Most of Santa Barbara County’s offices were closed for Veterans’ Day. But at only 8:45 a.m. today, the county’s election ballot-counting headquarters at the corner of Anacapa and Figueroa streets was bustling.
Three men sat outside with a stack of boxes of ballots, waiting to take them to the second-floor space filled with counting machines, computers, and yet more ballots. Upstairs, County Clerk-Recorder Joe Holland was giving a tour to a school field trip on one side near a handful of workers who were removing vote-by-mail ballots from their green envelopes. On the other side of the warm, stuffy room, one man was running ballots through a counting machine while three workers were duplicating ballots for people who had submitted ballots from overseas. There would be no holiday for these people.
Nor would there be a holiday for a group in the middle of the room – representatives dispatched by both the California Democratic and Republican parties who were ready to resume overseeing signature inspections on vote-by-mail ballots to make sure their candidates for the 19th Senate District, Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson and Republican Tony Strickland, were getting a fair shake. The already tedious process has been considerably slowed by the observers-one team of two election workers verifying signatures had only gotten through four ballots in roughly 30 minutes of work. Two of those were challenged. In fact, dozens of votes have thus far been challenged, Holland said.
As of the posting of this story on Tuesday evening, Jackson was trailing Strickland by just 540 votes out of 361,904 cast for the two in the hotly-contested race, which is being watched around the state. But by the time Thursday’s print edition of The Independent comes out, the lead may be reversed and reversed again. In fact, such flip-flopping could continue through November as results continue to slowly come in from Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, each of which contain at least a bit of the district. The closeness of the race has prompted the county to gear up for a manual recount of 10 percent of the vote in order to check for variances, in accordance with state rules. And even then, Holland said, the state may require a total manual recount because of new regulations. “We’re waiting for clarification from the state,” he said. Even if the state doesn’t demand such a recount, either of the two candidates could do so after the county certifies the election by December 2.
The majority of remaining votes are in Ventura County, where, as of Tuesday night, 54,939 vote-by-mail ballots and 14,345 provisional ballots remain. In Santa Barbara, roughly 6,000 provisional and 1,100 emergency ballots remain, with more expected to be reported Thursday. While not all provisional ballots will be counted, traditionally about 80 percent are found to be valid, meaning this race is far from decided.
Who will snag the third open seat on the Santa Barbara School Board is still anyone’s guess as well, as Ed Heron is clinging to a 418 vote lead over Charlotte Ware, a lead that has grown by more than 165 votes since Election Day. The wildcard in that race has no doubt been Kate Smith, who, though disqualified prior to Election Day, appeared on the ballot and thus far has snagged 16,301 votes.
While Joe Armendariz looks to be a shoo-in to hold onto his seat in the Carpinteria City Council race, the other winner is still unclear. Kathleen Reddington was only 25 votes ahead of Steve McWhirter the day after the election, a lead that dwindled to 17 by Friday but is back up to 41 as of Wednesday afternoon. “I’m glad to see the margin is widening,” Reddington said. “I have faith in the people of Carpinteria and feel the best person will be chosen for the job.”
Doreen Farr has a 605 vote lead-almost two percentage points ahead of Steve Pappas-in the race to become the 3rd District Supervisor. While Pappas has expressed optimism in the number of votes still out there, Farr’s team is confident that her lead will remain.
Tom McClintock, the current senator representing the 19th District, is in a battle of his own up north for the 4th District U.S. Congressional seat. McClintock has increased his lead over the last few days, but is still only 0.4 percent ahead in that race, a difference of only 1,092 votes out of 318,384 counted thus far. There are roughly 52,000 uncounted ballots in that race.
Also tight is Prop. 11, which would grant the power to define Senate and Assembly districts to an independent commission. The measure is currently leading by 50.7 percent rate, ahead by only 135,693 votes statewide.