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Noncitizens Purged From Voter Rolls

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles County registrar-recorder has purged 1,020 people from voter rolls after they admitted being noncitizens in a survey of 5,291 people who got out of jury service by claiming noncitizenship.

Registrar-Recorder Conny McCormack conducted the cross-check of voter registration rolls against the juror-response files as part of an ongoing effort to spot-check voter rolls for fraud.

Details of the probe, which is in the preliminary stage, were included in an interim report to the Board of Supervisors dated Dec. 12.

The preliminary data is the first hint that voter fraud in L.A. County may be more widespread than has previously been believed.

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Supervisor Mike Antonovich promptly called for a grand jury investigation, saying the report is the “tip of the iceberg” of voter fraud in Los Angeles.

But with more than 3 million registered voters and only a partially completed survey of about 5,000 people, McCormack urged caution in jumping to those conclusions.

“I think it is a problem, but the extent of the problem is undetermined,” McCormack said.

McCormack acknowledged in an interview that 181 of the 1,020 may have voted in the November election, but even that is not definite, she said, because it is based on raw, unanalyzed data.

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Antonovich spokesman Cam Currier said the way Antonovich looked at it, the 181 identified with a voting history means 18% of 1,020 admitted noncitizens voted.

In an earlier report to the supervisors, McCormack wrote that some of the noncitizens informed her staff that they had never registered and did not know how their names got on the voter rolls.

“Some stated that they had been told by other persons that they were eligible to vote,” the Dec. 2 memo said.

In the survey, McCormack’s office mailed questionnaires to all 5,291 people who had passed on jury duty as noncitizens but were registered to vote. McCormack’s office has not determined whether the survey responses are in fact true. McCormack said her office will forward the results of the inquiry to local prosecutors and state elections officials.

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A spokesman for Supervisor Gloria Molina said she is out of town and has not seen the report. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said he has not read it either, so he could not comment on it.

Registration irregularities in Orange County led to a massive check of records and an ongoing investigation by California Secretary of State Bill Jones.

After The Times reported that dozens of noncitizens had registered to vote in Los Angeles County in the 1996 elections, Jones opened an ongoing investigation there, too.

At the center of the Orange County controversy was Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, a Latino civil rights group active in registering voters. The instances of illegal registration in Los Angeles County disclosed by The Times also involved voters registered by Hermandad.

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The investigation began after it was discovered that many of those who registered to vote at Hermandad did so before taking the oath of citizenship and were thus ineligible to cast ballots. The controversy drew national attention when former Rep. Robert K. Dornan claimed his narrow 984-vote defeat to Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) was due to voter fraud. A congressional inquiry followed.

McCormack’s office has conducted regular purges of voter registrations. In 1996, she pushed successfully for striking over 700 names from Los Angeles County voter rolls that had been erroneously registered at DMV offices.

Beth Miller, a spokeswoman for Jones, said she was unfamiliar with the details of McCormack’s findings.

“It does not change the status of the investigation into Hermandad in Los Angeles,” Miller said. “That is an ongoing investigation.”

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Miller could not say how the McCormack study might influence the state investigation, if at all.

“We look at a lot of different things in investigations,” Miller said. “In any ongoing investigation, we work with county registrars to find out if there are ineligible voters that they have identified and what steps they have taken.”

Miller praised McCormack for her aggressive work in weeding out voter registrations.

“That is an example of the good work she [McCormack] does with file maintenance,” Miller said. “The jury files often play a role.”

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Times staff writer Efrain Hernandez Jr. contributed to this story.


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