If anyone ever was a target for recall it was Los Angeles CountyDA George Gascon. Gascon has unapologetically applied terrible policies that “criminals first”, resulting in the death and destruction of Los Angeles. He has also called crime victim parents “not very smart” and is a hero for hardened criminals.
After San Franciscans recalled Chesa Boudin from the ballot, and then elected him as the winner in an historic election in June, Angelenos knew that Gascon was over. Recall organizers were touting the progress of signature gathering and telling donors, “As long as we have the money, this will qualify for the ballot.” And donors responded – as of June 30, just five months after the current effort began, donors contributed more than $8 million. On July 6, the community celebrated as it was announced that more than 717,000 signatures had been delivered to LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RRCC) Dean Logan for validation.
The community’s hopes were dashed on August 15 when it was announced that the petition had failed in a spectacular fashion. Out of the 715,000 signatures submitted by Logan’s count, more than 195,000 had been deemed invalid.
Despite the rhetoric, Logan is not at fault. According to witness accounts, whistleblowers and RedState documents, the bottom line is
The Recall George Gascon campaign failed due to the fact that the committee was controlled by political consultants, who were paid by the campaign and contracted with vendors on the bases of cronyism rather than competency. One former professional, who saw some materials given to RedState, said that despite the large sums of money spent and raised the signatures were “embarrassingly inadequate”.
Another thing is that a RedState whistleblower, speaking under anonymity to RedState, provided details that seem to show Cassandra Vandenberg, the woman most widely known to have controlled the campaign committee.
- knew for over a month, that progress by the committee was woefully insufficient ,
- knew that out-of-county signatures of non-voters and people who were not registered to vote were being counted as verifiable signatures by the committee and instructed campaign workers “because we have the numbers” to put them on petitions.
- instructed campaign staff, before multiple Deputy District attorneys, to forge signatures of circulators within the Attestation portion of petition forms. These signatures are subject to perjury.
Campaign insiders claim that a duplicate verification was not done before submitting petitions for the county. They also say that numbers given to donors and the media included signatures organizers knew would be rejected.
Let’s dig deeper.
The Mission and Procedure
Recall proponents, represented by the Committee to Support the Recall of George Gascon, had 160 days to collect 556,857 valid signatures on the recall petition in order to qualify a recall election for the ballot. Valid signatures are those that have been registered in Los Angeles County to vote and who signed the recall petition in their handwriting. Experts in the field generally agree that 25 to 30 percent more signatures than necessary should be submitted to account for signatures that are disqualified.
For the Gascon recall, 715,833 signatures were submitted. California’s recall law required election officials to inspect a random sample of five percent of the signatures submitted, or 35,793 signatures. If more than 31,179 of those signatures were validated, then the recall would automatically qualify for the ballot. If less than 25,510 were validated, the recall would automatically fail. Logan’s office validated 27, 983 signatures from that random sample.
The next step was to examine each signature one-by-one to verify that they were registered voters in Los Angeles County. Also, to confirm that their signature and address match the file. Based on that inspection, an even higher percentage of signatures were found to be invalid, and in the end, only 520,050 signatures were validated. 195,783 signatures were disqualified for the following reasons:
- 88,464 not registered voters
- 45,593 duplicates
- 32,187 different address
- 9,490 signature mismatch
- 5,374 out-of-county
- Canceled 7,344
- Other 9,331
According to recall spokespersons, signatures had been pre-screened in order to eliminate duplicates, people not registered to vote and other deficiencies. It is clear that the pre-validation was not completed or it wasn’t well done by the number of disqualified signatures.
Sources with the campaign tell RedState that during the first three months of signature gathering petition forms were delivered weekly to C3 Public Strategies, a firm in Newport Beach, for validation. Between mid-May to early June, C3’s contract ended and the committee was contracted with Allied Data in Colorado. Allied Data scanned the petition forms and reviewed them electronically. This was done to weed out duplicates and address mismatches as well as out-of-county signatures and signature mismatches.
To say this task was poorly done is an understatement. RedState examined photographs of petitions submitted to Logan and saw signatures from people in Calexico and Oakhurst and Mendocino and Madera and Berkeley and Tehachapi and Del Mar. These were then counted and considered pre-screened.
(The blacked-out lines represent inadequate signatures caught in the pre-validation process. Redactions in red are signature lines submitted to the RCCC but in which RedState has removed personal information. )
Attestation is another aspect of the petition which was to be prescreened. The person who collected the signatures has to attest that each sheet is true. This must be done by them in their handwriting. The registrar will disqualify the entire page of signatures if the attestation has been incomplete or incorrectly filled in. This is an important step of the whole process.
