This post has been amended, see note below for details.
The challenger for the position of city clerk, the official who runs Glendale elections, criticized incumbent Ardy Kassakhian at a public forum this week, saying some votes had not been counted in the past.
At the second candidate forum for the office on Monday, challenger Stephanie Landregan said she entered the race because she was “extremely concerned that votes were not being counted, that votes were being not stamped when they came into the clerk's office, that votes were left in tubs after the election.
“I ran for office because these are elements that concern me,” she said.
After the forum hosted by the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce, Kassakhian said Landregan's allegations were overblown, adding that she had not once observed the election night process in person.
“What she's doing is tantamount to yelling ‘fire' in a crowded theater,” Kassakhian said.
Landregan said she based her opinion on reports filed in 2007, 2009 and 2011 by Glendale's internal auditor. But the reports — which mostly focus on procedural improvements, such as hiring more staff for election night and creating a comprehensive elections manual — do not state that votes had not been counted.
When questioned about the discrepancy Tuesday, Landregan said she misspoke at the forum. She said she was referring to vote-by-mail ballots not being counted as they are received from the post office.
“It was not my intention to mislead anyone,” she said.
According to a 2011 audit, the City Clerk's Office did not date-stamp or count vote-by-mail ballots as they were received from the U.S. Post Office, nor was a quick count done before they were forwarded to be opened and officially counted. Not doing so could increase the risk of ballots being lost or misplaced, but the clerk plans to incorporate the recommendations this election, according to the report.
Landregan said she, too, would date-stamp vote-by-mail ballots as they are received.
As for Landregan's claim that votes were left in tubs after the election, Scott Martin — owner of Martin & Chapman, Glendale's election consultant — said loose ballots are often found in tubs if poll workers do not place them in appropriate boxes or envelopes. Those ballots are then sent back to the City Clerk's Office to be counted.
“Nine out of 10 times, we find loose ballots in tubs,” said Martin, adding that his company works for dozens of cities in the Southland.
Douglas Johnson, a fellow at the Claremont McKenna Rose Institute of State and Local Government, which created Glendale's online election mapping tool, said the city is a leader when it comes to improving elections.
“Glendale is certainly on the leading edge of looking for ways to improve the [elections] process,” he said.
[For the Record, 10:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that it was the first city clerk election forum.]