SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — An SEIU member says she was physically forced out of a room after she questioned union leaders about how they were counting ballots, and she recorded the confrontation on her cell phone.
Mariam Nojiam, a state worker for the Department of Motor Vehicles, began recording video as she walked into an SEIU election office while officials were giving instructions on counting procedure.
After one of the officials giving instructions asked if there were any questions, Mariam said she spoke up and began asking about large envelopes she says didn’t have any postmarks on them.
“Some people sent them in today, some people sent them in yesterday and the day before in priority mail, and there’s no postmark on them,” the official responded.
The ballot instructions clearly state that ballots must be received at the election office through the U.S. Postal Service, but when Mariam tried to insist that the envelopes without postmarks shouldn’t be allowed, the official cut her off.
“You need to take that up with your committee, not me,” he said. “I know what the procedures are.”
The confrontation escalated when the official was joined by others who eventually forced her out of the room and locked the door.
“The door was open. Nobody told me not to step in,” Mariam said.
Mariam said the confrontation shows union officials aren’t held to an appropriate level of transparency. “It’s about time that they be responsible and transparent to their memebers,” she said.
Mariam has since filed a complaint in protest of the envelopes that lacked postmarks.
Joe Flores, an SEIU delegate, said he witnessed the confrontation but described it as being “quickly resolved.” Mariam’s complaints may not get very far because of the rules regarding protests, Flores added.
“She’s asking questions, but again, only a candidate can raise that protest and the deadline has since passed,” he said.
The SEIU 1000 responded to CBS13’s request for interview with a statement, saying, “As our election rules dictate Ms. Noujaim was permitted to view the ballot count process along with any other member who wanted to monitor the process. Ms. Noujaim was escorted out when she tried to push her way into a restricted area.”
The statement continued, “Only candidates for office can file an election protest. That election language has been in place for 20+ years and the election procedures have not changed. As for envelopes, the United States Postal Service provides Priority Mail envelopes that do not need a postmark in the same manner to which a first class letter does.”
A copy of the ballot instructions provided to CBS13 states that the protest period began in May 2011 but made no mention of candidates being the only people eligible to file a protest.