According to documents and witness interviews reviewed by RedState, a significant number of paid circulators didn’t complete attestations correctly. This failure was not caught by signature gathering company, C3, Allied Data or the committee until about the week before petitions had to be submitted on July 6. RedState was told by multiple witnesses that two of the top campaign officers in the office directed staff to sign the attestations, and even forge signatures. Two Deputy District Attorneys (from George Gascon) witnessed the proceedings. However, they did not stop the unlawful conduct from continuing. This is a violation of the Oath of Office as well as the State Bar ethics rules.
Incompetent Paid Signature Gatherers
Signature gathering company Let the Voters decide is also not off the hook. There is litigation pending between the Gascon recall committee and LTVD, so I won’t rehash all of that here. Although it appears that the lawsuit concerns money owed, other background information makes it clear that much of the litigation is about who will take responsibility for the eventual failure of the petition because of invalid signatures. LTVD claims they did not verify signatures because C3 and then Allied Data had been validating. They also knew they could access the Allied Data database.
But, as we know that petitions from May and April weren’t vetted properly until June or July, it is clear that LTVD staff didn’t ensure that gatherers completed the attestations correctly. This was the minimum professionalism. The photo below shows petitions being submitted as it was. It clearly illustrates the poor quality of signatures this firm has gathered.
(The blacked-out lines represent inadequate signatures caught in the pre-validation process. Blurred areas refer to signatures submitted to the RCCC but which RedState has removed personal information. )
LTVD argued that LTVD refused to pay the market price per signature making it hard for them to gather enough people. LTVD owner Mark Jacoby took screenshots of a Facebook group that Mark Jacoby managed. These photos show Jacoby actively encouraging gatherers to move to Michigan from California. He said that “Michigan was where it is at” and that “when we are paid properly and can make enough money to support our families and ourselves, anything is possible!” If a campaign refuses to comply, it won’t be on the ballot !”
Several residents of Los Angeles County also complained about the lack professionalism displayed by the paid signature collectors – even badgering those who had signed before them to do so again.
is one such example.
The police were called on them. They were harassing Marshall’s shoppers and fighting with their manager. A police report was filed. Because I had signed before, I didn’t sign. She said I could sign another time. I refused.
— Ms. Redbarn (@MsRedbarn) August 17, 2022
LTVD was paid at least $3.2 million during the campaign, and it’s apparent that a chunk of those monies were paid for extremely shoddy work while Jacoby himself was in Cancun and the Bahamas, according to his travel blog.
Mid-Campaign Signature Counts Wildly Inflated
According to RedState documentation, campaign committee members exaggerated the signature count at different points during the campaign to get donors to keep their money in their pockets. It’s not secret that many campaigns involve some type of number padding. However, this padding was combined with assurances by the committee that the numbers were pre-verified signatures, giving donors and volunteers an inaccurate sense of campaign status.
For example, on May 4 the campaign reported having over 400,000 signatures, and on June 1 reported having more than 500,000. On June 15 Steve Cooley, former LA County District Attorney and committee co-chair, announced that the group had met the minimum threshold of 566,857 signatures. However, an internal count on June 26 – which included signatures gathered from all sources – showed that there were 514,804 “verified” signatures, in total.
On July 2, just four days before the petitions were due, the internal count showed only 644,036 “verified” signatures, just over 50,000 duplicate signatures, and 141,027 signatures from non-voters.
Both internal counts showed validity rates of around 75 percent, while on volunteer calls campaign organizers routinely stated that 80 to 85 percent of the signatures gathered were valid.
Given that there were fewer duplicates than voters, and that county’s final count showed a lower number of non-voters, it is clear that some invalid signatures were blacked out by the counting operation. This is confirmed by sources within the counting operation, who say they were told during the 4th of July weekend to stop marking out the out-of-county signatures, “because we need the numbers.” They were even told to submit this petition that was mailed into the office, with only one signature, showing the voter’s address as being in Del Mar, which is in San Diego County (and hardly an obscure town), because even though it was out-of-county, “it does something to help the formula for the random sample.”
It is unclear what campaign officials meant by this reference. One interpretation would suggest that the committee hoped that random samples would prove to be more successful than the whole petition. Although the percentage of valid signatures in the random sample was higher than that for the whole petition, it didn’t make it unnecessary to include individual counts.
