Monte Sereno lawmaker claims illegal voting charge part of harassment campaign
Monte Sereno Councilmember Rowena Turner was convicted in Oregon last October of voting illegally in Oregon and California. Photo courtesy of Monte Sereno.

    A Monte Sereno councilmember convicted of illegal voting claims she is being attacked by current and former lawmakers who want to drive her out of office.

    Councilmember Rowena Turner was convicted last October in Oregon for voting illegally in the 2018 general election in both Oregon and California. Josephine County Judge Brandon S. Thueson fined Turner, her husband and their son $440 each for committing a Class A violation, which is below a misdemeanor.

    Turner told San José Spotlight her family has owned a home in Oregon for more than 20 years and she has voted in several local elections. Turner maintains her innocence and claims she was only charged because Monte Sereno Vice Mayor Bryan Mekechuk contacted the Oregon authorities and insisted they prosecute her. She said this was part of an organized effort to drive her out of office.

    “This group of people are desperately trying to drive me off the council,” Turner said. “They have instigated these charges and tried to turn a minor offense into a serious crime.”

    According to records obtained by Turner through a Public Records Act request viewed by San José Spotlight, Mekechuk filed an election complaint with the Oregon Secretary of State in October 2020 about Turner, her husband and son voting in the Nov. 6, 2018 general election in both Oregon and California. The office refused to accept Mekechuk’s voter fraud complaint because he is not registered to vote in Oregon.

    It’s not immediately clear why Mekechuk contacted Oregon authorities about Turner. Mekechuk told San José Spotlight Tuesday was the first meeting of the Monte Sereno City Council since the news about Turner’s conviction broke over the weekend in Oregon’s Grants Pass Daily Courier, and the topic is not on the agenda.

    “Accordingly, we cannot discuss this at our meeting tonight,” Mekechuk said, adding he had no comment at this time.

    Oregon officials charged Turner about a year after media reports in October 2020 revealed she had double-voted in five general elections and two primaries since 2010. At the time, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said it was looking into whether Turner violated election laws. A DA spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about the recent conviction.

    Oregon is one of 12 states that prohibits voting in more than one state. Most states—including California—forbid voting twice in the same election. The federal Voting Rights Act prohibits voting more than once.

    Turner says she never voted twice in any election, or twice for the same candidate in two different locations. She claims fighting the charge would have meant spending a year or more in court, so she pleaded no contest.

    Turner claims Mekechuk contacted Oregon authorities because he was also running in the 2020 election—both won office that year. Turner claims Mekechuk planted the first article about her in Oregon, and she also claims a former councilmember, Lionel Allan, obtained her court records from Oregon and sent them to other lawmakers in Monte Sereno in an attempt to oust her.

    “These councilmembers have repeatedly tried to get our city attorney to agree that I can be thrown off the council on the basis of these charges,” Turner said, adding the city attorney has found these charges don’t rise to the level of expulsion. In 2020, Monte Sereno’s city attorney advised lawmakers he did not have authority to impanel a grand jury. City officials did not respond to a request for comment.

    Allan, who retired in 2019, told San José Spotlight he’s had no contact with Oregon authorities. He sent some media reports to Monte Sereno lawmakers and residents because he considers Turner’s refusal to resign disgraceful.

    “Public officials are supposed to set examples for our young people, and clearly she’s not doing that,” Allan said.

    Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

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