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Sanchez Seeks Dismissal of Dornan Claim

TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) asked the House Oversight Committee Thursday to dismiss former Rep. Robert K. Dornan’s challenge to her November victory, saying he had failed to “comply with a series of fundamental requirements” for overturning elections.

Sanchez said Dornan’s appeal should be thrown out because he did not exhaust remedies at the state and local level, failed to provide any specific evidence of voting irregularities, made no claim as required by law that he was the actual winner and did not file the appeal in a timely manner with the House.

“I believe he does not have a case,” she said. “And I believe it is foolish for the House to spend any more time on this because it is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The 27-page motion ridicules Dornan’s challenge for its “vague” references to voter fraud and its brevity. Dornan’s original Dec. 26 filing was three pages long.

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The Dornan complaint made “no attempt to quantify the number of votes alleged to be illegal, much less to identify particular voters, nor does it allege that any of those votes were cast” for Sanchez rather than Dornan, the motion says. It charges that the former congressman is making “generic potential claims” and asking “the House to undertake a publicly funded fishing expedition.”

“The notice’s fatal indefiniteness” also extends to Dornan failing to ask that he be declared the winner, leaving “it up to the Committee to divine the relief he seeks,” the Sanchez motion says.

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Dornan could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Bill Hart, predicted the Oversight Committee would not dismiss the appeal by the nine-term congressman, who lost to Sanchez in November by 984 votes.

Hart also defended the general nature of the original claim by Dornan, saying the deadline set by House rules forced Dornan to file it before evidence of alleged voter fraud could be developed and quantified. That investigation is still ongoing, he said.

Both the Orange County district attorney’s office and the California secretary of state’s office began an inquiry in November into allegations by Dornan of widespread voter fraud in the 46th Congressional District.

The two agencies last week searched the offices of a Santa Ana-based Latino civil rights group as part of an expanded investigation into allegations of voting and registration by noncitizens in Orange County. Both agencies have repeatedly declined to discuss their investigation.

“We can’t know about the fraud in advance,” Hart said. “We only had 30 days to file the pleading. If the D.A. and secretary of state with all their resources is taking this long, then we shouldn’t be penalized for taking the same amount of time.”

The district attorney also is looking into complaints from Registrar of Voters Rosalyn Lever that there were several dozen instances of registration by unqualified people and double voting in the county last year. The registrar this week dismissed claims made by Dornan that irregularities were rampant in the election. Dornan had asked Lever to investigate lists he supplied that he said contained 2,500 instances of voting irregularities.

On Thursday, Hart took issue with a portion of Lever’s analysis and many of her conclusions. In particular, he pointed to her analysis of 123 absentee ballots that were returned by persons other than the voter or an immediate relative designated to turn in the ballot. Hart said those 123 votes “should not have been counted.”

He also pressed a Dornan claim that registrar’s office records show 1,985 more votes counted in the 46th Congressional District race than can be accounted for on the electronic tape listing people who voted.

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Lever said the difference between the number of ballots counted on the printed statement of election votes and voter tapes was 460, not 1,985 as Dornan asserted. The 460 difference was due to “data entry errors,” she wrote.

Hart called the explanation unsupported by evidence and “profoundly self-serving,” and suggested an equally valid assumption would be that “unauthorized or unaccounted for ballots found their way into the ballot box.”

In responding to the Sanchez motion made to the House committee, Hart said that Dornan declined to be specific about whether he should be declared the winner because “we wanted to leave all of the options to the committee. If the evidence convinces us that he should be the winner, instead of having a new election set, then we will amend the filing.”

Hart said the committee and the House are free to make their own assessments of the contest and then to either follow precedent or adjust it. “They can do whatever they want,” he said.

A spokesman for the House Oversight Committee declined to discuss specifics of the case. The committee “has four options” with regard to the Sanchez motion, said spokesman Bill Pierce: grant it, deny it, defer it for further study or ask for a more definitive statement from Dornan.

Sanchez advisor John Shallman said he was “very comfortable” with their position.

“Our motion cites a great deal of House precedent. The only question is, will the House precedent be followed,” he said. “There is a clear choice here: Do we want to spend taxpayers’ dollars on a fishing expedition? The House can do anything they want, but they are still spending taxpayer dollars and they are sworn to protect the taxpayers’ dollars.”

The chairman of the committee, which has five Republicans and three Democrats, is Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield). He has designated a 46th Congressional District Election Task Force to handle the appeal, though all decisions would be made by the full committee, Pierce said.

Serving on the task force are two Republicans, Reps. Vern Ehlers of Michigan and Bob Ney of Ohio. The Democrats have not named their panelist.

The Dornan-Sanchez election is the only one being contested in the 105th Congress. There were four unsuccessful appeals of results in the previous Congress.


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