Registrar Of Voters To Be Questioned In SB City Clerk Race Court Challenge

San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Donna Gunnell Garza on April 17 ordered Registrar of Voters Michael Scarpello to submit to questioning related to his decision to disqualify 64 ballots in the February 7 San Bernardino city clerk race.
In the initial tallying of votes in that election, Gigi Hanna won by three votes. A recount requested by runner-up Amelia Sanchez-Lopez resulted in a six-vote margin in Hanna’s favor. Sanchez-Lopez then filed a legal challenge of the registrar’s decision to disqualify  64 mail-in ballots because signatures on the envelopes containing those ballots did not match signatures on the voter-registration cards for those mailing those ballots.
Sanchez-Lopez’s challenge suffered a setback when Gunnell Garza previously granted a motion by Stuart Leviton, Hanna’s attorney, excluding testimony from voters whose ballots had been disregarded whom Sanchez-Lopez’s attorney, William Trejo, wanted to question. At that time, Gunnel Garza indicated she did not believe that testimony would provide relevant evidence.
But in what some considered a reversal, Gunnel Garza this week turned back a motion by Leviton to prevent Scarpello from being questioned, finding that the registrar will need to justify for the court “the reasonableness of his actions.”
Leviton and county counsel, representing Scarpello, maintain the state elections code empowers election officials to disqualify ballots if the signatures on them to do not comport with those on the voters’ registration cards.
But Trejo has signed affidavits from 16 qualified voters who claim they voted in the February 7 mail-in run-off election for city clerk only to see their ballots discarded. It is Trejo’s contention that if those 16 ballots and the other 48 uncounted ballots are considered, Sanchez-Lopez will be the winner.
The challenge puts San Bernardino City Attorney James Penman in a curious position. The city officially supports the outcome of the race as previously determined, with Hanna declared the victor. As such, Penman’s office is being called upon to argue against Sanchez-Lopez’s challenge. Penman, however, supported Sanchez-Lopez’s candidacy.
Gunnell Garza set a May 2 hearing date for further arguments on the challenge to the ballot disqualifications.

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