The Burbank City Council’s big reorganization meeting is set for this morning at 10 a.m. Last Tuesday, at the city council meeting there was a showdown over the recount request for the April 12 city council run-off election. The city won the major and decisive points in this showdown.
Meanwhile, as preparations move ahead for the swearing-in of re-elected Council Member Gary Bric and newly elected Council Member Emily Gabel-Luddy — a second recount request is causing some buzz in B-town.
First the showdown. Burbank resident Kevin Muldoon joined Judy Alter, director of election watchdog group, Protect California Ballots, in speaking out in favor of the recount request.( Disclosure: I am involved in the first as well as the second recount request along with Alter, Muldoon and his wife, Linda).
In a rare departure from the norm, Burbank City Clerk, Margarita Campos, spoke for more than 10 minutes about the recount and why it was being denied, following the public comments.
Major Point: Is it legal to substitute a voter for another, if the first voter withdraws from the recount request process? Not under the circumstances present in the first recount request. Ms. Campos read a response from Lowell Finley, Chief Counsel of the Secretary of State, in which he suggested Alter “… may not have fully understood the information I gave her over the phone.”
Basically, I was not able to replace George Marciniw in the original recount request nor could Kevin and Linda Muldoon add their names to it. I have asked Alter for a clarification on what she was told, but I have yet to receive a response.
Minus: Protest period, when a recount request can be submitted, is five days after the ballot results have been certified according to the California Election Code. The Burbank City Clerk certified the General Municipal Election results on April 15, 2011. And here’s where the city officials took the low road and went for a loophole. The City Clerk’s Office counted the weekend. Campos claims they did this because the code “… does not request that we preclude Saturdays and Sundays.”
By taking this view, the Burbank City Clerk’s Office robbed voters of two days to submit a recount request. This loophole stole an opportunity for an independent and public review of the city’s controversial mail-in ballot system. How can voters ask questions about the procedure or even hand in the recount request on a Saturday or Sunday — when the CITY CLERK’S OFFICE IS CLOSED ON THE WEEKEND? This reduces the number of days to complete the filing of the recount request to only three days. This decision violated the spirit and intent of the law. What are they trying to hide in that city hall basement?
This loophole needs to be closed. The law has to spell out five business days to stop this cheat from happening again.
Minus: Ms. Campos said “… the ballot count and the canvassing are open to the public.” She added “… the one percent mandated tally is also a public process..” No e-mails were sent out to the city hall e-mail list for the public or the media about this access. Did this kind of notification come in the voter mail-in package? Obscure posting of this kind of notification is another cheat that denies voters their full rights.
By the way, on election night April 12, Campos escorted me down to the city hall basement. I was allowed to stay only long enough to take two photos and then I was hustled back upstairs. I was not allowed to stay and observe the handling of those mail in ballots as part of a “public process.”
Minus: “The deposit question — that was my error. This is a new process for me,” Campos stated. The original recount request indicates Campos tried to charge $4,500 for the recount — all up front. Finally, she agreed to a deposit of $450. It appears Alter and Marciniw lost valuable time haggling with Campos over the deposit and the cost of the recount.
By law, the deposit is required at the beginning of each day of the recount.
Point: Campos admits mistakes. The City Clerk has the advantage in that her mistakes can be brushed off with an “I apologize.” For the recount request voters, mistakes and an untimely withdrawal made it easy for city officials to deny the request. Not fair, but this is hardball politics in Burbank.
Second recount request: Filed last Friday, April 29, 2011. It will be interesting to see if this request gets any serious consideration from Burbank city officials.