“Sierra Madre Election Uncertainty” for Beacon Media Newspapers

April 2008

A week after the Sierra Madre election there were still 121 provisional and vote-by-mail ballots to be counted and some questions left unanswered.

While John Buchanan received the most votes for city council and had an insurmountable lead, MacGillivray’s spot was still technically up for grabs if Enid Joffe or Kevin Paschall got a large amount of the 121 votes.

“I think the chances of getting 97 votes are slim,” said Joffe, who was not aware until Tuesday how many votes still needed to be counted. “It’s time to get more involved in my business. I’ve always tried to do both. It was very hectic.”

Kevin Paschall had a similar view.

“I’m more realistic,” said Paschall. When asked if he expected to win, Paschall said, “If I take 90 percent of the vote. I gotta figure that most people who voted for me voted for MaryAnn because we kind of have the same platform. I’m sure she’d do a good job.” Despite victory cheers at City Hall last Tuesday, the city clerk race was still undecided since Nancy Shollenberger lead Karma Bell by 19 votes.

“I think it’s too close to call,” said Joffe. “I supported Karma. I think she’s a change and…I hope that she succeeds.”

Paschall also commented on the attention Kevin Dunn received last week for carrying in a ballot box of unused ballots when an elderly precinct worker could not lift the box.

“You have to wonder about our town when someone is trying to be a gentleman…” and Paschall mentioned that various papers reported it.

Last Wednesday, Shollenberger said she was not sure about the rules regarding precinct workers, but explained the situation about Dunn much like Paschall.

“Everyone wants to make the biggest deal out of the smallest thing,” said Shollenberger.

Regarding any conflict of interest that may be perceived since Shollenberger was up for reelection and one of her duties is to conduct elections, Martin and Chapman election and accounting services employee Scott Martin said, “In any other city in LA that has an elected city clerk that is the city clerk’s duty, to conduct the election. It’s actually a machine that counts the votes and pretty much every ballot is accounted for from the time it leaves here until it goes to the ballot counter or any ballot she does not accept for processing is pretty well documented.”

Sierra Madre’s ballots from the three precincts did not arrive to City Hall until a couple hours after the polls were closed, although Arcadia’s ballots for their election arrived and were counted sooner despite having more precincts and ballots.

“Normally what we see is the inspectors have to justify everything they do at the polling place so when they close the poll they need to make sure that there is as many ballots in the box as there are people who signed the roster,” said Martin. “Sometimes that takes time. I don’t know what the exact circumstances were.”

Martin and Chapman contracted with 13 other cities who conducted elections last week, including Arcadia.

As for the self-appointed poll watchers who participated last week, poll watcher Caroline Brown of the Sierra Madre Mountain Conservancy said, “It’s a volunteer position and anyone who wants to do it can do it. You see everybody gets their questions answered [and]…you watch for electioneering.”

Brown said she was a poll watcher once before and she received an e-mail this year reminding people about the opportunity, though she did not remember who sent the e-mail.

“It’s local and non-partisan,” said Brown.

After Wednesday’s results, a city council with possibly one new member will meet next Tuesday and decide who will be the new mayor of Sierra Madre.

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