Patients at Coalinga State Hospital filed today a motion in Fresno Superior Court that, if granted, would allow them to join an existing lawsuit that attempts to negate their votes taken in a recent City of Coalinga election. The City of Coalinga has blamed the patients for the defeat of its attempted increase in the city’s sales tax.
“The voting rights of the patients at Coalinga State Hospital must be protected,” stated attorney Janice Bellucci. “The patients reside within the City of Coalinga and Fresno County has determined that they are eligible to vote in city elections.”
The election at issue took place on November 7, 2017, and 322 patients were registered to vote at that time. The tax increase was defeated by a citywide vote that included 582 “no” votes. Of that total, 127 “no” votes were cast by patients at Coalinga.
Subsequent to the defeat of the tax increase, the City began to scapegoat patients at Coalinga. The Coalinga Mayor and City Council members later filed a lawsuit on December 14, 2017, in an attempt to overturn the final vote on the tax increase on the grounds that the patients’ votes cast were “illegal”. The sole named defendant in the case at this time is Fresno County.
The party attempting to intervene in the case is Detainee-Americans for Civic Equality (DACE), a group of current and former patients at Coalinga State Hospital. The members of DACE are among the most politically vulnerable in California, that is, patients civilly committed to that hospital.
According to the lawsuit, Coalinga patients have been eligible to vote in elections held by the City of Coalinga for at least a decade. It was not until the November 2017 defeat of the city’s sales tax increase that the City challenged their eligibility to vote.