County registrar defends decisions in Gascón recall effort

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — In new court papers, an executive of the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk defends her office’s work amid efforts by members of a group who unsuccessfully sought to recall District Attorney George Gascón to review thousands of signatures that were declared invalid in August.

The registrar determined in August that the effort fell short of meeting the required 566,857 signatures because nearly 90,000 signatures were not from registered voters and roughly 45,000 were duplicates.

“The registrar’s procedures for the petition examination in this case were consistent with prior petition examinations and are consistent with the policies and procedures implemented by elections officials across the state,” Monica Flores, acting assistant Registrar-Recorder of the Candidate and Voter Services Bureau, said in a sworn declaration submitted Nov. 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court in opposition to a request by the Committee to Support the Recall of District Attorney George Gascon for a preliminary injunction as a legal path to reinforce their signature examination efforts.

According to Flores, the committee has constantly requested additional information, much of which involves data that the law has deemed confidential and not subject to disclosure.

“The registrar could not accommodate these requests … in order to safeguard voters’ privacy and to protect them from harassment,” Flores said.

Many of the committee’s questions also involved specific voter information irrelevant to signature validation, according to Flores.

The recall group also seeks an electronic list of all valid signatures, Flores said.

“This list does not currently exist and we have never created a file of this magnitude,” Flores said.

Gascón took office in December 2020 and has been dogged by claims he is soft on crime with various directives, including not seeking the death penalty and a reluctance to try juveniles as adults. California law guarantees proponents of a recall the right to review whether public officials have properly rejected a petition, according to the lawsuit brought Oct. 18.

Recall advocates alleged that the registrar has not been as transparent as promised and that injunctive relief will give them more access and information to conduct their review. A hearing on their request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Dec. 6 before Judge James C. Chalfant.

In some of their latest court papers, attorneys for the recall proponents said that a meaningful review of the recall petition requires that the requested documents be produced quickly so its members could complete the signature review and bring any necessary challenges quickly.

“Any significant delay in granting the relief is effectively denial of the relief,” the petitioners’ lawyers further argued in their court papers.

Deborah B. Caplan, an attorney for the registrar, stated in a status report to the judge that the two sides met for hours to discuss ways to work out their differences and that progress has been made to allow the committee to have more inspectors present as well as access to additional work stations.

“The registrar has indicated some willingness to expand access further in January, depending on workload and the availability of staff at that time and also depending on whether [the committee] actually uses the expanded access granted already,” Caplan stated in her court papers.