April 17, 2012 - S.B. COUNTY: Registrar to testify in clerk election challenge
Source: The Press-Enterprise, www.pe.com
Title: S.B. COUNTY: Registrar to testify in clerk election challenge
Published: April 17, 2012
By: Imran Ghori, Staff Writer
A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that Registrar of Voters Michael Scarpello can be called to testify in a case challenging the election of San Bernardino City Clerk Gigi Hanna.
The hearing, challenging the disqualification of some ballots in the Feb. 7 election, was delayed until May 2 to give attorneys time to prepare, Judge Donna Gunnell Garza said after meeting with them in her chambers for about an hour.
Hanna took office last month following a close race in February that led to a recount and a six-vote margin of victory.
Supporters of Amelia Sanchez-Lopez, Hanna’s opponent, filed suit seeking to force the registrar to accept declarations of voters swearing they cast ballots that were disqualified.
The registrar disqualified 64 ballots because signatures on their mail-in envelopes didn’t match signatures on their voter-registration cards.
Last week Garza ruled in favor of a motion by Hanna’s attorneys excluding testimony from up to five voters that the plaintiffs had hoped to call, finding that it would not provide any additional relevant evidence.
But Tuesday she rejected a motion by Hanna’s attorneys to also exclude Scarpello, saying his testimony could help “determine the reasonableness of his actions.”
Both Hanna’s attorneys and the county counsel’s office, representing Scarpello, have said that the state election code states that election officials can disqualify ballots when the signatures don’t compare to those on file.
“It’s our position that the only relevant evidence is the ballots and affidavits of registrations,” said Stuart Leviton, Hanna’s attorney.
William Trejo, an attorney representing 12 of the voters whose ballots were disqualified who filed the suit, said he was pleased with Garza’s ruling.
“All we’re asking for is fairness, and I think that’s what she’s asking for,” he said.
Scarpello testified for three hours in a deposition Thursday by the plaintiffs and is willing to do the same in court, said Paymon Bidari, deputy county counsel.
“He will be more than happy to come to court and answer the questions asked of him and help the court determine whether his actions were reasonable,” Bidari said.
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