March 8, 2010 - Judge upholds November election of Novato Sanitary District board
Paper: Marin Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA)
Title: Judge upholds November election of Novato Sanitary District board
Date: March 8, 2010
Author: Brent Ainsworth
The controversial November election for three seats on the Novato Sanitary District board will stand, much to the dismay of challengers who contended some residents within the district received incorrect ballots and were denied the chance to vote.
Marin County Superior Court Judge Verna Adams agreed that some voters in the district were denied a vote but confirmed the election results by saying the plaintiffs, Suzan Sharpley and Robert Abeling, and their attorneys did not show clear and convincing evidence that the results would have changed had all eligible voters been given the chance to fill out ballots.
"A new election would be a disservice to the residents of Novato," Adams said.
The ruling means that incumbent Bill Long will hold onto his board seat with just 15 more votes than challenger Bill Scott. Dennis Welsh and Michael Di Giorgio were the other two elected to the board in November.
"I'm glad the district is not going to have to deal with the cost of another election and more turmoil," Long said. "We've been through enough, and we have more to deal with."
The district on Monday night was grappling with the wording of a voter referendum to be placed on the June 8 ballot about whether Novato Sanitary should enter into a contract with a private company, Veolia Water, to operate a new $90 million water treatment plant.
Dotty LeMieux, lead attorney for Sharpley and Abeling, said she was disappointed because she thought they had a good case with the clear inequities of the election.
"Certainly they will be doing it better from now on, so this serves as a good wake-up call for the district," she said. "We brought it to light that people who thought they were in the district and able to vote were not. Now they know who they are."
Long and the district, defendants in the lawsuit, were represented by attorneys Kimberly Drake and Kent Alm of the Meyers Nave law firm in Oakland. Drake and Alm agreed that voters in some areas of Novato, numbering up to 69 people, should have received November ballots that included the sanitary district race but didn't. Of those people, only 33 voted in the election at all.
Those called as witnesses Monday were Marin County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold, Peter Banning of the Local Agency Formation Commission and statistics professor Philip Stark of the University of California at Berkeley.
Adams singled out the testimony of Stark as particularly convincing. Stark said it would have taken 1,000 to 1,100 more voters to give Scott a legitimate chance to make up the 15 votes to tie or surpass Long.
Banning's commission, which oversees boundaries on districts such as Novato Sanitary, said a clerical error in 1982 is to blame for voters in the area of Nunes Drive not being sent proper ballots. He said a revised district map was not filed with the county assessor 28 years ago, and voters there should have been eligible to cast ballots in district elections since then.
Section: Marin Novato News
Record Number: 14636416
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