The families that run the city of Vernon (population: 90-something) were alarmed nearly four years ago when a handful of newcomers moved to town and registered to vote. It was part of a scheme, city leaders claimed, by the political boss of nearby South Gate to misuse the instruments of democracy to take over new territory.
And when it comes to misusing the instruments of democracy, those Vernonites know what they're talking about. They're experts. Mayor Leonis Malburg and his family pulled Vernon's strings from the family estate in Hancock Park for years, apparently unfazed by state laws that require elected officials to live in the cities they serve and voters to live in the cities where they vote. The Malburgs dealt with the voting nuisance in part by canceling 25 years' worth of elections, and when there finally was a vote, and it was challenged in court, City Clerk Bruce Malkenhorst Jr. -- not to be confused with a previous Vernon official, Bruce Malkenhorst Sr. -- grabbed the ballot box and locked it away for the duration.
Early this year an appellate court rejected the city's attempt to cancel the voter registrations of the new residents. And on Friday, Malburg and his wife were convicted of voter fraud and conspiracy. Justice, and the real world, may finally have caught up with Vernon.