Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle is expected to deliver a final ruling Wednesday on the legality of the signatures gathered for the recall effort against 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall.
The recall campaign gathered approximately 13,000 signatures last March in order to petition for a recall election against Marshall. Shortly thereafter, the No On Recall Committee filed a suit that claimed a majority of the signatures were collected by voters who registered to vote in the county without the intent to remain as residents. According to California election law, petitioners must be registered voters in a county to circulate a petition there.
“At the very least, I hope we’ve exposed how pervasive and problematic the signature activity was,” No On Recall Committee Chair Das Williams said.
The recall committee maintains that the signatures were gathered lawfully because the petitioners registered in the county and whether they remained is irrelevant.
“I don’t know where [the petitioners] are; we fulfilled our obligation with them … they have filled their obligation with us. Whether or not they are still here in 3rd District, I don’t know that,” Recall Committee Chair Lammy Johnstone-Kockler said. “There is nothing on the voter registration form that says you have to have an intent to remain. It doesn’t matter.”
If Anderle decides the signatures in question are acceptable, the recall election will be held in November. Otherwise, Anderle will have to decide which signatures are invalid and then those that are valid will be counted again to determine if they number at least 8,819, the number needed to hold a recall election.
The No On Recall Committee said it plans to present evidence to the court that shows at least 12 of the signature-gatherers returned to their previous place of residence immediately after they finished collecting signatures.
“We have one petitioner, Michael Rhodes, that freely admitted he was a professional petition-gatherer,” Williams said. “We have a solid case.”
Johnstone -Kockler said the law’s clause about the “intent to remain” is ambiguous and pointed to university students as an example of voters who might also qualify as transient.
“You reregister back at your home. Then when you come back here in August or September you register again. But where do you have an intent to remain? Most students leave. It is a very interesting situation,” she said.
Although many of Marshall’s opponents have argued that students should not vote because they are “transient residents,” Johnstone-Kockler said the signatures collected at UCSB are valid and should be counted.
“The First Amendment rights of those who signed the petition – their signatures should not be dismissed,” she said. “Everybody who signed the petition – their signatures should be counted without question.”
Williams said the UCSB signatures are only being appreciated right now because the signatures are in their favor.
“Lammy [Johnstone-Kockler] and her cohorts have tried to undermine students and disenfranchise them before,” he said. “They misrepresented the issues to the students. People were being tricked into signing petitions.”