Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Very Strange Election

It is hard to imagine a successful electoral challenge to incumbents in a company town, particularly when the city owns the houses in which the voters live.  But that's what three candidates tried to do in Vernon, California, a small "city" southeast of downtown Los Angeles, and the election has had its share of bizarre turns.  Vernon is almost completely industrial, with a work force of over 40,000 within its five square miles, but a population of only 91 residents.  The city's website (here) notes that it has a police department of over sixty officers who provide "high level security and a quick response time."  The city owns all the housing within its borders, and subsidizes the rent for city employees who live there.  An AP story (here) discusses how three candidates set up residence in a warehouse to run for office, only to have the city condemn the property and evict them.  The city then called off the election, only to have it put back on again when a judge ordered voting.  After the election on March 11 for its 86 registered voters, the city clerk brought the locked ballot box to the city council chambers and refused to count the votes because of challenges to the election.  The challengers claim, not surprisingly, that the election is rigged because city workers are beholden to the Mayor and council for their jobs.  Vernon did not have an election since 1980.  This mess will have to be sorted out somehow, amidst accusations of corruption and intimidation.  (ph)

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