Vote centers are open in the recall election of Santa Ana City Councilmember Jessie Lopez, but it’s unclear whether the election is legal.
That’s because the Orange County registrar of voters recently concluded the city was using the wrong district boundaries and the wrong population data to calculate how many signatures were needed to trigger the recall and who should get to vote.
As a result, nearly 1,200 voters who, according to O.C. Registrar Bob Page’s recent calculations, should be able to vote in the Nov. 14 election did not get ballots.
Using the correct district boundaries, Page also calculated that the initial recall petition actually fell short of the number required to hold an election by 230 signatures. Last week, Page rescinded his initial verification that recall petitioners had met the signature threshold.
But despite all this, the election continues. Whether the results will stand may ultimately be a judge’s decision if Lopez follows through on an announcement last week that she intends to challenge the election in court….
Aist spoke with six outside election experts to get their opinions on the Santa Ana recall snafu, two of them county registrars of voters.
They told us:
- Page, the O.C. registrar of voters, is right — there is a fundamental error in the Lopez recall election. The wrong district boundaries were used to calculate the number of signatures needed to trigger the recall and to determine who gets to vote.
- Nevertheless, California election law isn’t exactly straightforward on the subject.
“I can certainly understand how mistakes are made because the law is not at all clear,” said Douglas Johnson, president of National Demographics Corporation, a company that assists local governments with redistricting.
The experts consulted by LAist agreed that California law and court precedent have established that elected officers are to represent the population that initially voted them into office. And, that the same population should get to decide whether to remove their representative from office.
That means, in the case of Santa Ana, that the district as it existed when Lopez was elected in 2020 should get to vote on whether to recall her. But recall proponents would need a thorough understanding of California election law to catch this nuance, experts said.
“The fact that the answer is clear doesn’t mean that the question comes up often enough for it to be on the top of everybody’s mind,” said Fredric Woocher, a Los Angeles-based election lawyer.