County Supervisor Jim Patterson’s campaign wants to find out before Tuesday’s election how and why 900 new voter registration cards from Cal Poly and Cuesta College ended up being held until past the deadline to turn them in.
Patterson strategist Tom Fulks said 900 votes is a sizable number, especially given that the race between Patterson and his opponent, Debbie Arnold, in 2008 was decided by only 349 votes.
“This is a big deal,” Fulks said, and should be fully aired before the election rather than the morning after, should the contest be close again.
Nine hundred students at Cal Poly and Cuesta College who thought they were signing up to vote in the June 5 primary had their cards turned in past the deadline. Not knowing why they were turned in late “leaves this unnecessary aroma drifting around out there,” Fulks said.
The signature gatherers are from a Stockton outfit called the Conservative Citizens Group. The group did not return a phone call from The Tribune on Friday.
County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald, who has asked the California Secretary of State’s Office to investigate, said Fulks had asked her to break down the 900 cards by party registration. She is not going to be able to answer Fulks’ questions before the primary because she is preparing for the election.
Rodewald also said it was problematic trying to find out which district the 900 would-be voters live in. The campuses and their environs generally encompass the 2nd, 3rd and 5th supervisory districts, but the applicants could have come from anywhere in the county.
Rodewald said “the important thing” is to let those who may have been affected know that “there is a simple procedure for them to follow to ensure that their registration is valid and that they can cast a ballot.” She said the people affected should call her office at 781-5228.
Pressed on whether he suspects voter fraud, Fulks told The Tribune, “I’m not accusing anybody of anything.” He said he is “trying to disprove a conspiracy” because he has heard from many people who are worried about suppression of the vote.
Nationwide, news organizations have reported major efforts in many states, most recently Florida, to purge voter rolls on grounds that are arguable and that usually disproportionately affect the poor, the elderly, minorities and students.
Rodewald announced Wednesday that her office had received the voter registrations, which had been signed by would-be voters before the May 21 deadline, but turned in four days after the deadline.
“I don’t think it was necessarily deliberate, but it was definitely a violation of the law,” she said.