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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 5:24 am | Fair 43º


Holland Testifies at Farr-Pappas Hearing

The 3rd District election dispute dives into voter registration forms but the trial is continued to next week.

After nearly seven hours of testimony from just two witnesses Tuesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, the hearing between 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr and Steve Pappas has been continued until next week.

Pappas lost November’s run-off election to Farr by about 800 votes, and is questioning the validity of many votes from UCSB and Isla Vista. The 18 precincts in question total approximately 13,000 voters, according to Tuesday’s testimony.

Attorneys for both parties made an appearance Tuesday in Judge William McLafferty’s courtroom, and Pappas’ attorney, Jeff Lake, spent most of the day questioning witnesses about voting procedure. Because McLafferty, at an earlier hearing, had thrown out Pappas’ argument that many ballots were subject to fraud in the hands of third parties, Lake focused mostly on the voter registration forms. Pappas and Lake contend they may have been filled out incorrectly or sent to the same voter twice.

Joe Holland, the county’s registrar of voters, was the first witness to take the stand, and deferred to his staff on many of Lake’s more technical questions. Holland was clear when Lake questioned him about the possibility of fraud, however.

“If there’s voter fraud, we take that very seriously,” said Holland, adding that he had not seen any evidence of illegal activity taking place. At any rate, enforcement would “absolutely” be pursued and turned over to the District Attorney’s Office, he said. Holland also said that if an absentee ballot gets sent out before a person registers again, the system will pick that up and cancel out one of the votes. If important information is missing from the registration, the elections office will try reaching the voter for clarification. Out of California’s 58 counties, Holland said, Santa Barbara County has some of the more stringent voting guidelines.

Lake called into question everything from the training of Holland’s employees to which fields are required on the voter registration forms.

The day’s second witness was Christine Bischoff, who was in charge of overseeing polling places in the November election. She also deferred to fellow employees on several questions, but confirmed a laundry list of items from a subpoena issued to the County Registrar’s Office in January.

The hearing will be continued at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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