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Los Angeles Bans Observers from Watching George Gascon Recall Count

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon (right) is now at the center of a recall effort due to frustration over his criminal justice policies. (Bryan Chan/County of Los Angeles via AP)
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon (right) is now at the center of a recall effort due to frustration over his criminal justice policies. (Bryan Chan/County of Los Angeles via AP)

Monitors will not be allowed to view the vote-counting process to recall District Attorney George Gascon because the county of Los Angeles does not view the event as an election, county officials say.

However, opponents insist that the law clearly states that the recall is an election and the process should be public.

Support from Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic politicians helped usher far-left Gascon into office two years ago, and the recall campaign wants to make sure the voter petitions are accurately counted to place the measure on a ballot.

“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 were 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.

The Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters told the Washington Examiner that monitors are allowed in normal 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 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.

“Obviously we are optimistic, and if they say it’s a few thousand short, we want to be ready,” Lineberger said. “The bottom line is we believe we do have the signatures required to initiate the recall, and now we just want to be as thoughtful with the process to ensure it is fair and accurate.”

Gascon has created ire among his rank-and-file prosecutors and Los Angeles law enforcement as he ushered in similar policies to recalled San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. This includes 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.

Most notably, two local police officers were gunned down at a motel by a gang member who received a reduced sentence on a gun charge last year. If the case had not been downgraded, Justin Flores would have been behind bars at the time the shooting occurred.

Gascon also created a policy to pay for the funeral of anyone shot by police, and this would include Flores, who was shot dead by additional officers at the scene.

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