The special election on the recall of Santa Ana Councilmember Jessie Lopez is still on after an OC Superior Court judge denied on Tuesday a request for a temporary restraining order to stop voting.
The court filing seeking the injunction to stop the election was filed Friday, Nov. 3, on behalf of a Santa Ana resident after questions arose over which ward map should have been used in gathering signatures to force the recall vote. OC Superior Court Judge Craig L. Griffin said in Tuesday’s hearing that he needs more time to research the issue, and would come back to the matter after the election on Jan. 12.
Lopez was elected to the Ward 3 seat in 2020. The boundaries of that district were changed in 2022 based on the latest U.S. Census, and that map of the ward was used in calculating how many signatures needed to be collected to force the special election and what voters would receive ballots. OC Registrar of Voters Bob Page contacted city officials on Oct. 26 about whether the 2020 map of the ward should be been used.
“I don’t think that I was surprised by the judge’s unwillingness to take a stand here, but I also understand that he needs time to review all of the materials that were presented to him. And I think that’s fair,” Lopez said. “We just have major concerns about the voters that are being disenfranchised in our city who are Latino, who are renters, who are mobile home residents.”
Lawyers representing Guadalupe Ocampo argued in their filing that the recall effort should be considered invalid because if the 2020 map is applied its supporters failed to collect enough valid signatures. Also, because of the changes in the boundaries, more than 350 voters received ballots who shouldn’t have, their filing argues, and more than 1,100 people who should be able to vote in the election didn’t get a ballot, including Ocampo.
Tim Rush, chair of the group supporting the recall effort, said its proponents were somewhat confident the judge would not stop the recall especially with it being so far along. Ballots when out last month and voting is underway in the Nov. 14 special election. Rush also also said the group followed the instructions they were given when gathering signatures.
“I’m not exactly certain what this means that he’s going to rule on it in January,” Rush said. “Jessie, assuming we had enough votes to recall her, would be out of office before the judge rules in January. So what if he rules and says, ‘Well, the clerk should have used the old boundaries?’ I don’t know what that does. It would seem to me, and common sense would say, that the judge wouldn’t want to create that kind of chaos by allowing the vote to go forward now and then overturn the results of it in January, but who knows?”
The City Council deadlocked last week on whether voting should be canceled based on the questions raised. Without new guidance from the city, Page has said his office would continue to administer the recall election.
Lopez said she and her team will focus on reaching out to voters. “We’re seven days away and we want to, like everybody else, we want to make sure that we do everything that we can to defeat this illegitimate effort.”
Voting centers are open now until Nov. 14; which is also the date mailed in ballots need to be postmarked. More information on the recall election can be found at santa-ana.org/elections.
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