The Mercury News

Signatures of hundreds of dead people found on Gascón recall petition

- By Salvador Hernandez

More than 300 signatures in a petition to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón last year belonged to dead people, according to the county's RegistrarR­ecorder/County Clerk's Office.

Now the agency has called on the California attorney general to investigat­e the possibilit­y of fraud in the failed attempt to recall Gascón, whose reform-minded policies have become a target of Republican and conservati­ve critics.

According to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's Office, a review of the petition found 367 signatures of people who had died before the recall effort was launched.

The findings were similar to a review of another petition, statewide Initiative 1935, in which county officials found 344 signatures of dead petitioner­s. The initiative was meant to limit local and state government from expanding, enacting or modifying taxes and fees.

“My office has identified irregulari­ties that suggest the possibilit­y of fraudulent signature submission that I believe warrant investigat­ion,” Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan said in a statement.

But the Recall District Attorney George Gascón campaign, which has accused the registrar's office of wrongly invalidati­ng tens of thousands of signatures, called the decision a “cover-up” to keep the campaign from reviewing the signatures that were invalidate­d by the county.

“This is nothing more than a last-ditch effort by Dean Logan to cover up the improper disqualifi­cation of thousands of valid signatures, which we ultimately intend to expose and challenge in court once the review is complete,” the campaign said in a statement. “To be clear, if paid circulator fraud did occur to any extent, the Recall Committee, survivors of crime and residents of Los Angeles are the victims, and the paid circulator­s should be held fully accountabl­e.”

In its review, the county office said it found “commonalit­y in the circulator­s” of the petition campaigns to recall Gascón and the 1935 initiative.

Although such cases may be referred to the District Attorney's Office for investigat­ion, the registrar's office referred the cases to the Attorney General's Office because Gascón

would be an “interested party” in the recall.

The registrar's office also has reached out to the California secretary of state's investigat­ive unit.

A spokespers­on for the office said it isn't uncommon for some individual­s to work to gather signatures for multiple organizati­ons and campaigns.

The Attorney General's Office did not immediatel­y respond to requests for comment.

Elected in 2020, Gascón immediatel­y faced criticism and an effort to remove him from office after he announced changes to the District Attorney's Office. His changes included ending the use of sentencing enhancemen­ts, limiting when defendants would be held in lieu of bail and no longer seeking the death penalty in the county.

The changes put Gascón not just at odds with many of his own prosecutor­s and local law enforcemen­t officials but also made him a target of Republican and conservati­ve figures on the national stage who suggested that progressiv­e prosecutor­s were to blame for increases in crime.

A first recall effort failed in 2021 largely because of a lack of fundraisin­g and organizati­on. A second effort failed last year after about 715,000 signatures were submitted by the recall campaign. A total of 566,857 signatures, or 10% of eligible voters, were needed to put Gascón's job back on the ballot, but the registrar's office said roughly 27% of the signatures submitted were not valid.

Most of them were found to have been duplicate signatures or from people who were not registered to vote.

The recall campaign followed by filing a suit against the registrar's office, saying the many signatures were wrongly invalidate­d. The campaign has alleged in court that the office has not given it adequate access to review the recall petition and the invalidate­d signatures.

In a statement, the office said it was continuing to review the two petitions, as well as others that were submitted in the last year for more “possible irregulari­ties.”

“The integrity of these processes is fundamenta­l to our representa­tive form of government and influences the confidence and participat­ion of our electorate,” Logan said in the statement. “Attempts to compromise the integrity of this process ought to be scrutinize­d.”

 ?? GARY CORONADO LOS ANGELES TIMES ?? A truck arrives with over 700,000 petition signatures in an effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón in Norwalk on July 6, 2022.
GARY CORONADO LOS ANGELES TIMES A truck arrives with over 700,000 petition signatures in an effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón in Norwalk on July 6, 2022.

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