SLO County equal rights voter dispute headed to court

Tommy Gong

By KAREN VELIE

A dispute over equal voting rights has propelled San Luis Obispo County Clerk Recorder Tommy Gong into a legal battle with Supervisor Lynn Compton. On Monday morning, the county officials will appear in court to argue their positions.

Following the June 5 election, Gong discovered hundreds of ballots were either missing a signature or had a signature that did not match the voter signature on file. Gong then sent letters to both groups allowing them to correct the issues. At that time, Gong agreed to provide both groups until June 13 to validate their ballots.

However, on June 12, Gong decided to extend the deadline for those whose signatures did not match while he required voters who forgot to sign their ballots to abide by the June 13 deadline.

Stew Jenkins and Charles Bell, Compton’s attorneys, then asked Gong to abide by the date he previously gave voters with mismatched signatures to correct their ballots. Gong, however, said he had the authority to extend the deadline.

Jenkins and Bell then filed a lawsuit asking the court to order Gong to abide by the June 13 deadline because changing the deadline violated voters’ rights to equal protection under the law, and both the voters and Compton’s rights to due process.

Currently, the California Election Code requires clerk recorders to reject vote-by-mail ballots when the signatures do not match. The code does not provide for voters to correct their non-matching signatures

As a result, thousands of California voters have been disenfranchised.

Supervisor Lynn Compton

In an attempt to remedy the issue, in 2017, the ACLU filed a lawsuit arguing that the practice violates equal protection rights because it allows voters to correct missing signatures eight days after an election, while it does not give those with non-matching signatures the same right.

“Section 3019 violates equal protection because it treats signature-mismatch voters worse than it treats similarly situated voters,” the ACLU lawsuit states. “For one, under Section 3019(f), voters who fail to sign their envelopes altogether have until eight days after the election to cure their failure; if they do so, their votes will count. By failing to provide signature-mismatch voters this same opportunity to cure, Section 3019(c)(2) violates equal-protection guarantees.”

While a judge agreed with the ACLU, the decision has been appealed and placed on hold.

In a recent Tribune editorial, the paper’s editors accuse Compton of attempting to disenfranchise voters.

“Compton’s camp is essentially taking advantage of this window to disenfranchise voters — a case of one side opportunistically following the letter of the law, while trampling on its spirit,” according to the Tribune editorial board.

However, while Jenkins and Bell asked the court to provide voters with missing signatures and those with non-matching signatures an equal amount of time to correct their signatures, they did not ask Gong to automatically reject non-matching signature ballots as the Tribune suggested and as the law allows.

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2 Comments about “SLO County equal rights voter dispute headed to court”

  1. obispan says:

    The Tribune has been reduced to being Adam Hill’s P.R. office. Why would Stew Jenkins, a card-carrying liberal, intervene on Lynn Compton’ behalf? Because Lynn and Stew are both decent people with differing views on some things and Adam Hill is a corrupt reprobate with no principals whatsoever openly taking money for votes. Lynn Compton had to be the one who called B.S. over environmental, public safety, and quality of life issues related to the idiotic Cherry Canyon development while Adam Hill was slopping at the developer’s trough.

    (2) 4 Total Votes – 3 up – 1 down
  2. KevinRice says:

    (1) State law mandates an eight day deadline for voters to cure unsigned ballots. (2) State law mandates mismatched signature ballots must be thrown away without notice or time to cure bad signatures. (3) Equal protection is a Constitutional Right. (4) ACLU argued that mismatched signatures must be given the SAME notice and eight day period to cure as unsigned ballots. (5) Lynn Compton is arguing the ACLU’s position and ENFRACHISING mismatched signature voters—she is asking the Court to apply the SAME eight day deadline to mismatched signatures as the law gives to non-signers. THIS IS WHAT THE ACLU ASKED IN THEIR SUIT. (6) Tommy Gong is DISENFRANCHISING voters who forgot to sign their ballots by giving them a shorter deadline (eight days) than those who did sign but have a mismatched signature. Tommy Gong is violating Equal Protection by arbitrarily and capriciously extending a deadline (beyond eight days) for one group but not the other. (7) Tommy Gong is OPPOSING the ACLU position that all voters be given equal opportunity and, instead, is arbitrarily extending unequal opportunity to one class of voters. (8) The ACLU should prevail. The state statue is unconstitutional. Tommy Gong and Lynn Compton are both correct that mismatched signatures should have an opportunity to cure ballots, however, Lynn argues for an equal deadline, while Tommy is arbitrarily extending an unequal deadline. (9) The Stoopid Tribune is ill-informed on the facts and should correct their mis-reporting. (10) Tommy Gong should follow the law.

    (13) 15 Total Votes – 14 up – 1 down

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