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Glendale officials take emergency step to match L.A. County election deadline

Election Day approaches in Glendale
Glendale City Council members are expected to pass an emergency ordinance to align local election rules with the state’s rules. Differences between the two has caused confusion about when prospective Glendale City Council candidates needed to file to qualify for the election in March.
(File Photo)

Glendale officials are expected to change the deadline for candidates to file for the upcoming City Council race — after the drop-dead date — as the city works out kinks arising from the process of aligning the local election with the state primary on March 3.

If adopted, an emergency ordinance introduced by Glendale City Council members on Tuesday evening would allow candidates to file until Dec. 6, the originally announced deadline, which was later changed to Dec. 3. City Council members are slated to voted on the ordinance on Dec. 10, after the deadline has passed.

If adopted, it will go into effect immediately and apply retroactively, Glendale City Atty. Mike Garcia said during the Tuesday meeting.

The uncertain deadline has affected the process for some candidates of collecting the required 100 signatures from registered Glendale voters to qualify for the ballot.

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At the root of the shifting deadline is differing candidate filing periods outlined in Glendale and L.A. County’s respective election rules, according to Glendale City Clerk Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian, who is also a City Council candidate.

The ordinance up for consideration Tuesday would eliminate the city’s filing period, as well as most local election language from the city code, and instead defer to the state’s election code.

L.A. County and Glendale are for the first time working together to hold local elections, following the Glendale voter-approved decision last year to consolidate its local election with the state primary. As a result, their election timelines must also be synced for the first time.

Previously, Glendale held local elections in the April of odd years, also known as off-cycle elections, to which its timeline was tied.

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“[If the ordinance is adopted], this will not be an issue in the future. There will not be confusion,” said Kassakhian, who drafted the ordinance.

“We’ll have eliminated outdated language in our code as it pertains to our elections,” he added. “It should have been eliminated before, but it wasn’t noticed until this process began.”

During the Tuesday meeting, Mayor Ara Najarian had strong words for Kassakhian, pointing out that one of his main duties is running the city’s elections. He added that calling it a clerical error undermined the seriousness of the mistake, which, if it hadn’t been caught, could have upended the city’s elections.

A state law passed in 2015 requires cities, school districts and other special districts to align their local elections with statewide elections, if those local elections drew lower voter turnout than statewide elections in the past. Glendale, like most of L.A. County’s 79 cities that held off-cycle elections, had to make the switch.

Glendale will still certify the local candidate list and election results, making the city what’s known as the electionsofficial. But now the county will print and distribute ballots, as well as helm polling locations.

To conform to the new election schedule, Glendale election officials adopted the same candidate filing period as the county, running from Nov. 12 to Dec. 6.

However, when election officials were preparing the paperwork for prospective candidates, they realized there was a discrepancy of three days between the required length of the filing periods for the city and county, Kassakhian said.

Glendale’s code limits the filing period to 21 days, while the county’s cutoff is 24 days. Setting the deadline at Dec. 6 would violate the city’s own code.

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Not immediately knowing which filing period would take precedence, Kasskhian said city officials made the call to change the deadline to Dec. 3.

If the city’s timeline turned out to supersede the county’s timeline, candidates who filed after Dec. 3 could potentially be excluded from the ballot, Kasskhian said, adding it was a decision made “out of an abundance of caution.”

Within a week, Glendale city staff noticed another aspect of its code that conflicted with the county’s timeline, Kassakhian said. Under Glendale’s code, candidates are allowed to pull nomination papers beginning 89 days before an election. The county allows candidates to pull them 121 days in advance.

If Glendale adhered to its code in this case, candidates would be required to file from Dec. 5 through Dec. 26. Meanwhile, California’s secretary of state is scheduled on Dec. 12 to determine the order that the candidate’s names will appear on the ballot through random selection.

At that point, Kassakhian said he and his colleagues had the realization that the code’s local election language would have to be scrapped all together. Kassakhian then began drafting the emergency ordinance to do that.

“It’s going to cause more confusion to leave [the language] in there,” Kasskhian said.

Eliminating the language would allow the city to return the deadline to Dec. 6 and be in accordance with its code, he added.

If the city does not change its code, it could face legal challenges, Garcia said during the Tuesday meeting.

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County officials declined to comment, saying that the city, as the election official, is responsible for working out its candidate filing timeline.

“We cannot make assumptions about how moving deadlines or having the same filing periods may impact each and every single jurisdiction in the county,” county spokesman Mike Sanchez said in an email.

For prospective candidate Susan Wolfson, the extra time is welcome.

Wolfson, who pulled papers but hasn’t filed yet, said it will give her more breathing room to collect the 100 signatures from Glendale voters required to qualify for the ballot.

“I’m taking advantage of it,” said Wolfson, who added that she has no paid staff to help her with the nomination process.

Advised by city staff to file by the earlier date, Leonard Manoukian submitted his papers on the day before Thanksgiving.

In light of the extra time candidates have to file, he told city officials that he expected to have until Dec. 6 to collect additional signatures if for some reason he did not meet the required threshold. He was told he would.

While Manoukian doesn’t expect the shifting date to significantly impact his campaign, he said the issue should not have come down to the need for emergency action.

“It’s going to be dealt with and we’re going to move forward, but this type of uncertainty in regard to these elections — it’s unnecessary,” Manoukian said. “It could have been handled in a much more optimal fashion.”

So far, 12 people have pulled candidacy papers, including incumbents Paula Devine and Vartan Gharpetian. Those who qualify will vie for three open City Council seats.

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