James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/23/2009 05:32:55 PM PST

Election officials said last week that a recall drive against Assemblyman Anthony Adams did not gather enough signatures to move forward, but recall backers said Monday they believe something odd or possibly fraudulent might be to blame.

County election officials say everything was done by the book, but recall proponents say the number of valid signatures reported by the San Bernardino County registrar’s office don’t jibe.

“It’s not over, certainly,” said Mike Schroeder, a former California Republican Party chairman and a key Adams recall proponent.

Recall backers submitted more than 58,000 signatures to election officials in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, who then checked a random sample of the signatures to see how many were from voters within Adams’ sprawling district. About 64 percent of the Los Angeles County sampled signatures were valid, but only 49 percent of the San Bernardino County sampled signatures were valid.

“I’ve never heard or seen a verification rate this low,” Schroeder said. The recall campaign paid an Arizona firm, Campaign Finance Company LLC, just shy of $100,000 to gather signatures.

“We had a signed contract,” Schroeder said. “They guaranteed a 70 percent validity rate.”

Tim Whitacre, recall campaign manager, said volunteers and Campaign Finance Company workers used a computer system to check at least 50,000 signatures and that more than 70 percent of signatures were valid.

“It was idiot-proof,” Whitacre said. “With the exception of maybe 4,000 or 5,000 signatures gathered in the last few days, everything was physically looked at.”

Schroeder said the stark difference between the Los Angeles County sample and the San Bernardino County sample is disconcerting because the same signature-gathering teams worked in both counties.

The low validity rate in San Bernardino County could mean one of three things, Schroeder said: The registrar used a sample that didn’t fairly represent all signatures, signature gatherers committed a “massive fraud” or something “very irregular” went on at the county registrar’s office.

Whitacre said many people registered to vote when they signed recall petitions. Because more than 40 percent of the invalid signatures reported by the registrar were from people apparently not registered to vote, Whitacre said the registrar might have failed to add newly registered voters.

He said the San Bernardino County registrar’s office is “normally greatly understaffed” and were behind in processing registrations.

“I just think they’re grasping,” said San Bernardino County Registrar Kari Verjil. “That’s not true at all. We make sure that all registration cards are entered in our system.”

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