Thursday, May 18, 2017

By Darlene Lofgren

On the agenda May 9th at Compton City Council's regular meeting was a resolution, which had failed the previous week, declaring the results of the Primary Nominating Election of April 18th.

City Attorney Craig Cornwell informed the council that "the laws regarding the approval of canvassing the election are contained in the California Election Code.  We also have a reference in our Compton Municipal Code; but the state code, the California code...creates a time line for the local agency to approve the canvassing of the election which is the fourth Friday following the election.  And I believe that date for us would be Friday, May 12 to certify this election."

"What happens if it's not certified?" asked Councilperson Janna Zurita.

"I believe the statutory scheme creates a mandate to certify," replied Cornwell, adding "I would believe that a voter could force the certification to occur if the council sees fit to deny the certification."

Zurita clarified, "a voter?"

"Any voter," said the city attorney.

"You mean one person?" queried Zurita.

He stated that one person could "file an action," and would have to go to court.

Councilperson Tana McCoy addressed City Clerk Alita Godwin with the request for her to "bring back a report explaining how you picked the polling places."  McCoy also spoke of voters who couldn't find their polling places and so could not vote.

"As I stated last week," responded Godwin, "I don't have a problem with answering any questions, but no questions have come to me other than right now.

"When we talked last week at the council meeting, if you'd have given me those questions or concerns, I'd have answers to them."

She went on to address the issue of polling places.  "In the process of election, of course, we all know we have to create polling places.  Generally the polling places remain the same unless a facility denies access to that polling place.

"Then we have to find another place and find it in that area.  Typically, your polling place stays the same; again, unless there's a change - but everyone receives a sample ballot.  Your polling place is listed on that sample ballot.  It also tells you that it may change, and it does change from city elections to county elections.  They are totally different.

"The City of Compton consolidates elections.  The county probably has about 75 precincts in Compton.  We consolidate ours down to, which the law allows us to, down to 27 precincts.  And your precinct is in your area.

"But again, if you give me the question, give me the people, tell the people to call me, I don't have a problem with answering because it's a process.  But, again, I can't answer what no one comes to me with.

"Last week we talked about McNair.  I answered that on the floor.  McNair wasn't a City of Compton polling place; it was a county precinct.  The information I received was a picture, a picture of a county sample ballot.

"I'm almost certain I can answer any questions or concerns a voter has, but we as voters have to educate ourselves; not be trying to find out where we go to vote on Election Day that same day.  We should know that at least the night before or the week of, because everyone knows Election Day is very hectic.  Everyone has time constraints...I don't recommend you trying to find out, on the same day, where you go on Election Day - but we are there to answer your calls.

"Unfortunately, this election we were away from our phones for four hours and couldn't assist."  The clerk was referring to the incident on Election Day when a call was made to City Hall stating that there was a bomb and City Hall was evacuated.  However, after the end of four hours, no bomb was found.

City Clerk Godwin also told Council that another issue this election, was that there were "a lot of provisional ballots, in all my years abundance.

"A lot of them were vote by mail voters who did not have a ballot to surrender.  If you're a permanent vote by mail, poll workers are not going to allow you to vote unless you surrender a ballot.  If you don't surrender a ballot, then you have to vote provisional.  So that's why we had a lot of provisional ballots."

She described another error some voters made; "another large number of provisional ballots came from people who were voting out of their district.  People in the 4th District were going to the 3rd District, so those were provisional. 

Godwin also spoke of the voters who went to different precincts than their own: "'There's a polling place.  I'm gonna go there.'  There was a great number of that happening. The biggest number was people who didn't have ballots to surrender."

"I'd like an account," said Zurita, "of the ballots that were ordered, the ballots that were received, the number that were mailed out, the number that were returned, the number that was spoiled, that number that was surrendered, and also included in that, I'd like an account of how many envelopes were ordered 'cause there were some rumors that envelopes were being printed in our printing department, and from my understanding, is that each ballot comes with an envelope. 

