Registrar officials respond to speculation regarding Gascón recall petition

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.

Officials with the L.A. County Registrar of Voters Office responded to questions Thursday regarding the recall petition against District Attorney George Gascón, saying that those who had registered to vote even after signing the petition — but before the petition was submitted — were counted as valid, should all other components to the signature be verified.   

The news comes after the L.A. County Registrar reported Monday that they had completed their evaluation of the recall petition that was submitted last month, finding that enough signatures had been invalidated that it was found to be “insufficient.”  

In the following days, online commentary regarding the petition has been laced with accusations that the Registrar’s Office had failed to properly count signatures, primarily citing the large number of signatures that were invalidated under the categories of unregistered or the signer’s address not matching the one on their voter registration.  

“As long as… those people who signed that petition were registered before the date that those petitions were returned, which is the July 6 date, then we proceed with that review,” said Mike Sanchez, a spokesman for the Registrar’s Office. “So, as long as that registration was returned before the petitions were returned, we would have still accepted that (signature) then would have continued with a review.” 

The recall petitioners had submitted 717,000 signatures and needed 566,857 to be found valid — a number representing 10% of the number of registered voters in L.A. County.   

A breakdown of the 195,783 invalidated signatures, meaning that the petition came up short, showed that 88,464 signatures were not from registered voters, 32,187 had a different address and 43,593 had signed more than once. The remaining number of invalidated signatures fell into a variety of other categories, according to a breakdown of the signatures.  

As for the different addresses, Sanchez said that as long as the person lived at that residence when they signed the petition, that would qualify. He added that, hypothetically, if a person signed the petition in May but moved in June, as long as the address lined up when they signed in May with their voter registration at that time, then the signature would have been counted.  

Another area of online speculation addressed by the Registrar’s Office when speaking with The Signal on Thursday alluded to the rejection rate of signatures. According to a letter from former District Attorney Steve Cooley that was sent to the county Board of Supervisors, the former prosecutor states that in the Nov. 6, 2018, general election, the Registrar-Recorder County Clerk had a 2% rejection of vote-by-mail ballots, and that number had dropped to 0.354% by the September 2020 election. 

For the recall petition, the number of rejected signatures was closer to 27%. Sanchez said that there are checks and redundancy in ensuring vote-by-mail ballots are ensured before being sent out, while a petition is being signed through volunteers and paid staff of a recall.    

“Very simply, vote-by-mail ballots in an election are issued and returned by registered voters,” said Sanchez. “Petition signatures that are gathered in the recall attempt, those are gathered by proponents and we have as the registrar’s office the responsibility to validate resident registration, residency address, and all the other criteria that falls within those codes.” 

As for the next 21 days after the count was completed — the amount of time that the recall petitioners are given to conduct a review of the rejected signatures — the recall petitioners are given the opportunity to seek additional clarity on the signatures that were invalidated. After that, according to Sanchez, there is no further action that can be taken, unless the petitioners wish to take their own review of the disqualifications before a court.  

Earlier this week, Tim Lineberger, a spokesman for the recall campaign, said organizers were keeping all of their options open: “We will leave no stone unturned and intend to ensure no voter is or was disenfranchised… If the recall were on a ballot tomorrow, Gascón would lose in a landslide. This is a matter of technicalities at this point.”

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