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Jackson Leads By 255 Votes

Hannah-Beth Jackson on Friday recaptured the lead she lost a day earlier to Tony Strickland in the excruciatingly close race for the 19th state senate district seat.

Jackson now leads Strickland 169,757 to 169,502, an edge of 255 votes, according to tallies posted on web sites of the Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties voter registrars, for a margin of .5003758 to .4996241.

Three days after the election, the final outcome of the $10 million contest is still uncertain, as counting continues of absentee ballots mailed in the final days of the campaign, or dropped off on Election Day.

"You can construct a rationale for either Hannah Beth or Strickland to win it, but we just have to wait and see," Parke Skelton, Jackson's chief strategist told me.

Skelton estimated that counting in the three counties that contain portions of the sprawling district would go on for another week or so. The Secretary of State will certify the final numbers for the election on Dec. 2.

Beyond the late absentees, still to be counted are thousands of provisional ballots, which were cast on election day but held out because of some procedural question. For example, some residents who registered near the deadline may not have had their names appear on registration lists delivered to poll workers on Election Day, but could have their vote counted when it is later confirmed as valid. Skelton said he thought that a number of the more than 10,000 new voters registered at UCSB in the final weeks of the race may have cast such provisional ballots, which would tend to favor Jackson.

On Friday, the registrars in both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties reported updated numbers in the 19th district. In Santa Barbara, Clerk, Recorder and Assessor Joe Holland's office recorded 19,924 additional votes; Jackson won 54.5 percent of them. In Los Angeles, home to a small but very conservative segment of the district around Santa Clarita, Strickland was winning about 57 percent of the newly counted ballots. Ventura County did not report any new results on Friday; the day before, however, newly counted ballots gave Strickland a briefly-lived lead, after Jackson won on election day by 108 votes.

On Friday night, the Secretary of State's web site had not yet updated its figures from Ventura County, and incorrectly showed Jackson with a 1,203 vote lead.

Strickland strategist Joe Justin confirmed that his running count also showed Jackson with a 255-vote lead.

Update: Saturday 11/08/08: Ventura County Star reporter Timm Herdt reports that the Ventura County registrar will release its next batch of results on absentee counting on Monday. His story is here.

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