Maruca presses for voter-fraud committee

July 10, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The formation of a committee to find ways to stop fraudulent voting was discussed by the county Board of Supervisors committee of the whole Monday.

The issue was brought up by District 3 Supervisor Joe Maruca because of what he said appears to be an excessive number of registered voters at the same address and alleged voter registration and absentee ballot irregularities during the last election.

"I think we need closer scrutiny of this issue," Maruca said Monday, adding he would like to see all new voter registrations reviewed for accuracy.

Maruca suggested some type of committee be formed to ensure honest and fair elections are held in the county. He suggested the district attorney be head of the committee and that it include other county officials from the elections department and executive office.


District Attorney Gilbert G. Otero suggested the county take a two-prong approach to the matter by setting up a watchdog unit and an investigative unit. He said local law enforcement agencies are prepared to respond to the issue and that officials from the state secretary of state's office have offered to train local law enforcement on how to identify voter fraud.

Otero also suggested setting up a telephone hot line for people to report potentially fraudulent instances and a process of educating the public on proper voting techniques including the use of absentee ballots.

"We feel in this last election there were some violations of state law," Otero said. "We're willing to help you out to make it a fair election."

Otero also said when people see the voter fraud is taken seriously and being investigated they will realize the matter is taken seriously. He said investigations will act as a deterrent.

Last week Otero said the state is still investigating alleged voter irregularities associated with the District 3 supervisorial race, which pitted Maruca against El Centro City Councilman David Dhillon.

Supervisor Gary Wyatt suggested that whatever committee is formed should be similar to what other counties have set up.

Supervisor Wally Leimgruber said those intent on breaking the law will continue to do so, but that there are those who likely do not realize they are doing so.

Dolores Provencio, county elections official, told the committee she is in contact with Orange County officials to discuss actions taken there after a disputed election outcome several years ago.

Provencio presented the committee with a status report on purging voters from the county rolls. The report says that on election day, Nov. 7, 2000, there were 50,030 eligible voters, and as of June 18, there were 44,611 active, registered voters.

Provencio's report says voters are purged from the rolls because of death, change of residential address, felony conviction, certain court actions, notification of noncitizenship and removal for not voting in two federal elections, among other reasons.

In the end, county staff was directed to discuss the issue further with the district attorney and elections personnel and bring the issue to the county Board of Supervisors for formal action on possibly establishing a voter fraud committee.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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