As the California Democratic Party prepares for its convention next month in Orange County, a squabble about delegates from the La Cañada, Burbank and Glendale areas has pulled back the curtain on local allegiances and power struggles.
The issue began during an election for delegates from the 43rd Assembly District in January on the Glendale Community College campus. Friends and associates of the losing slate of candidates — strong allies of Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) — complained of numerous voting problems, including ineligible voters being allowed to vote and people voting multiple times.
Though state Democratic officials rejected claims of outright fraud, they ordered a repeat of the election this week after finding that about 16% of voters in the original election were ineligible to cast ballots — including one cast under the name of Gatto's district director.
In the original count, at least 117 of the 738 votes were found to be cast by people who either did not live in the 43rd District or were not members of the Democratic Party — both requirements to vote for the party-specific positions — according to a memo from Chris Myers, managing director of the California Democratic Party. Another 100 or so could not be verified one way or the other.
Twelve of the 14 members of the Democrats United slate that had won in the original count saw their victories nullified as a result. Berdj Karapetian and Shant Sahakian, however, had big enough leads that throwing out the improper votes did not change the outcome and their elections will stand, officials ruled.
Thomas O'Shaughnessy, who was the election's official convener, said he did not witness any fraud during the voting process. He also said he was careful to distance himself from the actual ballots because of his association with former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, a political rival of Gatto. O'Shaughnessy is a former Portantino staffer.
O'Shaughnessy told Times Community News that he believes "good-faith confusion" was a main reason for the bad ballots. During primary elections, he said, voters who have declined to state a party preference can request a Democratic ballot and help pick Democratic nominees. But only registered Democratic voters can vote in delegate elections.
"I think people just got confused," he said.
Every other year, seven men and seven women are elected as district delegates and one person is elected as an executive board representative.