A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Thursday breathed new life into the election hopes of Los Angeles City Council candidate Bennett Kayser, tentatively ruling that the city clerk should accept 30 of 99 signatures Kayser needs to get his name on the 13th District ballot.
Judge Kurt J. Lewin also instructed attorneys for the city and for Kayser to determine by Monday whether they can agree on the validity of 69 additional signatures. The city clerk ruled last month that Kayser fell 99 signatures short of qualifying, but Kayser maintains that as many as 103 signatures were erroneously rejected.
The two sides are scheduled to appear in court again Monday morning when Lewin is expected to make a final ruling in the dispute. In the meantime, the city has canceled plans to assemble 13th District ballots over the weekend and has juggled printing schedules of the so-called sample ballot, mailed to voters about a month before the election.
"It will definitely cause delays in mailing the sample ballots within the 13th District," said Joseph R. Giles of the clerk's election division. "And it is probably going to make the election more expensive."
In a written declaration filed with the judge, Bernard J. Barrett, who heads the election division, said it would cost $1,000 to reprint ballot pages for the 13th District, and $8,100 to add Kayser's name to the sample ballot. The 13th District includes Hollywood, Los Feliz and parts of Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Silver Lake and Echo Park.
Kayser, former president of the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns., failed to qualify for the April 11 ballot after the clerk ruled that 197 of the 598 signatures he collected were invalid. A candidate needs 500 valid signatures to qualify. Four candidates did qualify: incumbent Mike Woo; Berndt Lohr-Schmidt, an attorney; Venus De Milo, a computer consultant, and Zahrina Machadah, a business consultant.
Thirty of the 197 invalid signatures were rejected because they appeared on petitions that were improperly signed by Virginia Charon, the woman who circulated them. Under law, the circulator must sign the face of the petition in two places. Charon signed it once.
Barry A. Fisher, Kayser's attorney, and Assistant City Atty. Anthony Saul Alperin said that Lewin tentatively ruled during a closed-door discussion that the 30 signatures should be counted.
Fisher said Lewin determined that Charon's signature amounted to "substantial compliance" with the Election Code.
Kayser, who lives in Echo Park, said he is confident he has at least 69 additional signatures that were incorrectly rejected by the clerk. But Giles said he will not budge on at least 20 of the signatures without a court order.