A spokesperson for Cerritos councilmember re-election campaign criticized inaccurate Korean translation of election materials during last Tuesday's sparsely attended special city council meeting.
As the council met on March 15 to certify the result of the March 8 municipal election in which outgoing ABC School Board member and incumbents Bruce Barrow and Cho won, Cerritos planning commissioner Kenneth Cha spoke on behalf of Cho's campaign, providing their analysis of the election results and pointed out some inaccuracies in the voting materials provided by the city.
"Instead of stating 'Vote no more than three candidates,' the Korean instructions said 'Vote only three candidates'," Cha said. "Korean voters were misled to believe that they must cast three votes or their ballots would not be counted."
Cha said that because of the mistranslation, Korean voters were led to vote for three candidates "contrary to their intention." If the translations were accurate, he said, the "ultimate outcome of the election would probably not have changed, but the order of first, second and third place finishers would likely have changed."
In response to Cha's comments, councilmember Barrows pointed out that Cho wrote the statement that Cha read on his own stationery and told Cho that he took "great exception" to suggest that interim city clerk didn't do her job well.
"To go and say that the sequence of the votes could be different and you're trying to blame the city clerk is inappropriate, and I personally think she deserves an apology for that on the basis of what you and Kenneth shared with her," he said to Cho.
After Barrow made his comments, then councilmember and now newly selected mayor, Carol K. Chen, was also critical of Cha's statements, saying that he had "no proof or sample of that happened that you could provide" the city council.
"This type of interpretation or reflection is purely your own assessment and has no bearing of the outcome of the election nor the sequence," she said to Cha.
When Chen finished her comments, councilmember Jim Edwards and newly retired councilmember Laura Lee expressed their support of Barrone.
"I don't think, in the meantime, anything reflects the city clerk and I think our city clerk did a great job," Lee said. "If there's a translation difference, which is not our city clerk's duty because as I understand the company's county-hired. That doesn't have reflection to our city clerk."
Edwards said that the voters understand the election process well and have done so for many years.
"It is the voter's responsibility too, to be well informed," he said.
After the rest of the council made their comments to Cha's statements, Cho defended the speaker, saying he was speaking on his campaign and stated that the city clerk had nothing to do with the problem.
"Our campaign notified the city clerk's office that the translation was wrong but her answer was that the city clerk didn't have anything to do because the translation company translated this all," Cho said. "This statement is not blaming the city clerk."
Councilmember Chen asked that the records of the meeting reflect the fact that Cha was speaking on behalf of Cho's election campaign. However, Barrows said to Cho that he approved the statement and "this was really on behalf of you" and said Cho "was unhappy of the outcome."
When asked by Barrows if Cho's Korean supporters knew of the error, he said that he had informed Korean voters about the error by sending mailers, buying newspaper ads and reaching out to voters in their homes. His campaign told voters that they didn't need to vote for three candidates if they didn't want to.
After further discussion about the statements made by Cho's campaign, the city council finally certified the election results.
Cha spoke to Patch after the meeting adjourned about the problems with the Korean translation and wants the city to ensure that instructions in the language be made accurate in the next election.
"In the future, we want an absolutely correct translation [of election materials]," Cha told Patch. "Misleading information doesn't belong in the United States, especially in the elections."