Updated below. The city of Vernon has launched an investigation into whether non-residents have registered to vote in the upcoming City Council election.
Two candidates are running in the April 10 election: incumbent Councilman Daniel Newmire and challenger Michael Ybarra. The scandal-plagued city has about 70 registered voters, so even a few fraudulent registrations could tip the balance in a close race.
Former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, who has been acting as Vernon's "ethics adviser" for the last year, said he has sent investigators out to verify whether voters actually live at their claimed addresses. In one case, he said, there was a report of nine people all claiming to live in one three-bedroom house.
Absentee ballots will go out on Thursday, so the matter has some urgency. Van de Kamp said he hoped to wrap up his probe by the end of the week.
According to Van de Kamp, a number of voters were removed from the rolls after the last city election, because they were inactive. But those voters have since re-registered, prompting questions about their legitimacy.
"We need to talk to a lot of people," Van de Kamp said. "We started interviewing last weekend. We have to be very careful in a thing like this. The last thing you want to do is engage in any voter intimidation."
Update, 11:42 a.m.: The D.A.'s public integrity unit has confirmed that it is reviewing a complaint about voter fraud in Vernon, and has yet to decide whether to open an investigation.
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Update 2, 4:46 p.m.: Vernon spokesman Fred MacFarlane says that city officials heard about "irregularities in voter registration" and referred it to Van de Kamp last week. The city also notified the D.A.'s office.
In a statement, Sen. Kevin De Leon puts the blame on the city's "old guard":
"This is the last stand of the old guard in Vernon and if they think they can steal an election they're badly mistaken. Old habits die hard, but this investigation demonstrates that the necessary safeguards are in place to root out corruption and fraud wherever it rears its head."
Update 3, 5:49 p.m.: Voter rolls show nine registered voters in one small, city-owned house at 4322 Furlong Place. Either they're hot-bunking over there, or something more unusual is going on.