Resident Requests Recount of Cheval Blanc Special Election

Beverly Hills resident Sunny Sassoon has filed a request with the Los Angeles County Clerk/Registrar-Recorder’s (LACCRR) office for a manual recount of the May 23 special election on Ballot Measures B and C.

Logistics for the recount are still being finalized. However, it’s estimated that the process will take about four days, likely beginning on June 13 and concluding on June 16, Brian Hildreth, an attorney representing Sassoon told the Courier.

The special election overturned the Beverly Hills City Council’s approval of the proposed Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills hotel project. A total of 7,128 ballots were counted in the election, with votes against the project prevailing by a slim margin of 81 votes.

Sassoon told the Courier that he filed the request on behalf of a committee of Beverly Hills property owners who are supporters of the Cheval Blanc project.

Sassoon said he did so for two reasons. First, because of irregularities observed during the vote counting process and secondly, to send a message to Unite Here Local 11!, the hotel worker labor union that helped circulate petitions which led to the special election. “We’re going to send the message that we are going to take this to its bitter end, a recount, and send a message to the union that this committee will push back on things like this in the future,” said Sassoon.

One of the irregularities noted by Sassoon is the fact that between May 26 and June 2, the voter turnout listed by the LACCRR increased by 100 votes, from 7,028 to 7,128. However, the total number of yes and no votes listed on Measure C increased by 102 votes.

In addition, when these additional ballots were counted between May 26 and June 2 there were 71 yes on B votes added and 73 yes on C votes added compared to 28 no on B votes added and 29 no on C votes added. Sassoon said the ratio of additional yes votes to the additional no votes does not make sense considering the overall results were divided almost 50/50.

These 102 additional votes were all from Vote-by-Mail ballots with signature irregularities for which voters submitted a form to correct their signature.

Sassoon is requesting the recount in accordance with the California Election Code Section 15620 et seq. and the Secretary of State’s Recount Regulations, 2 CCR 20810 et seq. He is specifically asking for a manual inspection of ballots and relevant voting material under Section 15630 of the Elections Code followed by a manual tabulation of all countable ballots under Section 15627 of the Elections Code.

Sassoon will be responsible for covering the cost of the recount, which is still being determined, said Hildreth. In the event that the recount changes the outcome of the election, Sassoon will be entitled to a refund.

The recount will take place at the LACCRR headquarters in Norwalk and be carried out by staff, according to Public Information Officer Mike Sanchez.

Sanchez noted that special election recounts are not common in LA County.

Hildreth, who has helped file recount requests for other clients in the past, concurred.

“It’s often cost prohibitive to conduct them (recounts) as you are talking several thousand dollars a day on average,” he said.

Hildreth has requested that a total of eight LACCRR workers and one supervisor carry out the recount. Observers from both “yes” and “no” sides are allowed to be physically present throughout the entire recount process, said Hildreth.

Sassoon, who is on the “yes” side, has designated five initial observers: Jacob Galil, Dennis Ironi, Elliot Kahn, Jacob Nassim Mussry and Samuel Shaya. It is not yet known who the observers from the “no” side will be.

“Observers are not allowed to touch the ballots but are entitled to sufficiently close access so they can observe the vote being read out and ensure the (yes or no) tally mark being recorded matches the vote being read out,” said Hildreth.

The recount will begin with a review of approximately 160 rejected Vote-by-Mail ballots and then proceed with a manual recount of all 7,128 ballots, said Hildreth.

These rejected ballots include “undervotes,” where the machine did not detect a vote and “overvotes” where the machine detected both a yes and no vote. They also include ballots excluded due to improper signatures; ballots excluded because they were mailed too late; and ballots rejected because voters were not verified as registered voters.

Other relevant information that Sassoon’s recount seeks to review includes Vote-by-Mail and provisional ballot envelopes, voter registration files, audit logs, vote center event logs, precinct tally results and central count tally results.

Councilmember John Mirisch, who opposed the Cheval Blanc project as approved by the council, told the Courier, “You either trust the Registrar or you don’t. Of course, they can make some mistakes, but in this election with this number of votes, 80 or 81 votes is a lot.”