from Gascón’s Anti-Recall campaign declined to comment on this story, citing that they would be waiting until the process has been fully completed.   

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