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Challenger claims victory in Vernon election amid fraud allegations

April 10, 2012 | 10:53 pm

Allegations of voter fraud left many unresolved questions even after officials counted the ballots in the first competitive election in years in the small city of Vernon.

A city canvassing board was set to tally the 53 ballots cast in the election at 8 p.m., when an attorney representing the Chamber of Commerce came forward to say he wanted to present evidence that seven voters didn’t actually live in the city.

The board took testimony and ended up throwing out six ballots.

After more than two hours of testimony, ballots were counted and Michael Ybarra, the challenger, claimed a narrow victory, with 24 votes to incumbent Daniel Newmire's 19.

Ybarra began shaking hands at about 10:30 p.m.

"There's a lot of work to do," he told a reporter amid the celebration. "I can't fix Vernon by myself."

An attorney for the city said the outcome could be in doubt for days because the candidates could challenge the outcome.

Allegations of voter fraud swirled during the campaign. Last year, Vernon had 62 registered voters, according to a city report. That number rose by almost 20% by election day, when there were 74 registered voters.

Some in Vernon had hoped the election would be another step in reforming the city’s reputation sullied by a series of municipal corruption scandals.

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--Sam Allen

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