According to our analysis, Santa Ana’s City Council recall election is a complicated race that has sparked strong debate among local residents.
About the Race
Local sources and reporting tell us that this special recall election was organized by the Santa Ana Police Union, which gathered and filed the signatures to initiate the recall and has also spent hundreds of thousands to influence the outcome of this election. The trigger was a no vote by two councilmembers on a $25 million budget increase to provide raises to the police. The money for the raises comes from a recent $60 million sales tax increase, which was originally described on the ballot as a “Homeless Prevention” measure.
The recall effort originally targeted both Santa Ana City Council members who voted against the raise for police officers. Despite their no votes, the raises were approved by the city council and local sources allege that the city is on the verge of bankruptcy largely as a result. One local source suggests that there may have been a behind-the-scenes deal that led to the dropping of one target, Councilmember Juan Villegas, who has historically been supportive of the police. Local reporting estimates the cost of this election at $650,000.
There are two questions on the ballot. The first is whether to recall Cecilia Iglesias and remove her from her seat on the city council. The second is to pick a replacement candidate if the recall is successful. Residents will be able to vote on both questions, regardless of whether they vote in favor of the recall or not.
About the District
City council members serve at-large. The winner of this recall election will continue to serve at-large until November, when the position will transition to a districted position, although in Santa Ana the naming convention for districts is wards.
About the Vote to Recall
Local sources say progressives are split on supporting the recall. Historically, the local police unions have had immense power and influence in city council elections. Progressives appear to agree that the police union’s action is unwarranted and not a trend they want to see continue. However, it is also an opportunity to elect a more progressive member to the city council.
About the Candidates
There are four candidates on the ballot, including the recall target.
- Recall Target City Councilmember Cecilia Iglesias is described as a conservative whose philosophy is to “keep government small.” She is known to be a Republican.
- Thai Viet Phan is an attorney and city planning commissioner who was appointed by Councilman Phil Bacerra. Thai is described as progressive by mainstream establishment Democrats, who are supporting her campaign. Her progressive credentials appear to be questioned by some local progressives, who question whether she will join a centrist voting block on the city council that doesn’t align with local progressive priorities. She also gave a noncommittal answer about a vote to create a community oversight commission for police. She is a lawyer, an immigrant, Asian-American, and married to a veteran. She has endorsements from the Orange County Labor Federation and SEIU among other unions, the Democratic party, the Young Dems, and local elected officials as well as Asian Americans in Action and the National Women’s Political Caucus – OC.
- Nelida Mendoza is a Rancho Santiago Community College District board member who previously ran in 2018 on a slate backed by former councilman and mayoral candidate Sal Tinajero. She is a Democrat and has the backing of Congressional Rep. Lou Correa, who more often than not was on the wrong side of progressive votes during his time in the state Senate from 2006 to 2014. She has stated that she will take financial support from the Santa Ana Police Union. However, she also supports a vote to create a community oversight commission for police.
- Angie Cano is a planning commissioner who is close with Iglesias and has advocated against the recall despite her becoming a candidate. She is expected to follow the same agenda as Iglesias.
How to Vote in this Election
The May 19 election encompasses only the city of Santa Ana and is being administered by the Registrar of Voters in Orange County. To be counted, completed ballots must be received at your County Registrar of Voters office no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day, or be postmarked on or before Election Day and received no later than three days after Election Day. Voting by mail is the only way to vote in this election. Information about this election can be found at https://www.ocvote.com/vc/web/elections/2020-santa-ana-special-recall-election
Each voter in the City of Santa Ana will be mailed a ballot beginning on April 20, 2020. Voters will have the following options for returning their vote-by-mail ballot:
1) Mail their ballot (postage is pre-paid) so that it is postmarked by Election Day, May 19, 2020.
2) Drop off their ballot at the Registrar of Voters’ ballot drop box, open 24-hours per day, no later than 8 p.m. on May 19, 2020 at 1300 South Grand Avenue, Santa Ana.
3) Drop off their ballot at other ballot drop box locations in the City of Santa Ana, open 24-hours per day, at the following locations no later than 8 p.m. on May 19, 2020:
- AltaMed, 1400 North Main Street, (Btwn 17th St. & Washington Ave.)
- County Administration South, 601 Ross Street, (Btwn Santa Ana Blvd. & Civic Center Dr.)
- Goodwill Computer Works, 412 North Fairview Street, (Btwn 1st St. & 5th St.)
- Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal, M.I., 1025 West Memory Lane, (Btwn. Bristol St. & Flower St.)
- Johnson Chapel A.M.E. Church, 1306 West 2nd Street, (Enter on Hesperian St.)
- OC Health Care Agency, 1725 West 17th Street, (Btwn. Bristol St. & English St.)
- Orangewood Foundation, 1575 East 17th Street, (Btwn. Grand Ave. & Cabrillo Park Dr.)
- Santa Ana Reg. Trans. Cntr., 1000 East Santa Ana Boulevard, (Btwn. Grand Ave. & Santiago St.)
The Registrar of Voters’ Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail ballot system provides voters with disabilities and those with medical impacts related to COVID-19 the option to request a vote-by-mail ballot to be delivered electronically. The electronic ballot can be downloaded to the voter’s computer, marked using the voter’s own assistive technology and then printed. Voters should follow the return instructions included with the electronic ballot. To request a Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail ballot, voters can:
Complete the postcard with pre-paid postage located on the back of the Voter Information Guide
- Visit ocvote.com/myballot
- Call the Registrar of Voters at 714-567-7600
- Email email@example.com
Voters with disabilities or particularized needs, who are unable to download or cast an electronic ballot, should call the Registrar of Voters at 714-567-7600 no later than May 15, 2020 to discuss additional options for casting a ballot in this election
Register to Vote
You must register to vote by April 27, 2020 to receive a Vote By Mail ballot in the mail.
Emergency ballots are issued during the last six days prior to an election and on Election Day. These ballots cannot be issued by mail. To obtain an emergency ballot, a voter may request in a written statement, signed under penalty of perjury, that a ballot be delivered to him/her. Download the PDF form to request an emergency ballot.
Same Day Voter Registration
After the April 27th deadline, you can still register and vote under Conditional Voter Registration (CVR), also known as Same Day Voter Registration. Contact your county elections office to learn more about CVR.
Orange County Elections Website: https://www.ocvote.com