San Diego Election Certified; County Registrar Sued

San Diego, CA. – By statute, the certification of the June 7 Primary election has to be completed within 30 days, which is July 7. However, a lawsuit contending the San Diego County Registrar of Voters failed to comply with California’s Elections Code is adding a wrinkle to that equation.

Members of the Citizens’ Oversight Project claims there has been a mishandling of ballots.

The lawsuit alleges that the one percent audit conducted by the San Diego Registrar of Voters contains only about half the Vote-By-Mail ballots that is required by law and includes absolutely no provisional ballots. The suit says that about 285,000 ballots are missing from the audit.

Ray Lutz alleges that the registrar failed to comply with California’s elections code, which requires the registrar to include provisional ballots in the set of samples to be audited.

IVN San Diego spoke with County Registrar Michael Vu who said, “I can’t comment on details of an ongoing lawsuit.  I do however have a statutory obligation within the elections code to certify the election. But again, I can’t speak on the basis of the lawsuit.”

Superior Court judge Joel Wohlfeil heard the case on July 6 and is expected to render a decision in the coming days.

Running and administering countywide and city elections is no small feat. While most voters’ part is over after the act of voting, the work for county election officials seems to never end.

The amount of local propositions this year for San Diego County’s November general election is astonishing. In the coming week alone, the Registrar will likely certify three big initiatives for the voters of San Diego for November. Michael Vu told IVN San Diego, “We will have announcements for all three initiatives next week.”

The committee funding the San Diego Chargers’ initiative sent the SD Registrar’s office 110,786 signatures to verify last month. The Chargers’ initiative, if certified, will ask voters to approve a 6% TMD tax increase on hotel guests to fund a downtown stadium. This count will be made public on July 11.

The registrar’s office is also verifying signatures for the Citizens’ Plan for San Diego, a proposal that asks voters to approve a 5% increase in hotel taxes. But, the Citizens’ Plan also ensures there will be no public funding for a stadium unless voters approve it. This count will be reported on July 13 and needs 66,447 signatures to be certified out of the 101,897 turned in.

And on July 15, the Lilac Hills Ranch development initiative, a proposal to build more than 1,700 homes near Interstate 15 north of Escondido, will find out if it is certified for the November ballot. Backers of the proposal turned in 110,000 signatures, about 40,000 more than what was required. The results of this count will be made public July 15.

IVN previously reported that qualifying just the Citizens’ Plan initiative alone will cost taxpayers potentially over a quarter million dollars. This begs the question: Is there a more efficient and accurate way for the Registrar of Voters to certify all the initiatives?

San Diego uses the state method for signature counting which strictly penalizes duplicate signatures, unlike Los Angeles and San Francisco. For every duplicate signature, 1,000 signatures are thrown out. Essentially, this means that ballot initiatives, to be safe, turn in way over the amount necessary to qualify. In the end, the Registrar of Voters must spend more time and taxpayer money certifying the increasing number of ballot initiatives.

The ballot initiative process ensures that voters can directly decide on issues rather than leaving this process up to their representatives. However, this means the San Diego’s Registrar of Voters office has had a busy schedule these past two months and seems to never stop counting. Michael Vu, San Diego’s Registrar of Voters told IVN San Diego that “[i]n the 9 years I’ve been at the county I’ve never seen anything like this.”