"And then I'd also like to know, unlike the county's election when you tear your stub off to say you voted, you keep another stub and you have a serial number on it - how come our ballots don't have a serial number on the ballot as well as the stub?"

"Well, first off," answered the city clerk, "the reason why there's no number is because of the secrecy.  You do not want to be able to tell, to link the tab with the ballot because then you'll know who that's linked to, and you'll be able to know who they voted for."

"But the county's opposite?" asked Zurita.

Godwin explained that there's "several voting systems where a city can choose their own system.  Compton has Opto-Mark.

"We're always going to be different from the county.  The county has a much larger operation than the city."  She then asked the councilperson what her other question was.

"You've made me have another question," said Zurita.  "Who decides what system we have?"

"The council decides, for many, many years -"

"I don't believe that," said Zurita.

"It was way before your time," continued Godwin.

Zurita pointed out that in a recent exchange, she had asked "if we could have some input on the design of the ballot."

"The design of the ballot is designed by the Secretary of State," said the city clerk.  "That's where the ballots come from."

Zurita clarified that she was speaking of the style, not the random lottery of the names on the ballot.

"That's done by them, too," responded Godwin.

"What if we don't want the Opto-Mark system," said the councilperson, "how do we change that."

"Well," said the clerk, "It's all going to change because the whole election process is getting ready to change, real soon; I believe its next year."

She looked out over the chamber audience.  "Some people will get what they wish for; the county will be taking over the city's elections."

She then glanced in Zurita's direction: "So then you really won't have a lot of input."

No one mentioned that the county was the governing body of the highly contested Measure P election.  Nor did anyone mention the greatly detailed presentation by the city clerk a few months ago on the upcoming changes to the election process.

"So the county is taking over?" asked McCoy.

"Yes," she was told, "and we're going to have to change our election dates."

Godwin then referred back to one of Zurita's question, asking for a list of what numbers she wanted.  "I did write them down," she said.

"Mr. City Attorney," asked Mayor Aja Brown, "in order for the city to be in compliance with the state law that mandates cities to move their elections to the state's general cycle in 2018, because our charter specifies the specific months...will this require a charter change, or will we just pass a resolution in accordance with state law?"

"That's a question in my office right now," he replied.  "We're looking at discussions on the state level to find some guidance for charter cities and how to come into compliance."

Council then voted to pass the resolution to accept the Primary Election canvass.  Mayor Brown, Councilpersons Tana McCoy and Emma Sharif voted yes; Councilperson Janna Zurita, voted no; Councilperson Isaac Galvan was absent.

That vote makes official the results of the Primary Election:  three of the six positions on the ballot won the majority of votes in their races - Council District 2 Isaac Galvan, City Attorney Craig Cornwell, and City Clerk Alita Godwin - and three positions will be in the runoff election on June 6th: Mayor, Council District 3, and City Treasurer.

To win in the primary election, a candidate had to garner at least 50 percent plus one vote.

More details on those primary election results can be found on the city's website: under City Clerk/Elections/Election Results.





Kidnapping victim rescued in Compton

By Cat Keniston

A man who allegedly kidnapped two people in South Los Angeles was in custody Monday, and police were seeking the public's help in locating a second suspect.

The Los Angeles Police Department's Southwest Division was notified of a kidnapping last Thursday at 6 p.m. in the 1700 block of West 39th Street.

Detectives learned "that at least two Los Angeles citizens had been kidnapped by at least two suspects, with one victim released later in the day," according to an LAPD statement.

At 6:30 a.m. Friday, the second victim was rescued in Compton and Keith Stewart, 32, of Los Angeles was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and "numerous items of evidence were recovered, including weapons and narcotics," police reported.

A motive for the alleged kidnapping has not been determined, nor did police reveal any information about the victims or details of the abduction.

Stewart was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

No description of the second suspect was made available, but anyone with information that could aid investigators was urged to call detectives at (213) 486-6840.

After-hours and weekend calls should be directed to (877) LAPD-24-7. Anonymous tips can be submitted through Crime Stoppers by calling (800) 222- TIPS.