2nd Poll Aide Says She Was Told Not to Allow Sumner Votes
Confusion over the results of the 40th Congressional District Democratic primary grew Wednesday when a second precinct worker said she was wrongly told by a county election official not to allow write-in votes for county Democratic chief Bruce Sumner.
Sumner, who waged a write-in campaign in last week’s primary against Art Hoffmann, a Lyndon LaRouche follower, has said he will demand a recount. He now trails Hoffmann by fewer than 300 votes in a hand count of the ballots.
On Wednesday, Marjorie Williams said she was told on three separate occasions by an unidentified employee in the county registrar’s office not to worry about write-in votes at her polling place on French Street in Santa Ana because such votes would not count.
Despite this advice, Williams said she told one of the 29 voters who used the polling station that he could write in the name of a candidate.
Registrar of Voters Al Olson, who labeled the incident and others reported so far as a “couple of isolated cases,” confirmed Wednesday that the computer tally of Williams’ precinct registered five write-in votes.
“We’re unable to find out who would have given that information (to Williams),” he added.
On Tuesday, Delora E. Elling, a poll inspector at a Costa Mesa precinct, said she told voters that there could be no write-in votes, based on what she had been told by a worker at the registrar of voters office.
In addition, several 40th District voters contacted The Times and said they were denied a chance to cast write-in votes for Sumner and were refused information and pens or pencils to cast such votes.
Sumner entered the race to prevent Hoffmann, the LaRouche follower who was the only candidate listed on the 40th District Democratic congressional ballot, from becoming the party’s standard-bearer in November. The winner will face incumbent Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach).
Results in Dispute
In other developments, Olson reported that the initial compilation of the district write-in count was complete and showed Sumner with 14,876 votes, which would make him a 262-vote loser to Hoffmann.
The results are in dispute, however, because of Sumner’s belief that a significant number of write-in ballots cast for him were counted by a computer tally of votes but later missed by election workers compiling the final, official vote count.
David Paine, Sumner’s campaign consultant, said Wednesday that he and other Sumner supporters were trying to contact as many voters and precinct workers as they could to see if there were other instances of people being told they could not write in the name of a candidate.
“We’re hoping these are isolated situations,” Paine said. “But we have to protect our interests, and if we don’t prevail in a recount we’ll have to look at legal remedies. It’s possible we’ll call for a special election and redo the whole thing.”
Williams said she telephoned the registrar’s office on Monday, the day before the election, and twice on election day to say she had not received a list of voters who had cast absentee ballots, plus a list of qualified write-in candidates.
She said she was told all three times not to worry because there were no absentee ballots cast in her precinct and no candidate was eligible to be a write-in candidate. Williams said she did not learn the name of the county election worker who gave her such information.
Volunteer for 12 Years
Williams added that she had been a volunteer election worker for 12 years, many of them as an inspector in charge of three other workers, and before that a poll watcher for the League of Women Voters.
“I know about this stuff; it isn’t as if I haven’t done it before,” Williams said.
Olson said he plans to certify the election results next week, probably on Tuesday. Sumner said he will then request a recount, which is likely to begin June 19.
The registrar has said that Sumner could wind up the eventual winner after the recount, based on past experience with write-in campaigns and the strong likelihood that some write-in votes for Sumner were not reported.