Missing statementsFree Access

County sending new mailers to rectify omissions affecting two local candidates

With about a month to go until the 2020 election, Ventura County residents have begun receiving guides that provide key details about the propositions on the ballot and the candidates running for office at all levels of government.

But the county’s voter information guide, which started arriving in mailboxes last week, is missing pertinent details: the candidate statements for Simi Valley City Council mayoral contender Joe Ayala and Simi Valley City Council District 3 challenger T.J. McInturff.

In nonpartisan races like these, candidate statements can include a brief description of the individual’s education, personal background and qualifications, but can’t refer to other contenders’ qualifications or character, said county spokesperson Miranda Nobriga. They also can’t detail party affiliation, or membership or activity in partisan political organizations.

The cost to file the statements is set by each city’s clerk. In Simi, it’s $1,500 for a mayoral candidate and $850 for a regular City Council candidate, said Simi’s Deputy City Manager Samantha Argabrite.

The missing information was brought to light when McInturff posted in a community forum on social media. Follow-up calls to county and city officials confirmed there was information missing from the guide.

Ventura County Clerk-Recorder Mark Lunn said that some candidate statements were accidentally omitted but didn’t yet know how it happened.

“But the ballots have all the correct information,” Lunn said. “They are whole and scheduled to go out in the mail Oct. 2.

Lunn said his office plans to send out a supplemental mailer to all voters in the districts where candidate statements were missing.

The mailers will explain the error and include the missing information. They should go out no later than Oct. 1, Nobriga said.

Because City Council races are now decided by district, while the mayoral race is still elected at-large, different mailers had to be created.

Registered voters in Districts 1, 2 and 4 will receive a mailer containing mayoral candidate statements for those who opted to include one in the guide, including Ayala, Robbie Hidalgo and Keith Mashburn, Nobriga said.

Those in District 3 will receive a mailer that contains the mayoral candidate statements as well the candidate statements for District 3 contenders McInturff, Elaine Litster and Ryan Valencia.

Ayala told the Acorn on Wednesday that he’s glad the county is taking steps to rectify the situation, but said he’s not yet determined what he should do moving forward.

He’s worried the corrected mailers won’t make it to voters before they return their mail-in ballots. And even if they do get them in time, he’s concerned residents will have very little time to read about his campaign.

“With any election there’s a concern of voter fraud or election tampering, but I don’t think that’s what happened here,” Ayala said. “I think it was an honest mistake, but the fact is that it might negatively impact my campaign and I’m not really happy about that.”

McInturff said the county elections division’s mistake is “inexcusable and they should be held accountable.” And he doesn’t believe that a mailer will be enough to remedy the situation.

“The damage has been done to my campaign . . . and the outcome of the election will definitely be impacted from their mistake,” he told the Acorn on Wednesday.

“Not one person from the county has returned my call or email as of today. I’m disappointed in this process as my family, my supporters and I have put in a lot of time, money and effort into this campaign.”

Argabrite said as soon as city officials heard of the errors they immediately began working with the county registrar’s office to find a solution.

Only Ayala and McInturff’s statements were missing. Candidates for mayor and council file their candidacy documents with the city. Candidates running in races for the Simi Valley Unified School District, Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, Calleguas Municipal Water District and Ventura County College Community District had their statements correctly included in the guide if they opted to submit their information. These candidates supplied their information directly to the county.

Asked where the mishap may have happened, Argabrite said it’s difficult to know. But she did confirm that the city clerk’s office sent the information from candidates who chose to submit a statement to the county registrar’s office by the August deadline.

“It’s unfortunate that any information was missing because elections are already stressful for the candidates and they’re very invested,” Argabrite said.

“Something like this is certainly not something we want to see and we want to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their selection.”

Lunn said the mistake has nothing to do with the integrity of the voting system but was an apparent oversight in the proofing process.

Not only does the elections office produce multiple voter information guides, it’s producing 162 different types of ballots for this election, including those in English and Spanish, Lunn said. That requires a great deal of human oversight and many steps are required.

“That being said, (the omission of the candidates’ statements) was an error that should not have occurred and we are responsible for . . . making sure that the information the voters receive is complete,” Lunn said Tuesday.

“ We are fixing it and it shouldn’t impact the election at all. The bigger issue would have been if ballots were inaccurate, but that did not happen.”