Long’s lawsuit contests second-run absentee ballots

Joseph Serna, Staff Writer

When the votes were counted and Larry Forester came out on top by a single vote, Nancy Long said it wasn’t over. She has stuck to her word.

Over the last few weeks Nancy Long and Carol Churchill, an attorney and former Signal Hill City Council member, have laid out their arguments to the city for overturning at least 20 second-run absentee ballots from the March 6 election, culminating with Long filing suit against election officials last week.

And on the other side, Assistant City Attorney Doug Haubert maintains the second-run ballots, which largely contributed to Forester’s victory, were handled in line with state code and should not be invalidated.
Second-run absentee ballots are absentee ballots that are dropped off at the polling places Election Day and provisional ballots, which are given to voters who have gone to the wrong polls or are not on the voters’ roster for some reason.

Long’s suit follows some of Churchill’s arguments in a March 11 letter to City Clerk Kathleen Pacheco, which listed six challenges to the election.

Churchill and Long both allege illegal votes were cast because poll workers did not verify the identity of those dropping off the ballots.

“An absent voter who, because of illness or other physical disability, is unable to return the ballot, may designate his or her spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, or a person residing in the same household as the absent voter,” the code reads.

However, as Haubert explained in letters to Churchill and Long, nowhere in the code does it provide instruction on how to verify the identity of the person dropping off the ballot. In fact, people are not required to show identification to vote at all.

Legal requirements or not, Long seems to find that loophole illogical.

“I might as well go get all those Josés over there at the Home Depot and take them to vote,” Long said sarcastically, illustrating her point that possibly anyone could claim the identity of a registered voter without ID being required.

Absentee voting procedures should “be liberally construed in favor of the absent voter,” according to section 3000 of the election code-meaning the Elections Code favors counting the vote rather than invalidating it, Haubert said.

The code advocates counting ballots when specific voting rules aren’t strictly followed, such as putting a check in a bubble for a candidate instead of filling in the bubble, Haubert said. Technically, the person did not follow the voting procedure by putting a check instead of filling it in, but the law gives them the benefit of the doubt.
When Churchill sought to examine election records by citing elections codes pertaining to voter-requested ballots, Haubert pointed out no voter has requested one.

The city clerk mandated the March 12 recount, and, as spelled out in the state code, most of the materials Churchill asked for must be sealed for six months following the election anyway.

The window for a voter to request a recount is five days after the vote canvassing. That window has closed.
The city has only issued responses through letters to both Long and Churchill’s arguments sent to Pacheco, though Long’s lawsuit falls in line with much of her letter.

Long maintains she has not received Haubert’s response to her concerns. Haubert’s letter was sent March 20.
As far as Long’s lawsuit goes, the city cannot respond at this time.

Long is set to appear in Los Angeles Superior Court for her lawsuit against election officials Tuesday, Aug. 7, though an appeal is pending for an earlier date.