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Garcia challenging election process over certain irregularities

March 16, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ

Staff Writer

The recently completed March 5 election process is being challenged for how it was conducted, not its outcome.

Ruben A. Garcia Jr., who lost a close election for the Division 3 seat on the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, said he is not seeking a recount. Rather, he said, he is calling for an outside investigation of the process because of certain irregularities.

For example, he said, there were 547 ballots that were not counted. Of those, he said, the late ballots should be counted.

"To not count them takes away peoples' right to vote," he said, adding he was told his name did not appear on all of the ballots.

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Garcia said he wants the process thoroughly investigated, not for himself but for future candidates. He also said he's contacted District Attorney Gilbert G. Otero about the issue.

Otero said he will interview certain individuals about the election and then go from there.

Meanwhile, Dolores Provencio, county elections official, agreed there were 547 ballots that could not be counted. Besides being turned in after the polls had closed, there were other problems.

She said there were 57 ballots not signed, 19 without an address, 74 with a signature that did not match the registration card, 95 with the wrong address, 121 that arrived after the polls had closed and 181 ballots of people not on precincts rosters who were allowed to vote but were not entitled to vote.

All of those ballots, plus other provisional ballots that were valid, had to be verified by hand before the final results could be posted.

"The reason it took so long is because we were doing that," Provencio said, adding the canvassing board is satisfied the final count is accurate.

Provencio said the Elections Department will still count all of the ballots in 1 percent of the precincts, 14, to again confirm the accuracy of the mechanical count. She said she invited Garcia to witness the recount so he can see how the process is carried out.

Additionally, Provencio challenged anyone to work at a polling place and witness the counting procedure to convince themselves the process is complicated but fair.

On the issue of Garcia's name not being on all ballots, Provencio said to her knowledge Garcia's name was on all ballots on which it was required

Only those voters in those precincts within the irrigated area serviced by IID are allowed to vote for IID directors. Outlying areas such as Winterhaven, Ocotillo and some areas along the Salton Sea are not included.

Should Garcia seek a recount — something anyone can request — Provencio said he must pay the actual cost of the recount. A $200 payment must be made up front along with daily payments.

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

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