Nancy Crawford-Hall, an ardent and wealthy supporter of Steve Pappas-who lost his bid for 3rd District Supervisor in November to Doreen Farr-has requested a recount of votes in 21 different precincts in the district.
Whether that recount will happen remains to be seen, as Pappas and Jimmie Johnson, an associate at the Sacramento law firm of Bell, McAndrews, and Hiltachk, LLP, have spent at least two days poring over voter registration cards, precinct rosters, and absentee ballot envelopes. Depending on what they find, they may or may not move forward with a machine recount next week.
For the past three weeks, Crawford-Hall has been editorializing in the newspaper she owns, the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, about alleged irregularities in the voter registration process and get out the vote effort by Pappas’s opponents. Noting in her most recent editorial, titled “We’ve been acorned,” that some precincts in Isla Vista and UCSB recorded a more than 100 percent turnout on Election Day, Crawford-Hall said there is “solid evidence of shenanigans in our own local election.” One precinct even appeared, in the county’s statement of votes posted on its Web site, to have more than 130 percent of its precinct vote.
But County Clerk-Recorder Joe Holland, who is in charge of running elections, said there are no irregularities. He explained Friday that students move from year to year within Isla Vista, so when they go to vote, they may show up at the wrong polling place. In such circumstances they fill out a provisional ballot. Although the provisional ballots count as part of the Election Day “turnout,” they aren’t counted as votes until later, after election officials have ensured that the voter is indeed registered and hasn’t cast a ballot somewhere else as well. “This is part of the process,” Holland said, noting that more than 6,000 provisional ballots were counted in this election.
Even though Holland expressed confidence that the process worked, he encouraged the examination to shed light on sometimes confusing numbers. Pappas hasn’t returned phone calls seeking comment. Crawford-Hall, who gave more than $100,000 to Pappas’s campaign, also never responded to a message left on her voicemail at the newspaper.
Johnson, according to the law firm’s Web site, is a specialist in “election contest litigation, election writ litigation involving state and local candidate and initiative qualification, ballot pamphlet litigation, and post-election constitutional review.”
The deadline to file a request for a recount of November’s election was Monday, December 8, which Crawford-Hall did, according to County Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters Billie Alvarez. Through Friday, Holland estimated the cost of the examination had reached between $6,000 and $7,000 because Holland had to hire staff to dig out the absentee envelopes, which are kept in sealed boxes. A machine recount, which would more than likely take place Monday or Tuesday, December 15 or 16, would be significantly more expensive.
Farr defeated Pappas 51.00 percent to 48.73 percent, a difference of 806 votes out of 35,621. To put this in perspective, in the race for the 19th Senate District, which was considered very close, out of the 415,095 votes cast, Tony Strickland defeated Hannah-Beth Jackson by 857 votes.
Farr has had representatives observing the process this week. Despite no concession from Pappas-the two haven’t spoken since before Election Day-Farr is moving forward in getting ready for office. She will be sworn into office January 6, replacing Brooks Firestone as the representative of the district that includes Goleta, Isla Vista, and UCSB and spans out to the Santa Ynez Valley. Last week she traveled with her future colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, and some county staff, to the California State Association of Counties conference in San Diego, and she is expected to name her office staff in the coming days.