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Santa Monica Neighborhood Group Set to Count Ballots
By Jason Islas
July 6, 2012 -- Santa Monica’s Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition may soon have a new board if the ballot box from last month’s provisional election is finally opened and the votes counted this Saturday at the Church of the Nazerene.
After a month of waiting, candidates running for positions on the Wilmont board have decided to go ahead with a vote tally at the Coalition’s June 9 meeting without the cooperation of the current board, which refuses to take part in the count.
Saturday’s meeting follows weeks of attempts by the candidates to get the board to hold a public counting of the ballots.
“On Saturday, June 9, the Acting Chair of (Wilmont) stood before its membership, the press, and the community and agreed that the ballots that had been cast at the Annual Meeting would be counted ‘within a few days,’” wrote the eight candidates in an open letter on June 21.
"Those 'few days' have now dragged into almost two weeks," said the letter.
According to Jeanne Dodson, former chair of Wilmont and a candidate, the current board never responded.
As a result, she said, the candidates resolved to count the votes themselves, talking to various members of Santa Monica’s political community to make arrangements for an impartial meeting.
The box remains in the protective custody of a neutral third party, Zina Josephs, president of Friends of Sunset Park.
The controversy began on June 9 when Chair Valerie Griffin tried to postpone the annual board elections that, according to the group’s bylaws, must be held at the annual meeting.
Griffin claimed that the election couldn’t be held because the board couldn’t verify who was eligible to vote. Earlier that week, Griffin said, the group’s membership director, Marcia Carter, had broken her hip and been hospitalized.
The membership list was locked away in Carter’s apartment, said Griffin.
But Dodson said that wasn’t actually an obstacle, since Carter lived in a Community Corp building and that she had given written permission to enter her apartment in order to get the membership list.
At the insistence of the crowd, however, a provisional vote was held and people placed their ballots in envelops. Each person wrote their name, address and phone number on the envelopes so that their membership could later be confirmed and their votes counted.
Though the Wilmont board still has the membership list, the candidates have compiled a list of valid members based on receipts of dues paid, according to the candidates.
The ballot counting will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Church of the Nazarene in the Wilmont Neighborhood.
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