L.A. County Sent Some Sample Ballots (Containing The Pro-Con Arguments On LB Tax Measure And Council Candidate Statements) Weeks After Vote-by-Mail Ballots Arrived And Based Its Mailing Schedule In Part On Voter's Political Party Registration
|(Feb. 15, 2020, 11:00 p.m.) -- LRBEPORT.com has learned that Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office (RRCC) has sent some LB voters sample ballot materials containing pro-con arguments on a City Hall-sought Measure A sales tax and City Council candidate statements in three Council districts sometimes weeks after sending voters the vote by mail ballots. LBREPORT.com has further learned that the County used a mailing procedure with timing based in part on a voter's political party preference.
Some residents opposed to City Hall's ballot measure or challenging candidates with sizable financial resources say L.A. County's procedure tilts the election toward those with sizable financial resources who can afford costly mailers while opponents (who pay for inclusion in the sample ballot pamphlet) rely on the sample ballot materials to communicate their views to all registered voters.
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The LB City Council voted to have the L.A. County RRCC run the LB's March 3, 2020 election instead of the LB City Clerk's office, based on costs. On Jan. 28, 2020, Assistant LB City Clerk Allison Bunma emailed the US Postal Service noting that while L.A. County is responsible for sending out sample ballots and ballots for the March 5 election, "we wanted to work with the post office on how we can ensure that all ballots are out and delivered on time. Please let us know what we can do," Ms. Bunma asked.
Lynn Jones, the L.A. district's USPS Business Service Network Representative, replied that the USPS "is very aware of the importance of proper handling and timely delivery of election and political mail, especially Sample Ballots and Vote by Mail Ballots. We are in constant contact with the RRCC and mail will be processed and delivered as received."
When the City Clerk's office began receiving inquiries and some complaints from voters who received their vote by mail ballots without their sample ballot pamphlet, Ms. Bunma followed-up with the L.A. County RRCC. She informed the RRCC office that the LB City Clerk's office was receiving calls and emails from LB voters regarding late sample ballot booklet. "They are receiving VBM [vote by mail[ ballots but not SBB [sample ballot booklet]. How is the SBB being sent? Can you give us some insight so that we may have inform our voters?" Ms. Bunma asked.
On Feb 13, Sylvia Lira in the LA County RRCC office replied:
...Your city has 37 basic groups in seven different combinations (Dem, Rep, AI, Grn, Lib, PF, and NP) for total of 259 groups. The mailing of sample ballot booklets begins with the groups with most voters. For your city many groups have already be mailed and few others will continue to be mailing every day. As you probably know, the countywide election in Los Angeles County has 5.4 million voters that will receive a booklets. Legally, the mailing period for these sample ballot booklets is from January 23rd to February 22nd. All booklets are projected to be mailed this weekend [Feb. 15-16, Feb. 17 is a mail holiday.].
An independent check by LBREPORT.com indicates that as of Jan. 3, 2020, the CA Secretary of State's office indicates the City of LB had 267,511 registered voters: registered as follows: 136,301 Democrat (50.905%), 68,661 "no party preference" (25.66%), 45,111 Republican (16.86%), 7,279 (American Independent) 2,409 "other, 2,395 Peace and Freedom, 2,269 Libertarian and 1,564 "Unknown,"
Some Democrat-registered voters tell LBREPORT.com they received their sample ballot pamphlets relatively soon in the election cycle while others say they still haven't received them, especially those registered with other political parties. (One Green party voter says she still hadn't received their materials as of Feb. 14.)
LBREPORT.com hasn't conclusively ruled out that other factors may have also contributed to some of the delays, but the net effect appears to have had some tactical impacts in the March 2020 LB election. A political committee run by Mayor Robert Garcia (which received over half a million dollars with major funding from LB's police and firefighter unions, details here) blanketed voters with fliers supporting the sales tax measures timed to coincide with the Feb. 3 start date for submitting vote by mail ballots. Grassroots taxpayers waging a bare-bones effort to oppose the sales tax measure relied in part on their opposition argument (whcih they paid to include) in the sample ballot pamphlet to communicate their position to LB voters.
As of mid-February, some say they continue to encounter LB voters whose sample ballot materials didn't arrive until only recently (mid-February) or in some cases didn't arrive until after voters had mailed in their vote by mail ballots..
Corliss Lee (founder of the grassroots Eastside Voice) who was the officially designated lead writer on the ballot argument opposing the City Hall-sought sales tax measure, says that in a small random one-day sampling (week of Feb. 3-10) roughly 38% of voters on her ELB distribution list said they hadn't received their sample ballot containing the opposition argument to the sales tax but had received their mail in ballot.
Eighth district Council candidate Juan Ovalle (running on a "Reform Ticket" platform seeking changes in a number of City Hall practices) told LBREPORT.com that in walking his Council district two weeks ago, roughly 20% of those he contacted had already voted before receiving their sample ballots containing his candidate statement.
In a related development, Democrat Congressional candidate Peter Mathews (seeking to unseat Democrat incumbent Alan Lowenthal) said in a release that L.A. County "has chosen to distort the voting process by not mailing out the Candidate Statements first, and then the "Vote by Mail" ballots to the voters, unlike Orange County. On contrast, Orange County has done it the right way...Orange County mailed "Official Sample Ballots", containing official Candidate Statements, before the end of January, and then mailed "Vote by Mail Ballots" on February 3. This enabled Orange County Vote by Mail voters to be informed when they voted early, up to one month before the March 3 California Primary Election. Los Angeles County chose not to do so. Thousands of Los Angeles County voters, including in the Long Beach area, were deprived of the valuable information contained in the Candidate Statements, before they voted."
In a release, Mathews notes that he and other Congressional candidates spent roughly $5,000 to have their candidate statements appear in voters' sample ballots while incumbents "have lots of money to do their own mailing to voters, clearly benefit from this egregious practice," calling it a form of "voter suppression."
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