Gascón recall committee to sue LA County over invalidation of petition signatures

A committee seeking to oust Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, which fell nearly 40,000 signatures short of qualifying a recall election for the ballot, claims to have uncovered substantial evidence that valid names were rejected and voter rolls were inflated.

“The initial review of invalidated signatures demonstrates the Registrar’s counting process was seriously flawed, resulting in substantial errors, the wrongful invalidation of many valid signatures, and the disenfranchisement of thousands of Los Angeles County Voters,” said a statement Monday from the Recall District Attorney George Gascón Committee.

Cristine DeBerry, founder of a consortium of progressive attorneys called the Prosecutors Alliance, said the recall committee’s allegations are off-base.

“After twice failing to gather enough signatures and facing allegations of widespread fraud, the recall’s campaign of misinformation is turning to more desperate measures,” DeBerry said. “They can continue to waste taxpayer money, but it will not change the facts.”

Los Angeles County election officials did not respond to phone calls and emails Monday seeking comment. Elise Moore, a spokesperson for Gascón, declined to discuss the recall committee’s allegations.

The committee also plans to sue the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder/county clerk as early as next week to seek “expanded access and additional information necessary to conduct a meaningful review” of the invalidated signatures.

The recall committee submitted 717,000 signatures, of which 520,050 signatures were found to be valid and 195,783 were deemed invalid. according to election officials. To qualify for the ballot, the recall petition required 566,857 valid signatures.

Alleged invalidation errors

The committee said it has found “obvious and legitimate challenges” for 39% of invalidated signatures it has reviewed. Purported problems with the tally include:

Signatures that were invalidated as “printed” even when the voter’s signature on file was itself printed.
Signatures rejected as “nonmatching” despite showing substantial similarities to the signature on file.
The invalidation of signatures as “not registered” when, in fact, the person was a registered voter who could easily be identified in the voter database.
Signatures that were invalidated as duplicates without election officials counting at least one of the alleged duplicates as required by law.

“Some of these invalidations are particularly troubling because it required a deliberate act by an examiner to go back into the system and modify a previously validated signature,”  said the recall committee. “The committee has also observed many incomplete entries that were crossed out by the petition signer due to error, and then filled in correctly in the next entry below, only to have examiners wrongfully reject both as duplicates.”

Additionally, the committee criticized the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office for substantially limiting its review hours, workstations, number of reviewers and access to information.

“Under the current restrictions imposed by the registrar, it will take more than a year to review the invalidated signatures,” the committee said.

‘Bloated’ voter rolls?

Independent, nonpartisan data analysts have estimated that Los Angeles County active voter rolls were artificially inflated by at least 208,000, and possibly as many as 515,000, when the number of signatures required for qualification of the recall was originally set, according to the committee. If true, that would mean fewer signatures were required to force a recall election.

“This issue alone could substantially affect the outcome of the recall given that the registrar has already identified what it deems to be 520,050 valid signatures,” the committee said. “This does not even account for the signatures that were clearly wrongfully invalidated.”

Tim Lineberger, a spokesman for the recall committee, declined to identify the analysts who determined voter rolls were inflated but added that the data is nevertheless damning.

“The question is no longer whether the registrar’s count was botched, but how badly.  This is too important to not fight through the bitter end,” he said.

First recall fizzled

An initial attempt to recall Gascón fizzled in early 2021, when organizers apparently were hampered by the rapid spread of COVID-19.

The second attempt, launched in October 2021, was bolstered by a no-confidence vote from officials in 36 cities and endorsed by several former Gascón allies, such as former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Gascón, immediately after taking office in December 2020, issued nine directives that his critics maintain coddle criminal defendants. Among the most controversial are the elimination of cash bail and sentence enhancements and an end to the prosecution of juveniles in the adult court system, regardless of the seriousness of the crime. Gascón has since backpedaled on some of those blanket policies.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which represents Los Angeles County prosecutors, is suing Gascón because it believes many of his policies are illegal.

Prosecutors also have criticized Gascón’s friendly relationship with the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, noting he has hired several defense attorneys from that office for prestigious, high-paying jobs in his administration.

Former Los County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who helped to spearhead the recall effort, said he is troubled by the county’s invalidation of petition signatures and believes voters have a right to determine if Gascón should remain in office.

“This process was rife with error,” he said. “When you add it all up — from wrongfully invalidated signatures to bloated voter rolls — we believe the recall should be certified.”