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Criminal Justice

Effort To Recall LA DA Gascón Fails To Qualify For The Ballot

Profile photo of George Gascón, who has white hair, wears glasses and is wearing a suit.
George Gascón
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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A second effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has failed to qualify for the ballot, according to the county registrar.

The campaign submitted more than 715,000 signatures last month; in a news release, Registrar Dean Logan announced Monday that his office found 520,050 signatures were valid, leaving the effort nearly 47,000 short of the 566,857 needed to qualify.

Logan’s office found:

  • More than 88,000 people who signed are not registered voters
  • More than 43,000 signatures were duplicates
  • More than 32,000 listed an address that did not match what's on file with the county
  • More than 9,000 signatures did not match signatures on file with the county
  • More than 7,000 no longer are registered to vote (for reasons that include the person being deceased or having moved out of the county, according to registrar spokesman Mike Sanchez)
  • More than 5,000 listed an out-of-county address.
  • More than 9,000 signatures were invalidated for “other” reasons, according to the release. These petitions were thrown out for a variety of reasons, according to Sanchez, such as an incomplete form or a signature that is printed rather than signed. People who withdrew their signatures from the petition are also included in this group.

In a tweet, Gascón said he is "[g]rateful to move forward from this attempted political power grab — rest assured L.A. County, the work hasn’t stopped. My primary focus has been & will always be keeping us safe & creating a more equitable justice system for all. I remain strongly committed to that work & to you."

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The DA has characterized the efforts to remove him from office as a right-wing campaign to undermine his work to address institutional racism in the criminal justice system.

In a statement, the recall campaign called the registrar's results "surprising and disappointing." It said it "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."

Noting that more than half a million people placed valid signatures on recall petitions, the effort's organizers said "to interpret this in any other way other than a wholesale rejection of Gascón’s dangerous polices would be disingenuous, or naive at best." The campaign pointed out that more than three dozen local city councils have voted no confidence in the DA and that nearly all the deputy DA's who responded to a survey earlier this year supported the recall.

On Aug. 8, the recall campaign sent a letter to the County Board of Supervisors alleging that Logan’s office had apparently failed to use updated state standards designed to make it harder to disqualify signatures on mail-in ballots. The standards were adopted during the pandemic in 2020 when California began mailing ballots to every registered voter and apply to petitions.

The letter also said the registrar illegally refused to allow recall proponents to observe the signature verification process. It called the registrar’s work “fatally flawed in many respects.”

Logan's office issued a statement at the time in response to the letter saying it was following the law.

“The petition verification process is highly regulated and governed by provisions codified in the California Government Code, California Elections Code, and the State Code of Regulations," the registrar's office said. "Our office adheres to those guidelines and regulations.”

Under the law, recall proponents may now review the signatures.

Mark Gonzalez, chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party, acknowledged in a statement that "there is discontent with elected officials," while adding, "we also know that misinformation and fear-tactics fuel mistrust and anger."

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He said Gascón "was elected running on overwhelmingly popular policies that allow for restorative justice, improving a failed criminal justice system that disproportionally targets Black, Brown and low-income communities, and holds criminals and those who abuse their power accountable." The DA "has, and continues to, deliver on those campaign promises," he said.

Let The Voters Decide, a signature-gathering firm that is suing the recall campaign over allegedly unpaid bills, issued a statement slamming the effort.

'Amateur Hour'?

“This could not have been handled more like amateur hour,” the group’s spokesman David Leibowitz said in a statement. “These consultants [for the recall] made poor decisions and ignored solid advice at every turn. You name it, they did it, from collecting signatures on the cheap to failing to pay their bills to expensive direct mail that failed to having zero clue how to verify signatures for submission. They have no one to blame but themselves for this disaster.”

Let The Voters Decide sued the recall campaign in federal court this month over what it claims are nearly $500,000 of unpaid bills related to signature-gathering. In an interview with LAist, recall spokesman Lineberger called the suit "frivolous."

A first effort to recall Gascón failed to gather enough signatures in 2021. Organizers launched their second attempt earlier this year.

“We are sick and tired of living in the pro-criminal paradise Gascón has created,” recall co-chairs Desiree Andrade and Tania Owen said in a statement announcing the second recall effort. “Gascón turned his back on us, and now his policies are destroying Los Angeles County right before our eyes and needlessly creating more innocent victims.”

Gascón was elected in 2020 on a platform that promised sweeping progressive reforms designed to roll back draconian laws and address mass incarceration of mostly Black and Latino men.

He has followed through on that promise, sparking a firestorm of criticism (including from many of the prosecutors working in his office) as well as earning him praise from some quarters for his policies of seeking shorter prison terms for most serious and violent felons.

The rise in violent crime that began during the pandemic — an increase seen across the country in cities with conservative and progressive DA's — fueled the effort to remove the DA.

Earlier this year, Gascón reversed course on a couple of his reforms, announcing he would be open to seeking life in prison without parole in some instances and saying he would consider charging some juveniles as adults in cases involving "severe violence."

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