SACRAMENTO – Siskiyou County officials say that allegations made in the Vang Et Al. v. Lopey Et Al. case filed against the county and its officers for voter intimidation are not completely supported by actual facts. Instead, the allegations were just another distraction from what is really going on, they say.
“The plaintiffs’ legal advisor last June when the plaintiffs’ allegations of ‘voter intimidation’ were first made has effectively retracted an allegation that the Siskiyou County sheriff conducted some kind of local ‘road block’ to check for proper voter identification,” James Underwood, Siskiyou County’s interim county counsel told the Northern California Record.
Underwood said the claim was unfounded.
“That claim had absolutely no basis in truth, based on the county’s investigation, and instead appears to simply have been concocted to raise an unjustified alarm to distract the secretary of state from its then ongoing potential voter fraud investigation,” he said.
Ten plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleging that recent and ongoing Siskiyou County marijuana cultivation violations made by officials have improperly targeted members of the Hmong community.
Plaintiffs also claim that Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey’s department and county elections department stopped them from registering to vote in June 2016, making them afraid to vote at the Nov. 8 election for fear or prosecution.
Lopey said in a press release that the marijuana enforcement actions complained about have been undertaken throughout the county without regard to the ethnicity of those determined to be in violation. County clerk Colleen Setzer denied voter intimidation allegations.
“The entire election process was certainly conducted without any consideration of registered voter ethnicity,” she told the Northern California Record, stating that the June 2016 election was conducted in strict accordance with the applicable voter registration and election statutes.
The complaint accuses Lopey, Siskiyou County, the members of the secretary of state’s office and CAL FIRE law enforcement for engaging in a systematic campaign to deprive plaintiffs and members in their community of the right to vote and of exclusive use of their private property.
Plaintiffs say that officers came to their property with armed rifles to tell them that they would be breaking the law if they voted in in the June 7 election. They also say that the county violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution when officials employed unreasonable searches and seizures on their property.
“Our investigation continues ... and it is becoming increasingly evident that the allegations in the complaint are not supported by the actual facts,” Underwood said. “[Also], recent press accounts, such as that published in the Record-Searchlight… stating that Siskiyou County merely accommodated the secretary of state’s request to support that agency’s voter fraud investigation, are accurate.”
Underwood says that Siskiyou County plans to aggressively fight the claims of impropriety by county officials in the case.
“The lawsuit, which has been brought to the county’s attention, will be treated as all such litigation claims are, with the charges to be taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and properly defended based on the ascertained facts and applicable law,” he said.
Siskiyou County filed a formal response to the complaint on Oct. 18, asserting that the complaint by the plaintiffs is defective on its face and should be rejected by the court.