Recall Petition Forms Deemed OK, Yet Sketchy Signatures Abound: See For Yourself

You’d think that after repeated errors, after twice being notified by the Shasta County Clerk’s office about application mistakes, the recall proponents committed to unseating three Shasta County Supervisors in a recall would be especially mindful of following the Elections Code letter of the law.

You’d think after all the missteps and goof-ups they’d pay extra special attention to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, carefully obeying every rule to ensure their recall paperwork was above reproach and passed muster. You’d think with all the money-mooching that Red White and Blueprint does in its shameless frequent email pitches, the recall proponents would have enough cash to hire a proper attorney to prevent them from screwing up. Again.

Think again. Either the recall proponents have difficulty following directions, or they don’t take the rules seriously, or a combination of both.

Even so, as was reported Tuesday on A News Cafe, at last, the corrected recall petitions were approved by Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling-Allen. Her acceptance gave recall proponents the green light to advance with the recall process and proceed to the next level. They now have 120 days to gather collectively more than 13,000 valid signatures from three Shasta County Districts and file them with the County Clerk’s office: 4,392 from Supervisor Joe Chimenti’s District 1, 4,308 from Supervisor Leonard Moty’s District 2, and 4,432 from Mary Rickert’s District 3.

First the proponents messed up on the initial attempt to correctly publish notices of intention, and were required to start again. Finally, on May 19, Darling-Allen issued a press release that said her office determined that although the recall proponents “complied or substantially complied with the Elections Code requirements” – there were some “deficiencies” found on the draft petitions. With that discovery, the County Clerk’s office allowed the recall proponents until May 28 to complete the requested changes and submit the new copies.

The proponents made their deadline, which triggered Darling-Allen’s June 1 press release in which she said the corrected petition formats filed on May 25 met Elections Code requirements.

Even at that, note that Darling-Allen’s recent approval focused on the corrected petition formats’ “form and word”.

After a cursory look at copies of the three sets of petition formats and signature pages, A News Cafe found multiple possible signature-line violations. The obvious issues pertained to the Elections Code rule that mandates that every registered voter/petition signer – with their own hand – must print their name and address, and then provide their signature, again, in their own hand. Exceptions may be made in the event of physical disabilities, such as if a person is unable to maneuver a pen to sign a petition, and needs assistance. But those rare exceptions aside, the idea is that it’s one person, one line of information; not one person filling out the lines for themselves and a slew of others, like filling out raffle tickets for a kindergarten cake walk.

Here’s the California code that addresses the petition form, and voters who sign it:

Some of the most questionable signature lines appear to contain information on multiple lines written by one person, clearly breaking the Elections Code rule that requires each individual petitioner sign all the information with his or her own hand. In a few instances, it appears that the signers may have attempted to circumvent this rule and deceive an observer by having one person’s name in upper case, while another person’s information, for example, is written in lower case. This is the situation in lines 9 and 10 on Supervisor Chimenti’s petition. The upper-lower case anomaly appears on other petitions; almost as if some of the signers were coached that switching from upper to lower case printing was one way to avoid detection. Even so – upper or lower case writing aside, there are instances where it’s obvious that one person wrote both versions.

Dubious signatures were present on Moty’s petition, too. Note, for example, the similarities in lines 3 and 23 with the names Kathryn J. Stainbrook and Marty Stainbrook. Note how although Kathryn J. Stainbrook’s name is lower case, and Marty G. Stainbrook’s name is upper case, the handwriting that penned 4660 Oak Glen on both lines appears nearly identical. Likewise, notice lines 7, 8 and 9 on Moty’s recall petition, and the matching trio of Stokes names, and how the printed names and addresses are nearly carbon copies of one another, suggesting that one person wrote the names and addresses for all three Stokes. Finally, lines 15 and 16 on Moty’s petition features the Wilsons and matching handwriting, leading to the impression that one person wrote on both lines. This is a violation of the Elections Code rules.

Finally, some of the most egregious examples were found on Supervisor Rickert’s petition on lines 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, and lines 30 and 31.

According to a sworn statement by recall organizer Elissa McEuen, copies of notice-of-intent to recall petitions were posted May 1 for at least 10 days at the following “public” locations within each of the districts targeted for recall.

A News Cafe was able to secure copies of those original petitions, and we’ve posted them here them here for your review.

District 1, Supervisor Joe Chimenti

Dill’s Deli, 5132 Caterpillar Way, Redding
Rise Custom Apparel, 1623 Beltline Rd., Redding
The Soundhouse, 1414 Tehama St., Redding

District 2, Leonard Moty

Jones Fort, 1600 E. Cypress Ave., Redding
Happy Valley Market, 6644 Happy Valley Rd., Anderson
Igo Store, 6490 Placer Rd., Igo

District 3, Mary Rickert

True Value Hardware, 9372 Deschutes Rd., Palo Cedro
Premier Oil Change/Palo Cedro, 9402 Deschutes Rd., Palo Cedro
Palo Cedro Feed, 22020 Old 44 Dr., Palo Cedro

After poring over the signature lines and finding so many that looked like they were written by one person, I reached out to Darling-Allen with a number of questions regarding petitions that exhibit possible Elections Code violations.

Here’s her response:

“If a particular signature is determined by my office to be invalid, then it is removed from consideration.  We then look to see if there are a sufficient number of valid signatures to support the proposed action.  The invalidity of one or several invalid signatures does not serve to invalidate all of them.

Should there be evidence of fraud, any interested party may make a referral to the District Attorney including, but not limited to, my Office. I am not at liberty to discuss any such referrals that may or may not have been made.”

In short, of the 32 lines open for 32 different petitioners to write in their own hands, as per Elections Code, only 20 valid signatures are required for each district. So even if the petitions contain violations, the presence of the violations doesn’t void the entire petition.

Darling-Allen cited a passage from the California Constitution: “Sufficiency of reason is not reviewable” – as well as a portion of the California Elections Code: “No insufficiency in form or substance thereof shall affect the validity of the election proceedings.”

In other words, the petitions can cite all manner of bizarre assertions, none of which are required to be based in facts or reality. Here are screen shots of the recall proponents’ ostensible reasons for wanting to recall supervisors Chimenti, Moty and Rickert:

Last week A News Cafe sought answers from Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett regarding possible investigations related to the local recall efforts.

Bridgett said she was not releasing any information, and therefore couldn’t answer my questions.

In a follow-up email to Darling-Allen I asked about possible consequences should the District Attorney discover fraud on the petitions. Although Darling-Allen said she was unable to answer my questions with regard to the District Attorney, Darling-Allen’s subsequent email left plenty of room for speculation.

“As you know, I am not a lawyer, and so I can’t interpret criminal statutes (like fraud),” she wrote. “I do not know what the DA does in the course of her job, and I can’t predict what she or her office will do in any situation.”

Meanwhile, as we wait for answers, we wonder.

Surely Recall Shasta Chair McEuen was aware of the Elections Code rule that requires individuals write information in their own hand. If so, it’s perplexing why she and her fellow recall proponents would risk having to begin again, all for breaking such a simple rule, one so seemingly easy to follow.

Thus far, the recall proponents have demonstrated an inability to follow the most basic rules for a mere 96 combined signature lines on three recall petitions.

Just imagine what a mess they’ll make of 13,000 signatures.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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