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Los Angeles bans observers from watching county District Attorney Gascon recall effort count

Gascon has created ire among residents, rank-and-file prosecutors, Los Angeles law enforcement for such policies as downgrading felonies

Published: July 29, 2022 1:40am

Updated: July 29, 2022 2:04pm

Monitors will not be allowed to view the vote counting in the recall balloting for Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon because the county does not consider the process as an election, officials say.

The organizers of the recall campaign say they wants to make sure the voter petitions are accurately counted to place the measure on a ballot, as early possibly as November.

And supporters of the effort argue the law clearly states the recall is an election and the process should be public.

"We are concerned about it, and we have attorneys looking at it," retired LAPD Sgt. Dennis Zine, one of the campaign organizers, said of the petition counting.

If enough valid signatures are submitted and the recall makes a ballot, voters will be asked two questions: whether they would like to recall Gascon and to select a successor from a list of names.

Gascon has created ire among residents, his rank-and-file prosecutors, Los Angeles law enforcement and others for such policies as downgrading felonies, not enforcing most gun or drug crimes, and prohibiting attorneys from attending parole hearings to advocate increased prison time for people convicted of murder.

Similar policies recently resulted the recalled San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

The Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters told the Washington Examiner that monitors are allowed in standard elections but a recall does not meet that standard.

"[A] reference to monitors/observers in the presidential election is not an accurate comparison as an election does allow for public observation, and Los Angeles County does have an Election Observer Program where members of the public get to watch election-related activities," Registrar spokesman Michael Sanchez said. "However, a recall attempt and its verification/certification activities are not the same."

Sanchez cited Government Code 6253.5, which states that petitions for ballot measures are not deemed to be public records and therefore not open to inspection.

However, campaign spokesman Tim Lineberger cites state election code 2300, which states that voters have the right to ask questions about election procedures and observe the process.

"The counting and verification of the recall petitions is part of the election process," Lineberger said. "It would be a very narrow interpretation to suggest otherwise."

To complicate matters, California has a Voter Bill of Rights that allows voters to observe the election process, and counting ballots and petitions are part of that, said constitutional law attorney Mark Meuser, who is also a candidate for the xxx Senate.

“The Registrar of Voters is violating the spirit of the law by restricting access to the signature verification process of a recall election,” he said. “Nothing in the law prohibits the ROV from allowing proponents to watch the signature verification process just like they do for mail-in ballots and provisional ballots.”

Meuser said the county “will not back down absent a judge telling them they are wrong in their interpretation.”

A bipartisan group, including prosecutors, crime victims, and law enforcement, collected 717,000 signatures, which is 150,000 above the required amount. The November election falls within the same frame required for county officials to place the measure on a ballot.

The county conducted a random sampling of 35,793 ballots and found that 27,983 were valid. This fell about 3,000 short for the county to declare that enough valid signatures were collected, and so a full count is underway.

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