Some voters have expressed uncertainty about what they can and cannot do when they step into the voting booth today in a special recall election for three board members of the Laguna Beach Unified School District.
"There is a lot of confusion," said Laguna Beach City Clerk Verna Rollinger, who has received telephone calls throughout the campaign from voters asking for clarification on voting instructions.
The misunderstanding surrounds the voter's option to vote 'Yes' or 'No' to recall an incumbent, then choose a successor to the seat.
According to Jeannette Shelton, elections supervisor with the Orange County Registrar of Voters, the following rules apply:
- Voters may first choose to vote "Yes" or "No" to recall each of the three incumbents.
- However they vote on the recall, voters may then choose to vote for a successor to that seat. Each incumbent faces two challengers. In each case, the top vote-getter of the two challengers would take office only if the recall of an incumbent is successful.
- If voters choose a successor, but do not cast a "Yes" or "No" vote to recall an incumbent, their vote for the successor will not count.
"A lot of times people don't read the instructions on the ballot, and it is a little confusing," Shelton said.
Many voters were under the impression that if they voted "No" in the recall, they could not choose a successor. The Times contributed to that misunderstanding by erroneously reporting that voters can vote for a successor only if they vote "Yes" on the recall.
That's not the way the election was set up, Shelton said, because voters "need to have the opportunity to vote for a successor, so they can have their say in case the recall is successful."
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
A group of residents called Citizens Unified for Responsible Education (CURE) started the recall last October, after the school board voted, 4-1, to allow Cedrick W. Hardman, former Laguna Beach High School football coach, to continue as a volunteer coach, despite his arrest on felony charges of possession of cocaine and resisting arrest.
In May, CURE submitted to the registrar the necessary signatures of registered voters for the recall election of school board President Charlene Ragatz and Trustees Carl Schwarz and Janet S. Vickers, who voted with the majority in the Hardman decision.
Challenging Ragatz are Kathleen Jones, assistant vice chancellor of communications at UC Irvine, and James C. Kreder, who owns Synergistic Planning Corp. in Laguna Beach. Clayton J. Vernon, whose name appears on the ballot, has dropped out of the race.
Vying for Schwarz's seat are Thomas R. Davis, owner of Laguna Print and Philip J. Kams, who owns West Coast Sales and Service.
Vickers' challengers are John E. Bachman, a Santa Ana schoolteacher, and Dr. Harvey Triebwasser, a pediatrician.
The registrar's office anticipates that 22% of the school district's 16,721 registered voters will cast ballots.