Will Ward 1 get special election despite failed petition?

Will Ward 1 get special election despite failed petition? »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — When former City Council member Rudy Salas was elected to the state Assembly late last year, he left his Council seat empty.

Now, community members are trying to get a new representative into the Council, but they have run into some problems.

The City Council seat represents Ward 1, and it has been empty for about a month now. However, there is an effort underway to hold a special election to get a representative back in that seat.

Enter Marvin Dean. He is a lifelong resident of Bakersfield, and now, he wants to represent Ward 1, which covers downtown and southeast Bakersfield.

Since Salas’ departure, Dean has collected 2,120 signatures, more than the required 1,220 signatures, to petition that the city hold a special election to fill that seat. Dean, as well as any other resident of Ward 1, would be able to run for that position.

But that petition hit a snag when the Kern County Department of Elections determined that 1,145 of those signatures were invalid, because community volunteers had filled out the address portion for the signers. Those who sign are supposed to fill out their information themselves.

"They signed it with the intent that they wanted to have the special election,” said Dean on Tuesday. “But because someone assisted them, the county clerk is saying under the election code, you cannot assist anyone in writing your name, printing your address, so therefore, it makes those 1,145 signatures invalid.”

Ultimately, it is up to the City Council to decide if the petition is legitimate. One member thinks the mistake is a minor technicality and that the strength and symbolism of the petition is enough.

"I think we're going to end up making a decision to honor those signatures, so I will be supporting that effort," said Jacquie Sullivan, City Council member representing Ward 6.

According to the city clerk, the estimated cost of holding a special election is $100,000, but it is a cost that Dean declared is worth the democratic process.

"What price can you put on the people on the right for people to have the ability to vote and choose their representatives, knowing the history of this country?” said Dean. “To me, it's priceless."

Sullivan had the same sentiment about the signatures and the petition, which is on the agenda for Wednesday’s City Council meeting. The Council is expected to make a determination on the petition then.

"You cannot put a price on democracy,” said Sullivan on Tuesday. “They have the right to select their own representative."