Oxnard special recall election preparations proceeding at full steam

Spotlight is on Oxnard City Clerk Michelle Ascencion, managing May 1 special recall election

By George Miller

8 candidates applied, only one approved so far; lots of work to do

Recall elections don’t happen very often. Recall elections fully managed by the City of Oxnard have happened, well, never before, per City Clerk Michelle Ascencion. A heavy load is falling upon her and her staff, due to special circumstances.

Multiple Alleged instances of city mismanagement and the last straw of alleged excessive utility rate increases prompted resident and business executive Aaron Starr to initiate a Council recall of four members. After some delays, his team quickly amassed the necessary petition signatures and county certifications followed a little more slowly since the City insisted on a 100% signature verification*. The Council recently set May 1 as the special election date, with a deadline of February 15 for candidate applications to run against recall targets Mayor Tim Flynn, Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez, Councilmen Oscar Madrigal and Bert Perello.

The City employed multiple what opponents are calling delaying tactics, moving the special election so close to the primary election date that the county claims they cannot support the election with the needed equipment and services. Therefore, the City is now forced to procure election support from an outside company, at a cost that will be considerably higher than the $220,000 ballpark estimate the county had provided.

Today, City Clerk Michelle Ascension told us that:

  • So far, 8 candidates have “pulle papers”to run, that they must fill out all paperwork and provide 20 signatures by 2-15-18. Then the county must verify the signatures, which usually takes a  couple of working days. Only one candidate- Lawrence Paul Stein for Mayor- has been qulified, as of this morning.
  • One sole source vendor has been selected to provide a bid for election services, which would include all equipment, manpower, logistics, counting and tallying. At this point, only a general scope of services has been defined. Ascension hopes to have a contract ready for approval in time for the February 13 (correction- previously reported as Feb. 6) City Council meeting.
  • Election data would also be provided to the county elections division- Mark Lunn.
  • Vote by mail ballots will be made available in the usual fashion.
  • The City (City Clerk) will be responsible for managing the election, not the county. It will be responsible for accuracy of the results.
  • When we asked whether the city had adequate manpower to do all this and what does the contractor vs. city do, Ascension said that the City will have to engage additional manpower, both paid and volunteers.

Ascension had previously mentioned at a city council meeting that there will only be about 20 polling places, in contrast with the usual 60 or so.. This is to help control costs. 

Response from Ms. Ascencion:  You state that the City insisted on a 100% signature verification as a delay tactic. The decision for a full count was actually my call, as City Clerk, a decision made independent of any “City” input, but selected not as a delay tactic, but because 1) the recall affects four-fifths of the City Council, which has the potential to have a drastic impact on the future of this city, therefore I felt it was important to be absolutely certain; and 2) the “random sampling” method involves depending on “high statistical confidence” that the small sample is representative of the whole. While statistics are all well and good, I don’t know any statistic that is better than 100% certainty, and given that this city has a history of close election races being decided by the narrowest of margins, I did not want to leave anything to chance or have anyone have any question in their mind.

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George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.

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