The November 14 election to recall Councilmember Jessie Lopez will go forward as scheduled after a motion to de-certify the recall petition by Councilman Johnathan Hernandez, a Lopez ally, failed to garner the necessary 4 votes.
The Santa Ana City Council held a special meeting to discuss a letter the city received on October 27 from OC Registrar of Voters, stating his office recently “became aware” that while the recall election was being conducted in the pre-redistricting Ward 3 from which Lopez was elected in 2020, the recall petition was circulated in the post-redistricting Ward 3.
Recall proponents followed the direction of city and county election officials, including the precincts in which they were to gather voter signatures. As a result, they gathered signatures in the Ward 3 boundaries drawn after the 2020 Census, rather than the pre-redistricting Ward 3. Page said that if one excluded signatures from the new Ward 3, the recall petition would not have qualified.
In his letter, Page appeared to be washing its hands of the matter and placing the onus back on the city.
“This is a municipal election, thus [the City Clerk] serves as the City’s election official for the recall with the Registrar of Voters providing election services at the request and direction of the City,” Page wrote to Hall. “Accordingly, the Registrar of Voters will need direction from the City as soon as practicable regarding whether the City intends to proceed with conducting the recall election that is currently scheduled for November 14, 2023 given the issues described therein.”
Meanwhile, ballots have been mailed to nearly 27,000 voters and thousands of completed ballots have already been returned for tabulation.
Though the special meeting lasted for nearly three hours, most of it was held in closed session. The public comment period was taken up by supporters and opponents of the recall. Opponents employed the same messaging points, labeling the recall “illegitimate” and urging the council to protect” “democracy” by rescinding certification of the recall petition – which would effectively cancel the election.
Recall supporters cited their reasons for supporting the ouster of Lopez and asked that the recall election be allowed to proceed.
After the council emerged from closed session, Hernandez made his motion to rescind certification while harshly attacking the character and integrity of Mayor Valerie Amezcua and Councilmembers Phil Bacerra and David Penaloza.
The three ignored Hernandez’ broadside, while Bacerra sought to clarify the matter with a series of questions to City Clerk Jennifer Hall:
Bacerra: “Madam Clerk, was the certificate of sufficiency of recall petition that you presented to the city council on August 1, based on the certificate as to verification of signatures on petition provided to the city by the ROV in July?”
Hall: “Yes, it was.”
Bacerra: “And has the ROV formally rescinded their certificate as to verification of signatures on a petition with an accurate superseding certificate as to verifications of signatures on petition?”
Bacerra: “And did the letter from the ROV that the city received on October 26, rescind the RVs certificate as to verification of signatures on petition?”
Bacerra concluded by stating, “My position is the city of Santa Ana should not take responsibility for the ROV errors.”
The meeting ended as a number of political watchers expected, with the council deadlocking 3-3 on Hernandez’s motion (which needed an affirmative 4 vote majority to be adopted).
For now, the recall election is moving forward, although political observers expect litigation to be the next step.