Lake Forest: Hamilton Recall Effort Barely Clears Valid Signature Threshold; Questions Arise About Integrity of Recall Campaign

According to the OC Registrar of Voters, the group seeking to recall Lake Forest Councilman Andrew Hamilton narrowly cleared the valid signature threshold to trigger a recall election, but also submitted nearly 2,000 signatures that did not match those on file with the Registrar, raising questions about the tactics employed by recall proponents.

Hamilton recall proponents submitted 16,307 signatures at the end of July, with 8,834 valid signatures necessary to force a recall election. A review by the OC Registrar of Voters found that 9,155 were valid – narrowly clearing the threshold – and 7,070 signatures were declared invalid.

An anti-recall group mounted a rescission campaign submitted 2,268 rescission forms (requests by signatories to remove their signatures from the recall petition). 886 of those were deemed valid and their signatures withdrawn from the recall petition. Another 1,405 signatures were disqualified because they did not match the voter signatures on file with the OC Registrar. Recall opponents pointed to these as evidence of possible voter fraud by Hamilton recall proponents, noting that Josue Vizcay, a leading recall activist and petition, had been convicted of forgery according to a complaint filed by the Republican Party of Orange County.

“This report reveals some very serious issues with the pro-recall campaign. If that large number of signatures collected revealed fraud, it begs the question of the entire signature effort” noted Don Stoll of Lake Forest Civility, a community group opposed to the recall.

The recall campaign has been dogged by allegations of political dirty pool. In addition to the Vizcay issue, the recall campaign committee effectively hid its funding source in is January-June 2017 campaign disclosure report. That report showed $3,350 in combined monetary and non-monetary contributions despite the fact that paid petition gatherers had been working for months. The report showed nearly $60,ooo in unpaid invoices from the vendor providing the signature gatherers. Those vendors don’t work for months promises; it’s likely the payment was deferred until after June 30 in order to conceal the involvement of the controversial figure widely acknowledged to be the prime mover and paymaster of the Hamilton recall: former Lake Forest Councilman Adam Nick.

Veteran politics estimate Nick has spent close to $100,000 on the recall qualification effort, given the market rate of $5-7 per signatures, plus the expensive of feeding and lodging petition circulators, who are political gypsies who migrate depending on recall campaign locales.

 

Nick – who was defeated for re-election in November 2016 — funded last year’s failed attempt to qualify a recall against Hamilton. He the allegations of unethical behavior by Nick are deep and credible. They include attempted cash bribery of fellow councilmembers and a journalist.

Now that sufficient valid signatures have been submitted, the city council must act by October 3 to set a recall election date within 88 and 125 days.  Timing guarantees only a small fraction of eligible voters will actually cast ballots, meaning the electorate will be high-propensity and engaged voters. Recall proponents will continue repeating the slew allegations they have been making – and which Hamilton denies – while the pro-Hamilton campaign will likely characterize the recall as a sour-grapes political vendetta funded by a discredited politician.

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