PALMDALE — It is a familiar story: the Antelope Valley NAACP branch held a disputed election of its executive Board.
The branch typically conducts elections every two years, on even-numbered years. The 2020 election was rescheduled to March of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was conducted online and handled by the NAACP National office.
However, branch members say that some of the executive officers who were also candidates were able to use their position to advance their candidacy.
“During the election, branch officers, who were also candidates, repeatedly violated multiple election policies outlined in the NAACP Election Manual and Bylaws,” said a letter by branch member Jamie Goodreau in Wednesday’s Antelope Valley Press.
“These are serious allegations, but the events depicting these injustices speak for themselves and are well-documented, along with the exhaustive efforts of branch members to seek redress and justice through every possible channel within the NAACP,” the letter said.
Goodreau was also a candidate. She ran for secretary against the current secretary who was also a candidate and had access to the branch membership information.
Branch President Pastor Jacob Johnson, who was one of two candidates for president, declined to comment on the allegations when reached by telephone Saturday.
Eligible members said some members did not receive notification of the election in time to vote. That was a similar complaint in previous elections. Members say the branch’s three previous elections in 2014, 2016 and 2018 were also disputed.
Keppel Union School District Trustee Waunette Cullors served on the Election Supervisory Committee for the branch. The committee started preparing for the election last September.
“We basically went through the bylaws line by line to make sure that we adhered to the rules and regulations for the election. I designed the ballot, we had them printed and they would never give us the addresses,” Cullors said.
The election ended up being online as per the national NAACP office. A large percentage of people who were registered ended being unable to vote including Cullors, members said.
“The sad part is this third election that’s happened like that,” Cullors said. “It was very puzzling that you pay for your membership and you are not able to vote. This is my third election that I wasn’t able to vote. Now I’m done.”
Naima Moore, who has been a branch member for about 10 years, praised the leadership of former branch president V. Jesse Smith. Moore has served on the executive committee.
“This past couple of years, as an observer, once I saw the questionable behavior of the leadership, in terms of that dictatorship, that power,” Moore said. “It became as if they were the branch and not the general membership.”
Moore estimated she brought in about 25 new members last fall. More than half did not get a chance to vote in the election. Some did not receive their membership cards, she said.
Moore added that she would like to see more transparency in future elections.
Retired judge Dana LaMon was elected and served on the Election Supervisory Committee.
“I was expecting the current officers, once I was elected, to tell me what I was supposed to do,” LaMon said. “I never heard from them. Now they were current officers but they were also running for office.”
The seven-member election supervisory committee includes five members elected by the membership and two appointed by the presiding officer.
LaMon, as a retired judge, studied the bylaws and studied how the committee is supposed to function. While the membership requested a vote by mail, the NAACP National office opted for online election.
“When the election supervisory committee met, that was their objective — to set up a vote by mail process because one did not exist,” LaMon said. “But also in the bylaws voting online didn’t exist, either. So (for) either process, there wasn’t written guidelines.”
The committee worked to set up a process to conduct an election as close to an in-person process as possible.
“We got it. We wrote the rules, we set up and all we needed was addresses. And that’s where we hit the roadblock,” LaMon said.