BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - On Wednesday night, the Bakersfield City Council reviewed their options about what to do with the seat that was vacated by Rudy Salas, who was elected to the state assembly in Nov.
Salas' resignation was effective Dec. 2. For the first time since he left, the city council discussed whether or not they should appoint a replacement or hold a special election.
The council had three options. The first option was for the residents of ward one to file a petition forcing a special election.
The petition was filed, but the Kern County Elections Department said there was a glitch. Only 577 of the just over 2,100 signatures required were valid.
"I applaud those folks who went out and got those signatures because I know how difficult it is to go out and get signatures, especially 2,000," said Benita Jenkins, a Bakersfield ward 7 resident. "That is very difficult to do."
The problem with the invalid signatures was that someone else completed the address information for them.
"A lot of those older people out there don't write legibly," said Marvin Dean, who helped collect signatures for the petition. "We wanted to make sure the person who turned those things in to the election offices -- that they knew the signatures matched the address so it would make their job easier."
The council was left with two options. The members could decide to have a special election on their own or appoint someone to finish the remainder of Salas' term, which expires of Nov. 2014.
On Wednesday night, the decision was unanimous.
"It's pretty clear that the voters of ward 1 want to have a special election," said council member Terry Maxwell. "If that is their intent, that is what they want, then I think, as good stewards of city government, that we have to comply with that and move forward with that."
The cost of the election is $100,000, but council members agreed the cost was worth it.
"Democracy has a price," said council member Russell Johnson. "This is an opportunity. While the folks didn't meet the technical letter of the law, I feel the intent of the voter was clear."
The council also decided they will not appoint an interim council member so the seat will remain empty until the special election.
The election will be held in June.