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Nielsen recall effort dead

Greg Risling

Proponents of a recall campaign against El Dorado County Supervisor Mark Nielsen may have obtained enough signatures for a special election, but nearly 30 percent of them weren’t valid.

Consequently, the county’s Election Department on Monday announced that the Nielsen recall effort was a bust.

The grass-roots group that spearheaded the initiative – Citizens for Ethical Government – tallied 4,512 signatures over a four-month period. However, more than 1,200 John Hancocks were disqualified, leaving the recall proponents 87 names short of the needed amount.

The organization had to gather signatures from 3,366 – 20 percent – of the registered voters from Nielsen-represented District 3 to hold a special election on the recall.

“We came close, but we are very disappointed,” said CEG spokesperson Bob Salazar. “There is an extreme level of dissatisfaction with Mr. Nielsen and this should be a serious wake-up call for him.”

Elections officials disqualified the signatures for various reasons. According to Michele MacIntyre, roughly 485 voters didn’t live in the district; another 300 plus had signed their name more than once. MacIntyre also reported that 128 residents asked that their name be withdrawn from the petition. She added that the repeat signatures didn’t mean voter fraud had occurred, and she has no intention of filing any claim with the county’s District Attorney.

“I don’t think it was purposely done,” said MacIntyre, who indicated there were several signatures that appeared three or four times. “I think they may have been overzealous. I don’t feel there was an attempt to defraud the process.”

While there were hundreds of signatures filed by people who don’t live in District 3, Salazar said that if the recall was a countywide endeavor, more volunteers and signatures would have put a stinging thorn in Nielsen’s side.

When contacted about the results on Monday, Nielsen had a tinge of enthusiasm in his voice. He prepared two statements for either outcome but was more than happy to release his more favorable statement.

“The failure of the recall effort is welcomed news,” he said. “District 3 residents will now be able to concentrate on worthwhile matters important in their day-to-day lives. My heartfelt appreciation goes to friends and supporters whose steadfast confidence has again been vindicated.”

Nielsen had a tumultuous year spending time in court and defending his actions deemed malicious by some observers. The embattled supervisor was cleared of alleged wrongdoing by a Sacramento judge in September. He was accused of violating three sections of the government code by the 1994-95 grand jury.

Not discouraged by the court decision, the recall group said Nielsen’s behavior toward another supervisor, Sam Bradley, and his alleged strong ties with developers were additional factors in the mound of alleged misconduct.

CEG handed in the signatures on Nov. 10 and the elections department spent the last three weeks cross-checking the validity of voter registration cards. Representatives from the recall group have 21 days to inspect and review the county’s tabulation. Salazar said he wouldn’t rule out launching another recall attempt if research shows they can get more signatures a second time around.

“We will consider other options,” he said. “I won’t dismiss doing another recall.”


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