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O.C. considers trying to counter Nguyen mailer

October 22, 2006|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

The Orange County Board of Supervisors will determine Tuesday whether county officials should send letters to 14,000 voters in response to a racially charged mailer distributed by congressional candidate Tan Nguyen, authorities said.

County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley had planned to appear Thursday with Secretary of State Bruce McPherson to announce that the letters would be sent to correct misstatements in Nguyen's mailer. However, Kelley pulled out of the news conference after several supervisors argued that his office should not get involved, Supervisor Bill Campbell said Saturday.

"The board was in favor that the registrar of voters did not have an obligation and should not get into correcting political mail," Campbell said. "People make extravagant claims, and the role of the registrar is not of enforcement. The secretary of state has the enforcement role; our role is to run elections as even-handed as possible and to count them as accurately as possible."

Supervisor Lou Correa disagreed and requested that the board take another look at the issue Tuesday.

"This letter has been very deadly effective in doing its intended purpose, which is to make people very nervous about voting," he said. "It is outrageous; it is a crime of major proportion."

The controversy erupted last week after a staff member of Nguyen, a Republican and Vietnamese immigrant who is seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez in the 47th District, sent out mailers to about 14,000 registered voters in central Orange County warning "immigrants" that they could be jailed or deported if they tried to vote.

The letter's assertion that immigrants can't vote is untrue, because immigrants who become naturalized citizens can register to vote.

Nguyen's mailer prompted a state investigation that, sources say, has determined that a Los Angeles police officer, who is a friend of the campaign's office manager, put $4,000 on a personal credit card and used an alias to pay for the mailers.

Nguyen's home and campaign office were raided Friday by state agents.

McPherson said his office would send out its own letters this week to the 14,000 voters informing them of the law.

mai.tran@latimes.com

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