By Lenny Roberts
It may or may not be over for Ojai attorney Leonard Klaif, whose 10-vote lead over incumbent Ojai City Council member Carol Smith was erased on Friday after all the provisional votes were counted. Provisional votes are hand-counted after absentee ballots are tabulated.
Klaif said Tuesday he wants the county to decertify the results of the 11th-hour comeback by Smith that resulted in his apparent defeat, and demanded a recount at the county’s expense.
“How can they certify something that they don’t know is accurate?” he asked.
Frustrated by not getting telephone responses to his concerns, Klaif sent an e-mail to county and city officials Tuesday afternoon, (see below) which stated, in part, “(1) how did I lose 20 plus votes, and (2) how did Ms. Smith gain 49 votes in one day?
“The residents of Ojai have the right to know that the election results accurately reflect the actual vote. No reasonable person can stand behind the results at this time.”
Mark Lunn, Ventura County clerk and recorder, did not return a phone call placed by the OVN Tuesday, but in a published report Monday, acknowledged that Klaif was questioning the validity of the final count.
According to the State of California, if a voter’s name does not appear on the election roster at his or her polling place location, the person will be required to show proof of current residence in order to receive a provisional ballot. Ballots for such voters are placed in provisional ballot envelopes and researched by election officials. A provisional ballot is not counted unless the elections official establishes from the records in their office the claimants’ right to vote prior to the completion of the official canvass, or by order of the Superior Court in the county of the voter’s residence.
According to numbers posted online Friday by the Ventura County Elections Division, Smith, Ojai’s mayor pro tem, finished behind Paul Blatz and Carlon Strobel, 52 votes ahead of Klaif. The top three vote-getters will be seated alongside Sue Horgan and Betsy Clapp when the Ojai City Council reconvenes Dec. 14. Blatz won a special election in June, defeating Klaif for the position vacated by longtime Councilman Joe Devito. Strobel, former Ojai city clerk, replaces another longtime council member, Steve Olsen, Ojai’s current mayor, who decided not to run in the Nov. 4 election. By law, the county must certify election results with the state by Nov. 30.
Following are the number of votes and the percentage of the total votes for each candidate: Paul Blatz, 1,675, 25.09 percent; Demitri Corbin, 672, 10.07 percent; Leonard Klaif, 1,122, 16.81 percent; Dennis Leary, 557, 8.34 percent; Carol Smith, 1,174, 17.59 percent; Carlon Strobel, 1,445,21.64 percent; write-in votes, 31, 0.46 percent.
Klaif’s Tuesday e-mail to
county and city officials:
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 2:38 PM
Subject: election 11/2 Ojai City Council
Dear various County of Ventura and City of Ojai officials:
As I assume you all are aware, I am/was a candidate for the Ojai City Council in the November 2, 2010 election.
At this time I know the following:
a) following the posting of the vote on Wednesday, November 17, I was trailing Carol Smith by three votes for third place;
b) the vote totals posted on Friday, November 19, had me trailing Ms. Smith by 52 votes, a swing of 49 votes;
c) That I had 20 something fewer votes on Friday than I had on Wednesday;
d) That prior to last Wednesday to Friday, the usual post election day swing between Ms. Smith and myself was in single digits, with the greatest swing being, I beleive 14 votes.
e) That the election was certified on Friday, November 19th and that notwithstanding the obvious problem outlined above, the results remanded certified.
This presents two rather obvious questions: (1) how did I lose 20 plus votes, and (2) how did Ms. Smith gain 49 votes in one day.
Yesterday, I spoke with a gentleman named Martin in the County elections office. He advised that the election officials were aware that there was something askew and were in a meeting trying to figure out what happened that would explain the numerical questions raised above. He promised that someone would call me back when they had figured this out. When I had not received a call back by mid-morning today, I again called and left a message on Martin’s answering machine. At this time, almost 2:30 on the afternoon of November 23, I still have not received a return call.
Based on the foregoing, I hearby demand that the vote for the Ojai City Council be de-certified. How can you certify a vote when you know it is not accurate, when you know that something is askew and you apparently do not have a clue what when wrong?
The question of certification is critical because it triggers the time frame I (and others) have to ask for a re-count. At this time, I do not know what the vote count really is–how can I decide whether to ask for a re-count? How can I decide, under the circumstances outlined above, whether I want a recount of all the votes, just provisional votes, etc?
I am also asking, in addition for the decertification for the County to pay for a recount. You all obviously made an error, but at this time, three or four days after the error was made, have no idea of the nature of the error. Why should I, or my supporters, have to pay for a re-count when it appears that you have not done your job correctly in the initial count.
Finally, I direct the following to members of the Ojai City Council and Ojai officials: I am advised that there will be a special City Council meeting on November 30th. I am asking that the election be added to the agenda. At some point the City Council will be asked to certify or ratify or approve the election results. How can you do so if County officials are unable to explain such obvious and/or unexplained inaccuracies? I ask that absent a solid explanation from County officials that the City demand that the County conduct a recount at County expense, or in the alternative that the City of Ojai pay for a recount.
The residents of Ojai have the right to know that the election results accurately reflect the actual vote. No reasonable person can stand behind the results at this time.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Leonard Jay Klaif