Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

Today at 5p.m. at Santa Ana City Hall, Mayor Pro Tem Jessie Lopez will hold a press conference joined by disenfranchised voters from Ward 3 and civic leaders to denounce the sham recall campaign against her and to call for the November 14 recall election to be canceled. 

The location of the press conference will be 20 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana, CA 92701, in front of Santa Ana City Hall 

On Thursday, on October 26, 2023, the O.C. Voter Registrar announced in a letter that because the boundary lines were not properly followed, the recall fell short by 230 signatures and over 1,000 voters – the vast majority of whom are Latino – were not mailed a ballot when they should have. The net result is that the Recall Election campaign may have collected less signatures than they needed – by 230 signatures.

We spoke with one of the leaders of the recall campaign yesterday and he said that the city clerk had directed them to use the new Ward 3 map. However as Lopez was elected under the old Ward 3 map there is now a gap as some voters in the old map were not contacted during signature gathering and did not receive recall ballots from the OC Voter Registrar.

The Santa Ana City Council will be meeting this evening at 5:40 p.m. to consider an agenda item regarding the Special Election:

Review and Discuss the Letter Received from Orange County Registrar of Voters Bob Page Dated October 26, 2023 Pertaining to the November 14, 2023 Special Recall Election for Santa Ana Ward 3; Take Potential Action Concerning the Election by Motion(s) or Resolution(s)

Below is the letter the OC Voter Registrar sent to Jennifer Hall, the Santa Ana City Clerk, regarding the Recall Election:

The Registrar of Voters has been asked to conduct the recall election referenced above by the City of Santa Ana. In the process of preparing for the election, we became aware that Ms. Lopez was elected based on Santa Ana’s pre-redistricting boundaries for Ward 3. However, the recall petition was circulated and reviewed based on Ward 3’s post-redistricting boundaries. See the attached map.

The current post-redistricting Ward 3 boundaries includes 362 active voters who did not reside in the old Ward 3 boundaries and excludes 1,186 voters who reside within the old Ward 3 boundaries. This difference between the old and current Ward 3 boundaries would have impacted whether the recall petition had sufficient valid signatures and who can validly vote in the recall election. As denoted in Attachment A, if the signatures from voters in the current Ward 3 who did not reside in the old Ward 3 were excluded from the count, then the recall petition would have failed by 230 signatures, rather than being deemed sufficient.

We understand that Ms. Lopez was elected in 2020, prior to City’s adoption of the current Ward 3 map. Unless the City’s Charter provides otherwise, Section 21606 of the Election Code provides the City’s new district maps will apply at “the first election for council members … following adoption of the boundaries of council districts, excluding a special election to fill a vacancy or a recall election.” See 97 Cal. Op. Att’y Gen. 12 (2014) (Attorney General rejects contention that “the first election” must be construed to mean the first election of any sort, including an election to fill a vacancy, after the boundary adjustments). Thus, it appears that the old Ward 3 map boundaries should have applied for both the review of the recall petition and with respect to which voters can vote in the currently scheduled recall election.

The City of Santa Ana requested that the Registrar of Voters conduct the recall election for Jessie Lopez, Office of City Council, Ward 3 on behalf of the City pursuant to City Resolutions 2023-055 and 2023-056 and Section 10002 of the Election Code, which provides:

Any city that requests the board of supervisors to permit the elections official to prepare the city’s election materials shall, if the board of supervisors agrees to provide such services, supply the county elections official with a list of its precincts, or consolidated precincts, as applicable, no later than 61 days before the election.

Cal. Elec. Code § 10002. The City’s resolutions do not specify any list of precincts that are different from the current Ward 3 boundaries, which contain precincts different from those that were in effect when Ms. Lopez was elected.

This is a municipal election, thus your office serves as the City’s election official for the recall election with the Registrar of Voters providing election services at the request and direction of the City. Accordingly, the Registrar of Voters will need direction from the City as soon as practicable regarding whether the City intends to proceed with conducting the recall election that is currently scheduled for November 14, 2023 given the issues described herein.

The Santa Ana City Council must figure out what to do – allow the Recall Election to happen or cancel it. Either way you can expect litigation from either the Recall Campaign or Mayor Pro Tem Jessie Lopez. The bad news is our City Council is split 50-50 – but Lopez will have to recuse herself. That means it is likely the Council will not be able to take action.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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