Judge Rules Tossing Disputed Ballots Does Not Invalidate Election

SAN BERNARDINO – Gigi Hanna will remain as San Bernardino city clerk, Superior Court Judge Donna Gunnell Garza has ruled. Gunnell Garza dismissed a claim by 15 voters that the registrar of voters’ decision to discount their  ballots because of signature mismatches should have invalidated the narrow February 7 election results.
For the special run-off mail-in balloting held in February after no single candidate garnered a majority in November,  San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters  Michael J. Scarpello discarded 64 ballots with signatures election workers said didn’t match signatures on file. After all of the accepted ballots were counted, Georgeann Hanna, who goes by the name Gigi, had eked out a three vote victory over Amelia Sanchez-Lopez. Lopez called for a recount and on February 28, that re-examination increased Hanna’s victory margin to six votes.
In examining the voting process, Sanchez-Lopez and her supporters learned of the 64 ballots that had not been counted. They tracked down 15 of those whose votes had been disqualified and after determining that all of those were indeed eligible to vote, two Los Angeles-based attorneys, William Trejo and Sandra Garcia, filed suit on those voters’ behalf, seeking to have the election results overturned pending the inclusion and tallying of any of the discarded ballots determined by the court to be valid.
Gunnell Garza made a finding that Scarpello and his office were in compliance with the Elections Code in that the code calls for ballots with signatures that don’t match the casting voters’ registration cards to not be counted.
Scarpello maintained that in every case where a ballot was discarded, four of his employees examined the signatures and came to the conclusion that they did not match.
Gunnell Garza said fourteen of the fifteen complainants “were not denied the right to vote,” reasoning that “the right to vote involves the right to be counted properly.”
Gunnell Garza called for one discarded ballot, that of a disabled man whose wife signed the ballot for him, to be considered.
Hanna, who was sworn into office on March 5, will continue in the city clerk’s position, which currently pays $111,624 per year plus benefits.

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