Battling for Every Inch, Candidates Defend Ballot Designations

Dr Amy Chen CVUSD School Board

(Thousand Oaks, Ca) On August 20 at around 3:00pm, Dr. Amy Chen received an email from the Ventura County Elections Division with the subject line “Ballot Designation Request.”

Dr. Chen, a candidate for the Conejo Valley Unified School District Board received a ballot designation challenge notice. Her ballot designation read “Educational Non-Profit Director.”

A ballot designation is allowed to be three words that describe who a candidate is to the voters. They appear next to the candidate’s name on the voter’s ballot. Example: Mother, Lawyer, Entrepreneur.

These designations are validated by the Ventura County Recorder’s office. They can be challenged by the Recorder’s office or by anyone in the public. The notice stated that Dr. Chen’s ballot designation did not align with her position.

Dr. Chen obtained her doctor of pharmacy from the University of California San Francisco. Today, she is a wife and mother of three that runs First Avenue Education Inc in Arcadia, a successful educational language enrichment program serving 500 children annually for after school, weekend, and summer programs.


Chen purchased the company with another individual that operates the business with her. As a result of the success in First Avenue Education, Chen and the Executive Director (who asked not to be named) started Top Goal Education, an education non-profit aimed at offering more to families lacking access to enrichment programs.

Ballot Designation Challenges in Ventura County

In discussion with the Ventura County Recorder’s office, the county department that oversees the Elections division, this year had more ballot designation challenges than usual. The majority of ballot designation challenges were made by the Recorder’s office to candidates. The County Recorders office receives information to validate information including the ballot designation. The bulk of the challenges come from within.


However, this year 4 challenges were made by people outside of the Elections Division:

  • CVUSD: Dr. Amy Chen was challenged by Mary Anne Van Zuyle
  • CVUSD: Angie Simpson was challenged by Mary Anne Van Zuyle
  • Ventura County Board of Education: Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios was challenged by Joshua Chancer And Paula Munoz
  • Ventura County Board of Education: Arthur “AJ” Valenzuela was challenged by Joshua Chancer And Paula Munoz


Mary Ann Van Zuyle is a former candidate for CVUSD school board that is now backing three candidates running as a slate. It is unclear what her official campaign role is. Joshua Chancer is a challenger to the other candidates for the Ventura County Board of Education. Paula Munoz is listed as faculty at Ventura College. Of the above candidates, two kept their original designations, Dr. Amy Chen and Ms. Jeanette Sanchez-Palacios.


Dr. Amy Chen provided The Voice La Voz with the information was offered to the County Recorder’s investigations unit, which was validated.


“My partner did not run for office, I did. Unfortunately, she has received multiple calls from multiple individuals from the community as well as a few local newspapers. Since she has provided the information requested by Mr. Lunn’s office, which has been accepted, she now feels harassed by these individuals that continue to call. I feel really bad that she was put in the middle of this.”


When asked what Dr. Chen’s reaction was when she first received the challenge, Chen stated, “Mark Lunn’s office has such a great reputation for being fair and for doing their due diligence. I had every confidence this would be resolved quickly and fairly and it absolutely was.”

Process to Handle Ballot Designation Challenges

“We take these very seriously,” stated Mark Lunn, Ventura County Clerk-Recorder, Registrar of Voters since 2010, “When we receive ballot designation challenges, we have a chain of command on these. First the review goes to the candidate filing section, then the supervisor, then the elections operations manager, then the assistant registrar of voters, and then it comes to my desk.”
Lunn went on to say that, “There is a lot of work done to be sure voters are not misled by ballot designations.”


Election Day is Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Mail In ballots are mailed 29 days before election day which is October 8. The ballot designation and candidate statements must be completed so they can be printed and mailed for this timeline.


The last day for individuals to register to vote is October 22.


UPDATE: Quotes from Dr. Amy Chen.

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1 Comment

  1. It’s so sad that there are such mean people in the world. Amy is a good person, and that Mary Anne Van Zuyle is clearly bitter that she couldn’t stay in contention. How horrible! Dr Chen’s ballot designation stayed the same, so that was a mean thing to do!

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