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Watson Sues, Says Race Was Sabotaged : Election: Although Burke is named in the complaint, the senator does not hold the new supervisor responsible for the alleged irregularities.

December 25, 1992|SOMINI SENGUPTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sen. Diane Watson, who narrowly lost the county supervisor's race in the 2nd District last month, Thursday sued her opponent in Los Angeles Superior Court, accusing Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke of fraud in the Nov. 3 election.

Watson said her investigators have uncovered names of dead people and a dog registered to vote by absentee ballots, found unlocked ballot boxes in at least one polling place and heard from citizens who were not allowed to vote when they went to their polling place.

"The election for the 2nd District was sabotaged," she alleged, speaking from the steps of the County Hall of Administration after filing the suit.

State Sen. Watson (D-Los Angeles) said her campaign volunteers would inspect absentee ballots next week to determine if any were cast for the registered voters who were, in fact, dead.

Later , Burke, who was sworn into office Dec. 7, accused Watson of being a sore loser.

"I understand it's difficult to lose an election . . . particularly to lose a close election," she said. "What she has done here (in the complaint) does not sound very substantial."

Burke, who won by less than 1% of the vote to become the first African-American elected to the county Board of Supervisors, said she would file an appropriate legal response after consulting with her attorneys.

Burke also noted that the complaint does not allege wrongdoings by her or her campaign staff.

Watson similarly emphasized that, although Burke is the named defendant in the complaint, she does not hold the new supervisor responsible for the alleged irregularities.

"I'm not pointing fingers at anyone," Watson said. "We are going to leave it to the legal process to find out who did it. We have found what was done."

She said she has already requested a Grand Jury investigation and discussed the matter with the district attorney's office.

County prosecutors began an inquiry into the 2nd District balloting immediately after the elections. Gail Ehrlich, deputy district attorney in the special investigations division, said she could not comment on the status of the investigation.

At Watson's request, the county registrar-recorder's office held a partial recount of the ballots earlier this month.

In the complaint filed Thursday--the last day the election could be challenged in court--Watson also charged:

* Precinct workers did not adequately maintain voting equipment and supplies.

* Ballots were torn, bent or otherwise damaged in at least one polling place.

* Watson's name was not on ballots in at least one polling place.

* Voters in one South Los Angeles housing project were told--it was not alleged by whom--that there was no need to vote because Watson had already won.

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