An inquiry into possible election fraud in the Manteca Unified School District is underway.
Authorities are responding to complaints made that Ashley Drain and Alex Bronson do not reside in the school district areas that they were elected to represent.
Both Drain and Bronson had put current trustee Sam Fant’s name as to someone who can verify the accuracy of information listed in their candidacy filing papers as to where they resided.
The unofficial final county Tuesday’s election results had Bronson gathering 56.91 percent of the vote against incumbent Don Scholl’s 42.63 percent in the Area 6 race representing a segment of Manteca. Drain collected 55.70 percent of the vote against Manuel Medeiros’ 43.98 percent in Area 2 that primarily consists of Lathrop.
The investigative services division of the California Secretary of State’s office is currently looking into a complaint that was filed with the San Joaquin Registrar of Voters about both Bronson and Drain – both Stockton natives – and campaign practices that detractors say violated state election law.
According to county registrar Austin Eardman the matter, which he forwarded up the ladder, is now out of his hands. That leaves his office waiting for the recommendation about whether there is any substantiating evidence and enough of it to move forward.
And that could mean criminal prosecution.
“Typically they come up with their findings and present them to me and I decide whether a case needs to go forward to the district attorney – I have the power to nix it or move it forward,” he said. “It’s going to depend on what they find. But since I’ve been in this position we’ve been very aggressive about this sort of thing and if there is any criminal intent – anything that was done nefariously – then I will push for and fully support prosecution.”
Drain first had her residency called into question when she posted a five-minute video on her personal Facebook page that slammed the management company of a low-income Stockton apartment complex for not adequately dealing with a bedbug infestation. The problem? That complex is located in Downtown Stockton – far from the Weston Ranch address that she used on her campaign paperwork.
Things got even more complicated when recent USC graduate Alexander Bronson – a Lincoln High product that was active in the young political movement in Stockton before leaving for college – entered the race to take on sitting board president Don Scholl. The address that Bronson listed on his nomination papers was also problematic – the owner of the house has no idea who he is and says that he’s never lived there.
And a closer look at Drain’s nomination paperwork shows that even though she claimed that Weston Ranch was her “home base” she had originally written in the same address that Bronson had used before simply crossing it out and writing in another one.
Other red flags included registering to vote at the address that she claimed in Weston Ranch the day before she went down to the registrar’s office to submit her paperwork.
A phone call to Drain on Wednesday evening was not immediately returned.
But according to Manteca Unified deputy superintendent Clark Burke, the district will continue to move forward with its newly elected board members until further notice.
“The Manteca Unified School District is so proud of the dedicated selfless service of our elected board. We have prospered from their leadership and their legacy will be felt for generations to come,” Burke wrote in a statement. “At the same time we realize and embrace the opportunity to work with new leadership and we are excited for the future with what it brings. Our board has and will continue to be dedicated to providing a safe, secure, 21st century learning environment with the best staff and the right tools to give our students every opportunity to succeed in the challenging world ahead.”
Investigations by the Secretary of State’s office, according to deputy communication’s secretary Nicole Winger, are conducted in private. If the investigators feel that there is enough of a reason for further action they will make a recommendation to the registrar of a given county and the district attorney’s office.
The length of time it takes to conclude an investigation, Winger said, depends on the case.