SAN GABRIEL — With a ballot recount scheduled for Friday, the city could end the dispute over the final tally in last month's recall election of former Vice Mayor Frank Blaszcak--but don't count on it.
After receiving a formal request for a recount from supporters of Blaszcak, who was edged out of his City Council seat in a special election, the city has hired eight election inspectors to hand-count the more than 3,700 votes cast in the election.
Deputy Clerk Cindy Bookter said she expected the tally to be completed in one day.
Blaszcak was recalled by a nine-vote margin in the May 23 election, and critics and opponents of the controversial official have been squabbling ever since about the way the election was conducted.
Ballots and Recall Petitions
In the fractious tone that has become characteristic of politics in this city, Bookter and the Friends of Frank Blaszcak committee have also argued about how much election-related material has to be included in the recount process.
Blaszcak's supporters, who must bear the $1,000 cost of the recount--unless it reverses the results--have requested that disqualified and absentee ballots be examined to determine whether all the votes that were counted in the election were proper. They have also asked to examine, among other things, the recall petitions that were circulated before the election.
"I don't want to muddy the waters of the recount with things that are not relevant," said Bookter, who was the official in charge of the tally on Election Day.
She said that the petitions were protected by law from public perusal.
Blaszcak supporters said they are prepared to go to court to ask to be allowed to examine documents and ballots.
The controversial former vice mayor, who was accused by his critics of misusing his office and of irresponsibly spending city funds, has called for an investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney, the secretary of state and the state attorney general.
He and his supporters claimed that there were widespread irregularities on Election Day, including electioneering at the polls and possible tampering with ballots.
"I actually believe we're going to get the election overturned," said Gary Meredith, a spokesman for the Blaszcak supporters. There are few precedents in the state for overturning elections, however.
Recall proponents have charged that at least one Blaszcak supporter had sought to intimidate voters, ordering them to remove pro-recall signs from their lawns and threatening them with lawsuits if they voted against Blaszcak.