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Campaign to oust Gascón fails to secure enough signatures for recall vote

An effort to recall embattled Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón was rejected Monday, Aug. 15, by election officials, who announced that organizers fell nearly 47,000 signatures short of qualifying for the ballot.

The recall campaign submitted 717,000 signatures, of which 520,050 signatures were found to be valid and 195,783 were found to be invalid. according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office. To qualify for the ballot, the recall petition required 566,857 valid signatures.

Following is a breakdown of the disqualified signatures:

  • Not registered: 88,464
  • Duplicate signatures: 43,593
  • Different address: 32,187
  • Mismatched signatures: 9,490
  • Canceled: 7,344
  • Out-of-county address: 5,374
  • Other: 9,331

Tim Lineberger, a spokesman for the campaign to recall Gascon after less than two years on the job, said organizers are reviewing the petition results.

Elise Moore, a spokesperson for Gascon, said she is pleased by the county’s determination.

“We are obviously glad to move forward from this attempted political power grab, but we also understand that there is far more work that needs to be done. And we remain strongly committed to that work,” Moore said in a statement. “The DA’s primary focus is and has always been keeping us safe and creating a more equitable justice system for all. Today’s announcement does not change that.”

An initial attempt to recall Gascón fizzled in early 2021, when organizers were apparently hampered by the rapid spread of COVID-19. A second attempt was launched in October and bolstered by endorsements from several unlikely, high-profile supporters, such as former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

“I based my support for the election of District Attorney George Gascón on the hope he would advance public safety in Los Angeles and because of our close personal relationship of over 30 years,” Beck said at the time. “After observing the negative effects of his policies and practices on public safety, I am compelled to rescind that endorsement.

“I have spent the majority of my life protecting and serving the people of Los Angeles and the men and women of its police department. I believe they would be made safer and be better served by a district attorney that emphasizes the rights of victims and the safety of our police officers.”

Gascón, who took office in December 2020, has issued nine directives that his critics maintain are friendly to criminal defendants. Among the most controversial are the elimination of cash bail and sentence enhancements and an end to the prosecution of juveniles in the adult court system, regardless of the seriousness of the crime. However, he has since retreated from some of those blanket policies.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she decided to support Gascón’s recall because she believes his “zero bail” policy interferes with the Alternatives to Incarceration Diversion Program and its ability to help individuals suffering from addiction, mental illness and homelessness.

“Diversion programs like this one seize a narrow window of opportunity to offer treatment and housing to arrested individuals who’ve hit rock bottom,” Barger said in a statement. “But the quick release option put in place by Gascón’s policies squanders that opportunity. If there’s no rock bottom, there’s no incentive to accept help — instead, we’re left with a squandered opportunity to end suffering and help heal some of our community’s neediest individuals. As a result, I feel compelled to add my voice in support of the recall effort.”

Others in support of recalling Gascón are Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, and the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association.

The Prosecutors Alliance of California, comprised of a consortium of progressive attorneys,  has steadfastly opposed removing Gascón, saying the recall campaign, which has generated nearly $8 million in campaign contributions, is being bankrolled by “fringe conservatives.”

“No matter how many millions they spent spreading misinformation, the rightwing mega-donors behind Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell could not convince LA voters to share their dated vision of safety and justice,” Cristine Soto DeBerry, executive director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California, said Monday. “As evidenced by history, more punishment does not create more safety. It creates inequity, instability, and wastes taxpayer dollars. Reform isn’t a threat to community safety, it’s a threat to a system that has failed to make us safer.

“Los Angeles’ criminal justice reform movement has prevailed because this is a community that prefers facts over misplaced fear. With another failed recall attempt behind us, we hope opponents to reform will look to the data, science and the future, instead of relying on ineffective models from the past.”

Some prosecutors also contend that Gascón has a cozy relationship with the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, noting that he has hired several defense attorneys from that office for prestigious, high-paying jobs in his administration. Critics also have described many of his top aides as political operatives who are unqualified for the positions they hold.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys is suing Gascón because it maintains many of his policies are illegal, while officials in 36 cities have cast no-confidence votes against him.

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