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Vote-suppression complaints filed in testy congressional election

July 12, 2011 |  3:55 pm

As voters headed to the polls Tuesday to decide a hard-fought special congressional election in the South Bay area, attorneys for Democrat Janice Hahn filed complaints alleging that supporters of her opponent, Republican Craig Huey, were trying to suppress turnout of her voters.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the Los Angeles County district attorney, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles and the California attorney general, Hahn lawyers Stephen J. Kaufman and Steven J. Reyes asked for immediate investigations into "voter suppression actitivies" in the 36th Congressional District race.

The attorneys said several voters reported receiving telephone calls Monday night telling them the election had been postponed to Wednesday at Hahn's request ,and others were given wrong polling place addresses. 

The attorneys provided a couple of examples of voters who had reported receiving the calls, along with information about where the calls came from.  Those details were redacted in the copies of the letters released publicly.

"The penalties for election tampering are extremely severe, and we will make sure the perpetrators of these outrages are prosecuted to the full extent of the law," Kaufman said.

Huey campaign representatives said they had nothing to do with the calls and noted that one, according to the Hahn complaint, went to a voter registered with the American Independent Party, which has endorsed Huey, so it would make no sense for his supporters to discourage that voter.

"They are desperate to generate a news story to help their turnout,  because the reports we are getting from the precincts look good for Craig," said Huey campaign consultant Dave Gilliard.

The race has grown increasingly bitter in recent weeks.  In their latest exchanges over the weekend, Huey claimed Hahn had claimed an endorsement she didn't have -- and produced an objection from the man in question -- and Democrats were on hand to videotape and publicize Huey being served a subpoena from his ex-wife in connection with a dispute over child support.

As of 2 p.m., elections officials were reporting an estimated turnout of 10.83%, including returned mail ballots.  By that same time during the May 17 primary election, turnout was just 6.52%.

-- Jean Merl

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