Marvin Dean, who helped organize signature gathering to force a special election for the Ward 1 Bakersfield City Council seat, is challenging the Kern County elections office for disqualifying 1,145 signatures over a technicality.
Ward 1 residents and other volunteers gathered signatures from Ward 1 voters over the holidays and submitted about 2,120 of them to the city. They needed 1,220 valid signatures to force the city to hold a special election this June to replace former Councilman Rudy Salas, elected to the state Assembly in November. But the county elections office, whose job it was to verify the signatures, disqualified 1,145 of them because someone other than the voter filled in voters' addresses. That left the petition gatherers short.
The California elections code says voters who sign a petition have to fill in their own addresses. But a subsection, which Dean cited in a letter to county elections chief Karen Rhea, says signers can ask another person to fill in their address if they're unable to, as long as they sign their own signature "which shall be witnessed by one person by subscribing his or her name thereon."
It wasn't clear Wednesday afternoon what effect, if any, Dean's challenge would have. Rhea wasn't immediately available for comment.
A letter from Rhea to Bakersfield City Clerk Roberta Gafford said the disqualified signatures, aside from the technicality, were valid signatures and had valid addresses.
Dean asked the county elections office to consider that "many older (Ward 1) residents don't write well and some can't write at all."
But Dean's point could be moot by Wednesday night, when the council will take up the issue of how to fill the Ward 1 seat. A special election would cost about $100,000, no small change for the city, but several Ward 1 residents and others have said the cost isn't as important as preserving voters' right to choose their representative onthe council.
Salas left halfway through his two-year term on the council.