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Candidate Says Poll Guard Wanted ID

Times Staff Writer

A Santa Ana mayoral candidate in the Nov. 8 election said Wednesday that she was ordered by a uniformed guard acting as a partisan poll watcher to produce some sort of personal identification when she voted on Election Day, an apparent violation of state election laws.

Sadie Reid-Benham, who finished third in the mayor’s race, said she and her 19-year-old grandson, who was voting for the first time, were questioned by the private security guard at a Santa Ana senior citizens center about 10:30 a.m. Nov. 8.

Reid-Benham said she later learned that the guard--dressed in a blue shirt and slacks and wearing a badge--was one of 20 uniformed observers hired by GOP activists to monitor election activities at 20 voting locations in heavily Latino areas of Santa Ana.

Republican leaders have said the guards were hired to ensure against voter fraud because of anonymous tips that illegally registered voters were to be bused to the polls.

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The use of the uniformed guards as poll watchers in the 72nd Assembly District has caused a storm of protest and prompted Democrats to file a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the outcome of the election in that district. Republican Curt Pringle defeated Democrat Christian F. (Rick) Thierbach by fewer than 900 of the more than 66,000 votes cast.

GOP County Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes has accepted responsibility for the hiring of the guards as observers, though he has said he did not know that they were to be uniformed. Pringle’s campaign reportedly paid for signs carried by the guards, warning non-citizens not to vote.

Neither Fuentes nor Pringle could be reached for comment Wednesday.

On Election Day, Reid-Benham said, the guard who questioned her was standing inside the polling place at the corner of 3rd and Ross streets in Santa Ana when she arrived to vote. She said she was surprised when the guard asked her for a “voting card. . . . He seemed to want some sort of identification that I was registered to vote.”

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At that point, she said, one of the poll workers who recognized her came up and told the guard that Reid-Benham was a mayoral candidate and was registered to vote.

“The guard then backed off and became friendly,” said Reid-Benham, a former Santa Ana Unified School District board president. “I then voted and left. But it was all very unusual.”

Reid-Benham said she did not see the guard detain anyone else.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Donald F. Tanney said Wednesday that it is illegal for anyone except appointed precinct workers to “question any voter.”


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