City Council approves special election for Ward 1

{A href=""}BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Efforts to have the Bakersfield City council call for a special election to place a council member for Ward 1 have paid off. Community residents went before city leaders stating their case Wednesday night.

"I think it's very important that the people have their voice," said Bernita Jenkins, who supported the effort.

At issue was whether the city should appoint someone or hold a special election for Ward 1 council seat.

Ward 1 resident Marvin Dean started a petition that would force the city to hold a special election. And, residents had only about four weeks to gather the needed signatures.

The seat became open when Rudy Salas was elected to the state Assembly in November and had to vacate his Ward 1 council seat.

Dean and fellow supporters gathered more than the required number of voter signatures and turned the petition over a few days before the deadline.

But, a technical glitch derailed the petition. The county election department ruled the petition invalid because it found that voter information such as their home address had been filled out by someone other than the voter who signed it.

"In my opinion, I agree with the county clerk that that is a clear violation of at least two sections of the elections code," said city attorney Ginny Gennaro.

But community residents reminded city leaders about that people have fought and died for the right to vote.

"We are getting ready to celebrate Martin Luther King whose sole mission was to make sure we had a voice and to make sure we had a right to vote," said Walter Williams.

The city council wound up agreeing with community members about the right to vote and unanimously approved a motion to hold a special election, though it will cost taxpayers about $100,000.

The special election will be held in June. There will be no interim appointment.

City Councilman Ken Weir was named as care taker of Ward 1 issues until the special election is held.