By Michael Hernandez
Editor’s Note: More evidence will be heard in this Election Integrity Project California lawsuit against Ventura County by Superior Court Judge Henry J. Walsh of Courtroom 42 on Monday, March 30th at 9:30 a.m. The Hall of Justice is located on 800 South Victoria Avenue, Ventura, CA 93009. However, this court date is just before the required Election Day certification.)
VENTURA—A lawsuit was filed by Election Integrity Project, California and City of Oxnard plaintiff Rolando Chinea in Superior Court this past Friday claiming that the Ventura County Office of Clerk and Recorder was not allowing voter transparency in the March 3, 2020 Primary Elections.
Election Integrity Project California observers in Ventura County are seeking that Mark Lunn—the Ventura County Registrar of Voters permit the following according to Elections Code 15104:
- Allow the processing of vote by mail ballot return envelopes and the processing and counting of vote by mail ballots, to be open to the public, both prior to and after elections.
- Allow persons wishing to observe the processing of vote by mail ballots sufficiently close access to enable them to observe the vote by mail ballot return envelopes and the signatures thereon and challenge whether those individuals handling vote by mail ballots are following established procedures, including all of the following;
- Verifying signatures and address on the vote by mail ballot return envelopes by comparing them to voter registration information.
- Duplicating accurately damaged or defective ballots.
- Securing vote by mail ballots to prevent tampering with them before they are counted on election day.
The lawsuit filed by Election Integrity Project California attorneys Steven C. Bailey and Robert E. Williams states that “defendant Lunn has failed to follow the clear statutory directive of Elections Code 15104 requiring defendant Lunn to allow members of the public to observe the processing of vote by mail ballot return envelopes and vote by mail ballots for the March 3, 2020 primary election.”
“Despite repeated requests from EIPCa volunteers, defendant Lunn has failed to follow these mandates for the primary election held on March 3, 2020. Plaintiff Roland Chinea and volunteer observers have been restricted to observing from six limited areas. These six, restricted observation areas are situated such that the Observers are unable to observe in any meaningful way, the processing vote by mail ballot return envelopes and vote by mail ballots.
“The restricted observation areas do not allow the Observers to observe many of the areas where the processing of the vote by mail ballot return envelopes and vote by mail ballots takes place. Furthermore, the restricted observation areas are too far removed from the processing of the vote by mail ballot return envelops and vote by mail ballots to allow the Observers to observe anything other than the fact that ballot envelopes and ballots are being processed. The Observers cannot observe the verification of signatures on vote by mail ballot return envelopes and cannot observe the process by which defective or damaged vote by mail ballots are duplicated.
“Defendant Lunn has also prohibited Observers from speaking while observing, thus thwarting their ability to challenge the processing of vote by mail ballot return envelopes and vote by mail ballots, as allowed by section 15104 of the Elections Code.
“The processing of vote by mail return envelopes and vote by mail ballots for the primary election held on March 3, 2020 will continue until the results of the election are certified,” said the Election Integrity Project California lawsuit.
Ventura County Clerk and Recorder Mark A. Lunn has served in his elected position for 10 years and previously served in law enforcement for 34 years. During his 2018 re-election campaign his website stated that he was the first Ventura County Clerk and Recorder in history to be certified by the Elections Center and Auburn University as a “Certified Elections Registration Administrator” (CERA) and as a Certified CA Registration Election Official (REO). His website states: “I will continue to insist upon the highest level of integrity, and…I will keep your trust, preserve our history and protect our democracy.”
Former Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean in 2018 endorsed Lunn by stating that Lunn “has demonstrated he is a trusted guardian of one of our most important rights as Americans, fair and impartial elections.”
Election Integrity Project California is a 501c3 non-profit, non-partisan, public benefit California corporation dedicated to promoting open and honest elections in the State of California. EIPCa has trained over 10,000 observers.
The organization’s website states that EIPCa is “dedicated to assuring that every legally cast vote is properly counted and reported. The goal of EIPCa is to defend the integrity of the voting process through research, observation and documentation…and enables citizens to become active participants in the entire election process, from overseeing the integrity of the voter rolls, to ensuring that each lawfully cast vote is counted and counted fairly, and that all processes are in compliance with federal, state, and local laws, statues and regulations.”
At issue, in the Election Integrity Project Ventura County lawsuit is the Ventura County Public Observation guidelines versus the California Election Code 15104. Representing Election Integrity Project California was Attorney Robroy Fawcett and representing Ventura County was attorney Matthew Smith.
The Citizens Journal attempted to get comments for this story from Ventura County Registrar Mark Lunn but was told by his secretary that he had no comment and that he had not seen the lawsuit yet.
A phone call to Ventura County Legal counsel Matthew Smith who is not available this week was returned by his litigation supervisor Alberto Boada who said “the Elections Division Office is balancing its operational needs with compliance with the statue over how close observers can get when ballots are being recorded. It is our position that we are fully compliant with the statue that the plaintiff served.”
Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He has worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].
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