Irregularities alleged in California Democratic chair race
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The losing candidate in the race for California Democratic Party chair said Monday she was cheated out of the party’s top job, throwing fuel on a simmering conflict between the party establishment and many of its activists.
Kimber Ellis has disputed the results of the May 20 election since they were announced but has said little about why she doubted them until releasing a six-page memo outlining her team’s preliminary findings of a review of the ballots.
“Based on the information contained here, the actual vote count is in question,” the memo said. “It is believed that the wrong individual is serving as chair.”
With a message of taking on corporate influence in politics, Ellis rode a wave of enthusiastic support from supporters of Bernie Sanders, nurses and other party activists, many of them new to party politics. She lost the chairmanship by 62 votes to longtime party insider Eric Bauman.
Before Bauman formally took over, outgoing party chair John Burton agreed to let Ellis’ allies review ballots and other records related to the election. Ellis says some of the records were not made available and the review was cut short.
Ellis’ memo alleges that some people who cast ballots were ineligible. She said there were “multiple documented instances” of one person serving as a proxy vote for multiple delegates in violation of party rules. She said “several individuals” who served as proxies did not appear to be registered Democrats and one was not registered to vote in the correct assembly district.
She also alleged that “hundreds of ballots” aren’t signed or don’t have signatures that match other records.
Mike Roth, a spokesman for the California Democratic Party, said the party is reviewing the allegations but “it appears to be more unsubstantiated allegations and still no facts.”
Ellis said she wants an independent firm to review all election materials — a request that Bauman has rejected. Ellis said she believes the problems with the balloting went beyond innocent errors by volunteers or delegates but said more information is needed to draw a firm conclusion.
“We do believe that people took advantage of a system that did not have a lot of checks and balances in place,” Ellis told The Associated Press.
Ellis released her memo as she came under increasing pressure to produce evidence for her claims of impropriety. Three influential unions, two of them also represented by Roth’s public affairs firm, released statements Monday calling on her to move on.
“It can’t just be unity for the sake of unity,” Ellis said. “We also have to stand up and show that we’re a party of integrity.”