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L.A. Now Live: Vernon election fraud probe may lead to new results

October 16, 2012 |  8:02 am

In an unusual proceeding at Vernon City Hall, former Superior Court Judge Debra Wong Yang concluded that voter fraud occurred in Vernon's contentious City Council election in June. She threw out seven of the 64 ballots cast in the race and declared a new winner.

Times reporter Sam Allen will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. to discuss the proceedings and the results.

As part of the quasi-judicial review, dozens of voters were called to testify about their commuting patterns, financial histories and even Facebook pages. Yang ruled that five of the voters in question were not residents of the city. Two others, she said, did not properly submit their ballots.

Yang's ruling, if approved by the City Council, would tilt the race in favor of candidate Luz Martinez, who had trailed 34 votes to 30.

It would also reverse the decision made by the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder/county clerk, which dismissed the voter challenges this summer and called the race for Martinez's opponent, Reno Bellamy. Vernon responded by creating the hearing process and hiring Yang at a rate of $990 an hour.

The council races in Vernon this year were viewed as important milestones for the ongoing reform effort within the city government, which was nearly disincorporated last summer by the state Legislature after a series of corruption scandals. The city is home to about 1,800 businesses but just 112 residents, and critics have long argued that it functioned as a fiefdom for its leaders rather than a legitimate democracy.

Both the June contest and a previous race in April were thrown into chaos by allegations of voter fraud.

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