LA County Clerk halts Measure A ballot recount, local activist group to seek court action

During the Oct. 15 Long Beach City Council meeting, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan presents information about new voting methods that will be implemented beginning with the 2020 election.

Long Beach Reform Coalition (LBRC), a grassroots activist group, announced it intends to file a lawsuit Tuesday, April 14, against the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voter, accusing the County Clerk’s office of refusing to conduct a thorough recount of the Measure A sales tax extension, which passed by 16 votes during last month’s election.

The measure places a 1% sales tax to collect funds for public safety and infrastructure citywide. Critics of the measure have questioned the City’s spending method, thus challenging Measure A’s legitimacy.

[See related article: “Heading to the polls: What supporters, opponents say about Measure A and Measure B”]

LBRC Executive Director Ian Patton announced on Monday, April 13 that the County rejected their offer to continue the recount process in a manner that aligned with the state’s Election Code.

“Mr. [Dean] Logan directed his Election Division Manager Alex Olvera to hand us a letter from county counsel, which made it clear that he would terminate the recount unilaterally at 5pm [Monday], despite our having brought the requisite daily deposit amount, according to his office’s own published ‘Requesting A Recount 2020’ guidelines,” Patton stated in an email. “The letter also falsely suggested that we had agreed to their untested, untried [and] newly devised digital facsimile recount method, which in fact we had explicitly rejected in writing in a letter with our payment on the first day.”

The Signal Tribune previously reported that the LBRC was attempting to collect about $20,000 dollars to pay for the recount process.

A deposit for a manual recount of votes is between $4,136 and $10,854 and includes labor, equipment, material and personnel, according to the Registrar’s website, which adds if a computer or machine recount is requested, costs will vary.

The LBRC was informed that a new ballot-recount system would be used to conduct their request, jumping the price to about $200,000.

On April 9, the coalition requested 40 people be made available to count ballots. The Registrar’s office provided eight, four of which were only available after 2:30pm, and a total of just over 1,000 ballots were counted, the LBRC said.

The coalition claimed under the previous voting system, four people could recount an average of 6,500 ballots a day.

The LBRC also challenged 50 rejected, but not counted, votes-by-mail and provisional ballots on Thursday, all of which Logan had not ruled on as of Monday.

A second request for 40 workers to count ballots was made on Friday and the Registrar’s office provided 16 ballot counters, and about 6,700 ballots were counted, the coalition said.

In a phone interview on April 10, Patton said the LBRC encouraged the LA County Registrar Recorder to ask the state’s courts for more time to conduct an in-person ballot recount, citing the ongoing coronavirus health crisis as a reason.

Patton said the County did not consider it but carried on with the computerized recount on April 8.

In a series of letters obtained by the Signal Tribune between Patton and Mary Wickham, from the County Counsel, the LBRC gave an ultimatum to the County Clerk, saying it would pay $10,854.50 for eight teams of ballot counters to conduct the count.

In response, Wickham wrote that they were informed that on April 8 the recount for Measure A would proceed with the digital-ballot method at the LBRC’s direction. She added that they would accommodate the in-person ballot count request, and that the LBRC would have to pay $11,694.49 now that County staff would manually retrieve ballots for the recount in the order of precincts as directed.

“Please remit the full deposit amount of $11,694.49 and confirm in writing your intention to proceed with the physical retrieval of ballots by no later than 5pm [Monday] and we will proceed accordingly on April 14, 2020,” Wickham wrote. “Importantly, please note that failure to advance the deposit amount required by the Registrar pursuant to Elections Code section 15624 by the date and time indicated could result in the termination of the recount.”

The coalition was informed five hours after it arrived that Los Angeles County attorneys had rejected the coalition’s check for physical counters, leading the LBRC to file a lawsuit later Tuesday morning against the Registrar’s office.

There was no immediate comment from the Registrar’s office.

City News Service contributed to this report

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