Steve Pappas has filed a petition with the California Superior Court to challenge the results of November’s 3rd District Supervisor race.
Pappas, who ran as an independent against democrat Doreen Farr, lost last fall’s runoff election by 805 votes. Although Pappas had strong support in the San Ynez Valley, Farr eked out a victory by garnering almost two-thirds of the student vote.
Now, in a petition filed on Dec. 31, Pappas is arguing that voter registration errors in 18 I.V. and UCSB precincts allowed illegal votes to be counted and tipped the scales for Farr. Overall, Pappas is seeking to discount more than half of 9,700 new voters recorded at registration drives on campus this fall.
According to the suit, if all the contested votes from campus and I.V. are invalidated, Pappas will win the Supervisor seat by 2,250 votes.
Legal documents prepared by Pappas’s attorneys state that the suit “seeks a determination that illegal votes were given to opponent Doreen Farr, which, if eliminated, would result in Pappas winning the election,” according to a press release from Pappas.
The petition claims that Pappas’s legal team found conclusive evidence of numerous inconsistencies within a sample of 600 voter registration cards from the 18 precincts. It further alleges that the Santa Barbara County Registrar committed sufficient errors while conducting and canvassing the election to skew the results in Farr’s favor.
County election officials and Doreen Farr have dismissed the allegations outright.
In an interview with the Daily Sound, Santa Barbara County Registrar of Voters, Joseph Holland, likewise denied any mishandling of registration documents from his office during the election.
“The bottom line is we do everything according to election codes put down by the state,” Holland told the Sound. “While the allegations are serious, and we take them serious, we have not seen one bit of evidence by Mr. Pappas’ campaign that would make us concerned.”
Associated Students External Vice President of Statewide Affairs, Corey Huber, spearheaded the campus registration drive said that he was confident in the validity of on-campus registrations. He said that his office had “crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s” throughout the registration process.
“Looking closely at those specific precincts, you’ll see that we did everything by the books” Huber said. “It was all entirely professional and appropriate.”
Although Huber said that he was not worried about the validity of the election results, he said that A.S. plans to review the registration records again and cross check their data with that sent from campus precincts to the county registrar.
“There may be legitimate concerns, and it’s worth taking another look at,” he said. “But Pappas is saying that he wants to disqualify half of the student population – I think it’s rude, and a little bit ridiculous.”
Farr, who will be sworn in to her position tomorrow at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, said that she too believes the election results were accurate and valid.
“I believe the elections office did their job accurately and correctly,” Farr said. “It is [Pappas’s] prerogative to exercise his rights and challenge the results, and he did. But I think it’s unfounded.”
Farr said that she was confident that the election results reflected student opinion accurately, and questioned Pappas’s decision to contest the precincts where students in particular vote in largest numbers.
“If Mr. Pappas thought there was a problem with voter registration, why is he only contesting votes in Isla Vista and UCSB?” she asked.
Calls made to Pappas were not answered, and his voice mail instructed those with questions concerning the legal suit to contact his lawyers, who were not available at the time.
Despite Pappas’s petition, Farr says she is actively preparing to take the office that she believes she was legitimately elected to serve – she has spent recent weeks moving into her new 3rd District Supervisor office, and has already appointed her staff.