Tensions are flaring within the Santa Monica Little League over a board election that is being repeated following months of disputes over protocol and accusations of misconduct.

The results of tonight’s vote will replace those of the youth baseball organization’s September election, when David Harris defeated Wes Terry for president. The new election was ordered after district and regional Little League executives were informed of complaints about the voting process in the initial election.

The imbroglio comes as officials in the local league worry about declining membership and mull a potential merger of its two divisions, another contentious issue.

The feud has also rekindled conversations among some league members about race relations, a topic that has sparked debate in Santa Monica in recent months following several race-related incidents.

The rift in the local Little League stems from last year’s contentious election. Terry, a parent who has served as a coach and board member over the last decade, attended the 2014 election meeting and was joined by supporters who intended to vote for him. A squabble ensued when the membership status of many of Terry’s supporters was called into question and Harris was ultimately elected. Terry said he maintained the 2014 election was unfair but said he attempted to alleviate the unrest by accepting the vice president position.

Harris was not responsible for organizing the 2014 election but said there was confusion over voter eligibility at that time and the large turn-out caused additional problems.

“Admittedly, we did not do a great job of letting people know who would be a voting member and who would not be one,” Harris said.

Fast forward to this year’s board election, when the local league was slated to vote for its 2015-16 president. The morning of the Sept. 15 election, an email notified the league community that members did not have to stay for the entire meeting to vote.

Terry’s camp contends that Harris supporters knew about the so-called “drop-in” option before the day of the election and notified their likely voters about the system before sending out the league wide email. Harris won reelection this year but Terry’s accusation is that Harris gave his supporters advanced notice and was therefore able to bring out more of his voters.

Harris denied any wrongdoing and said he did not give his supporters any inside information in advance of the email. He said that after the 2014 controversy, he sought guidance from Little League officials on membership issues before this year’s election.

“The reason why the notice went out late was that we never assumed that 106 people were going to show up,” Harris said. “In a perfect world, should we have sent that out earlier? You could make that argument. But the reality is it wasn’t anything that we felt would impact people’s vote. It was a matter of, ‘How do we make it as convenient as possible for people to make their voices heard?’”

Complaints about the election came to the attention of officials beyond the local league, including district administrator Marty Hoy and regional director Dave Bonham.

In a Sept. 24 email to Harris, Bonham said he had heard concerns about “questionable” balloting practices and asked Harris to use Little League International’s election guidelines, which differ from those in the local league’s constitution.

“Without sounding as if I am being judgmental or arbitrary, it would appear that the process is exclusionary by design,” Bonham wrote. “When parents in a local league feel that they are not being heard or shut out of the opportunity to serve they will leave. When enough leave there is no league.”

In a Nov. 6 email to Bonham, Harris outlined the local league’s quorum and membership requirements and mentioned that the situation had become “destructive” to the league.

A week later, Bonham ordered the local league to conduct another election.

“A lot of people came to me and said, ‘If we redo this election, this is giving in,’” Harris said. “They felt the election was being held hostage. By giving this vocal minority another opportunity at an election they lost would compromise the integrity of the community.”

Terry, who is black, said the botched election underscores larger problems of racial inequity and prejudice in the organization.

“I was ready to leave, but I could not look my son in the eye and tell him I’m running away from something like this, so I stuck it out,” Terry said. “I don’t want this to be about race. But it got to the point where they were literally changing the rules. And now we’re here with a new election.”

Harris said he was personally offended by the insinuation that race played a role in the election process. While some parents said the league does need to discuss racial equity, others said race had nothing to do with the election and that inserting race into a debate over parliamentary procedure is inappropriate.

Tonight’s election will be held at 7 p.m. at VCA Antech, 12401 W. Olympic Blvd. Harris said it will follow the umbrella organization’s procedures and that district and region officials have been invited to monitor the proceedings.

jeff@www.smdp.com