Two-term Councilman Isaac Galvan must be replaced by his challenger, Andre Spicer, after a judge determined that four of the votes cast in the election were submitted by people who did not live in the council district that the two men were vying to represent, according to a 10-page ruling issued Friday by Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court.
After a contentious primary, Galvan and Spicer advanced to a runoff in June 2021, which Galvan won, 855 to 854. With the four illegal ballots disqualified, Court ruled that Spicer was the rightful winner of the election by a tally of 854 to 851.
Calls to Galvan and Spicer were not immediately returned Monday. Spicer, a Compton native and entrepreneur, told NBC he was "elated" by the ruling.
It was not immediately clear when Spicer would take office. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Registrar referred questions to the city. Compton Mayor Emma Sharif did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.
The municipal contest drew attention in August, when the Los Angeles County district attorney's office charged Galvan with election rigging and bribery.
Prosecutors alleged that Galvan conspired with primary opponent Jace Dawson to direct voters from outside the council district to cast ballots for Galvan in the June runoff against Spicer. Galvan was also accused of trying to bribe an elections official with concert tickets, according to the criminal complaint. The official immediately reported the attempt, according to Dean Logan, the county's top elections official.
Dawson, Kimberly Chaouch, Toni Sanae Morris, Barry Kirk Reed and Reginald Orlando Streeter were charged with two counts each of conspiracy to commit election fraud last summer. When she ruled on Spicer's election challenge Friday, Court found that Chaouch, Morris, Streeter and a man named Jordan Farr Jefferson all voted in the runoff between Spicer and Galvan despite not living in the Compton City Council’s second district.
Chaouch, Morris, Streeter and Jefferson all listed Dawson's address in Compton as their home when registering to vote in the race, according to the 10-page ruling.
Six days after the race, Chaouch admitted on a recorded line that she actually lived in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles and that Dawson had her register to vote from his address, court records show.
"There's a couple more that are using his personal address as well," she said, according to the judge's ruling. "Jace is the only person that lives there.”
Spicer had previously told The Times that Chaouch reached out to his campaign to expose the alleged election fraud. Chaouch also said she was later hired as part of Galvan's campaign after Dawson told her "they were doing this to stop the long-standing corruption that would only continue if Andre Spicer were to be elected,” according to the judge's ruling.
Attempts to contact Chaouch and Dawson on Monday were not successful. Dawson and Galvan have both pleaded not guilty to election fraud charges.
Chaouch has since pleaded no contest to violating election laws, court records show. The district attorney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the terms of Chaouch's plea or the status of the case. Galvan is due back in court June 30, records show.
For Galvan — who was first elected in 2013 and described himself as the city’s youngest and first Latino councilman — the election ruling is the latest in a string of controversies over the past two years.
Federal investigators served a search warrant at Galvan's home in November 2020 as part of an investigation into marijuana licensing practices in Baldwin Park. The search came months after a former Baldwin Park police officer signed a sworn statement that he’d received complaints from three cannabis dispensary operators alleging “questionable business practices, which included paying as much as $250,000 cash in a brown paper bag to city officials.”
In an interview with The Times following the issuing of the warrant, Galvan claimed it had nothing to do with his work in Compton but declined to discuss what, if any, cannabis business interests he has in Baldwin Park.
Galvan was also subpoenaed to testify in grand jury proceedings that ultimately led prosecutors to bring corruption and bribery charges against former Maywood Mayor Ramon Medina and nine others in 2021, an official familiar with the investigation told The Times last year. Galvan invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination during those proceedings and refused to answer questions, the official said.
An official involved in both cases spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matters candidly.
And just last week, an aide to the councilman was arrested in connection with what authorities said is a murder in Downey. David Blake Jr., the son of Compton rapper and producer DJ Quik, was taken into custody after 33-year-old Julio Cardoza was shot in the chest after a fight in the 13200 block of Carfax Avenue on Wednesday.
Blake Jr. is listed as an aide to Galvan, according to the city's website.
Times staff writer Ruben Vives contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.