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1983 Pomona Vote to Be Reviewed

July 18, 1985

A challenge of state laws governing absentee ballots, brought by a man who lost a 1983 Pomona school board election, was approved for review Monday by the state Supreme Court.

Bill Samora, who lost the election by 323 votes to Nancy McCracken, maintains that county election officials were wrong in invalidating 354 absentee ballots because they were delivered to a polling place by a third party. Samora has said that including the ballots in the vote count might have improved his chances of winning the election.

Samora filed suit against McCracken in Los Angeles Superior Court in 1983, but the suit was dismissed, and Samora's contention was rejected by the state Court of Appeal in May.

At issue is a section of the state election code which states that voters must either mail or personally deliver absentee ballots except in emergencies, when they may be delivered by an authorized third party. The law is designed to protect the secrecy of the votes.

Officials' Ruling

While election officials said the delivery of the 354 ballots by a representative of a voter registration group did not involve an emergency, Samora's attorney, John Huerta of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the language of the election code section is vague and that, in any case, the ballots themselves were in order and should have been counted.

Five of the seven Supreme Court justices--Stanley Mosk, Otto Kaus, Cruz Reynoso, Joseph Grodin and Allen Broussard--voted in favor of reviewing the case.

Another review involving East Palo Alto, a community of 18,000 near San Francisco, is also pending before the court. Cityhood was approved by voters there in June 1983 by a scant 15 votes out of 3,500, but cityhood opponents challenged the count, saying that pro-incorporation campaign workers had completed absentee ballots for many voters and delivered them illegally.

The county district attorney's office is investigating the delivery of absentee ballots by a third party in a March primary election in Pomona, but so far has not announced its findings or filed charges in the case.

In all three instances, the questioned absentee ballots were collected in largely minority areas, where voter registration and turnout were said to be chronically low.

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