Inadequate Number of Signatures Submitted
While committee members such as Steve Cooley, Co-Chair of the group, boasted that they would have an adequate cushion to withstand even large numbers of signatures being withdrawn, others like Cooley said it was unlikely. Politico’s California Playbook stated that even though the petition had been submitted, it was weeks later that campaign representatives such as Steve Cooley claimed they would have a sufficient cushion to withstand any disqualifications. On June 16 they wrote:
The Gascon recall campaign announced yesterday they’d surpassed the 566,857 signatures needed to trigger an election. They’ll have to provide a buffer to make sure they have enough backers to trigger an election, since they are likely to get rejected. Let’s say their validity rate is a robust 75 percent. That would require getting around 190,000 more signatures in three weeks — a challenging task with the most fervent backers already in the fold (the campaign is seeking up to 700,000, which would require an extraordinary 80 percent rate). Here’s where money really matters. According to the principal recall committee, $1.5 million was on hand as of March 31, the latest period for which there is a filing. Seema Mehta, LATimes, observed that the campaign pays $8 per signature.
Knowing that they were having issues with accurate pre-validation, Vandenberg and her advisers were obligated to push for far more than 700,000 – far more than 717,000, even – signatures.
Up to 60,000 Signatures Not Pre-Verified on Last Day
On July 6, the day the petitions were turned in, the 10 AM count announced at headquarters was 656,000. LTVD quickly delivered thousands of signatures at the office within a matter of hours. Some witnesses say 60,000 signatures were delivered, while others believe the total was closer to 30,000. Is this why there was such an urgency? Sources say that there were continual financial discussions between LTVD and Vandenberg and that Vandenberg announced to the office over the 4th of July weekend that she had to raise more than $700,000 that weekend. Although she didn’t specify why it was, some speculated it might have been to help LTVD deliver the signatures. According to campaign insiders, Vandenberg not only met that goal but she also doubled it. Those financial reports will not be available until after September 30, unless the committee voluntarily provides them.
A Campaign of Distraction
After Logan stated that each signature must be validated individually, the recall committee launched a distraction campaign. Cooley sent a lengthy letter to the LA County Board of Supervisors in which he claimed that Logan’s office used “outdated signature validation methods” and was being unfairly prevented from watching the “count.” However, most outlets including RedState retold Cooley’s points, which ultimately proved invalid.
Cooley and the committee are correct that the guidelines for signature validation for vote-by-mail ballots were incredibly loosened in 2020. Then he claimed Logan used very stringent guidelines to match signatures during petition validation. However, recent information provided by the RRCC indicates that there is a much more permissive standard. Only 1. 26% of the signatures submitted were rejected because the signatures didn’t match.
As far as refusing to let “observers” observe the validation, California’s recall procedures don’t require a county or Secretary of State to permit observers to view the process. It was not a denial of rights. Logan must notify recall proponents of the insufficient petition. The “proponents” have the right examine signatures that are invalid or to give reasons why. The ‘Proponents” are the individuals or persons listed in the Notice of Intention. Any such examination shall begin within 21 days following a certification of insufficiency (E.C. SS11301).”
In a statement released August 15, the Committee said:
“While the initial results are surprising and disappointing, the Recall Committee intends to exercise its full statutory and legal authority to review the rejected signatures and verification process that took place, and will ultimately seek to ensure no voter was disenfranchised.”
According to sources, as of the close of business on August 17, Logan’s office has not provided the Committee with any guidance or a proposed procedure by which they can review the rejected signatures and the verification process that took place.
In the end, the Los Angeles County residents have already suffered the consequences of George Gascon’s neglect of duty. They will also continue to suffer the effects of the actions of those who care more about their egos than the task at hand.
Deputy district attorney Jonathan Hatami worked side-by-side with victims of violent crimes to make sure that recall qualifications were met. RedState:
The failure of the recall was truly devastating to so many. Los Angeles County is filled with despair. Los Angeles County residents, families of victims and volunteers who tried so hard for justice in Los Angeles should know why the recall was a failure. We need answers. We deserve answers. After all, however, it is clear that the failure to recall George’s dangerous and radical policies was not an endorsement of his directives and directives. Public safety is something we all desire and need. This isn’t a political issue.
While George Gascon takes a victory lap and mothers who lost their children to murder feel like they are being revictimized. Los Angeles County residents can’t move without their heads turning.
(In Part 2, we will detail just where that $8 million raised by the Committee went. )