And The Winner Is, uh, We Don't Know

Nobody knows for sure how many ballots remain to be counted from Tuesday's statewide election, with a batch of issues and candidates hanging in the balance.

As of Thursday night, the secretary of state's website showed a total of 10,210,619 votes cast in the presidential race, but the final number of counted ballots is likely to be at least 2 million higher.

The so-far-uncounted ballots are mostly absentee or vote-by-mails that arrived at county registrars after the Friday before the election; the rest are provisional ballots about which questions were raised at polling places on Election Day.

Estimates of how many remain to be tallied range from 1.7 million, as projected by the L.A. Times, to about 3 million, as suggested by Merv Field, dean of California poll-takers.

"It's two or three million, and probably on the high side," Field told me. Before the election, the Field Poll projected total state turnout for the election would be 13.6 million. The exact number will be known on December 2, the deadline for the secretary of state to certify election results.

Meanwhile a host of candidates and issue advocates agonizingly await the outcome.

In the 19th state senate race, Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson currently holds a 108-vote lead over Republican rival Tony Strickland - 153,106 to 152,998. The counting is complicated because the district includes portions of three counties, and thus involves three voter registrars counting three batches of ballots.

There are an estimated 36,000 uncounted ballots in Santa Barbara County, where Jackson defeated Strickland 55.5 to 44.5 percent. It's impossible to know how many of them come from voters within the 19th senate district, as part of north county lies within the 15th SD; for purposes of argument, if all of the uncounted ballots were in the district, and if Jackson's percentage holds up, she would net about 4,000 votes.

There are about 100,000 uncounted ballots in Ventura County, where Strickland out polled Jackson 52.2 to 47.8 percent; using the same set of assumptions here, he would also make a net gain of about 4,000 votes.

That leaves the tiny portion of the district that falls within Los Angeles County, where only 22,819 of the 306,104 votes counted so far about 7 percent were cast. L.A. County has more than 550,000 uncounted ballots and, again there's no way of knowing how many come from within the 19th senate district. Even a small number would likely help Strickland more than Jackson in the excruciatingly close race, however, as he beat here in this conservative area 56.7 to 43.3 percent.

Another race that might be affected is the Third District supervisor's contest between Doreen Farr and Steve Pappas. Farr now holds an 821-vote lead and has declared victory, but, as the Daily Nexus reported Thursday, Farr has so far refused to concede, pending final numbers.

Up north, Republican Tom McClintock, the outgoing state senator from the 19th district, holds a 709-vote edge over Democrat Charlie Brown in the Fourth Congressional District. There are nine counties, with about 40,000 uncounted votes, in that district.

Statewide, the one initiative that could flip is Proposition 11, Gov. Terminator's redistricting reform measure. The current count puts it ahead 50.6 to 49.4 percent a difference of about 100,000 votes out of about 9 million cast. Although the Yes-on-11 campaign has already declared victory, when the deal goes down, the several million ballots still to be tallied could have them eating crow.

Opponents of Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage through a constitutional amendment, originally hoped that they might defeat the measure when all the outstanding votes were counted.

The Yes-on-8 campaign now leads by slightly more than 500,000 votes, by 53.5 to 47.5 percent. Assuming there are 3 million votes to be counted, this means that the No-on-8 camp would have to win a virtually impossible 60 percent of them, which is why they conceded defeat on Thursday. I'll be writing more about Proposition 8 in my print column in next week's Independent.

Frank Russo offers a complete look at races in the balance in California Progress Report, found here.

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