Based upon ballot tabulation updates from the last two days, and particularly upon today's update incorporating approximately 50,000 votes from Los Angeles County and additional votes from Monterey County, it now appears that Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley has no feasible path to victory in the California A.G.'s race, and that San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee, will be the next Attorney General of California.
As of 4:14 p.m. today, Harris held a lead of 4,291,854 votes to Cooley's 4,248,804, a margin of 43,050 votes, or .5%. This constitutes Harris' largest lead since results were first announced on election night.
Harris, who had a 30,730 vote lead as of the 17th, saw that margin shrink slightly on the 18th, as many counties in which Cooley had run well reported additional results. Cooley apparently picked up an advantage of over 10,000 votes in Placer County, offset somewhat by additional ballots from San Francisco and Sacramento, where Harris' provisional ballot votes substantially outperformed her overall percentages, as expected. Despite this slight Cooley pick-up on the 18th, Harris held a lead of 29,399 votes before gaining an additional advantage of nearly 14,000 votes today.
According to a source in a high position within the Cooley campaign, Steve Cooley will be meeting with his staff over this weekend to determine his next steps. While that source advised us that a recount or legal action would likely result should the margin between the candidates end up below the 10,000 vote range, we were also advised that Cooley would not drag the matter on should Harris be ahead by a range of about 20 to 30,000 votes or more after all ballots had been tabulated.
As the Cooley campaign pours over the numbers tonight and this weekend, we expect them to conclude that Kamala Harris will emerge the winner by such a margin so as to make the cost, effort and inconvenience of any challenge to the result counterproductive. (California law does not provide for any sort of automatic recount.) While they may wish to wait for another round of updates, including the next L.A. County update next Tuesday, we expect Steve Cooley to concede the race sometime next week, returning his full focus to running the largest local prosecutors office in the nation.
Update: November 20, 2010, 12:25 p.m.:
The L.A. Times has again provided a county-by-county analysis of the statewide vote count as it applies to the Harris-Cooley race. That count has found that there are 305,004 ballots remaining to be counted statewide, with 185,937 (60.9%) in counties Democrat Harris won on November 2, and only 119,067 (39.1%) in counties in which Republican Cooley lead.
56,000 of the remaining uncounted ballots, the Times reports, are in L.A. County. While Harris leads Cooley in L.A. County overall by about 14%, she has been leading Cooley by about 22% among the later mix of ballots, which contain larger percentages of provisional ballots cast on election day.
The above figures cannot be the basis of simple calculations to determine the final tally. Each candidates percentage of advantage varies from county to county; for example, while Harris leads Cooley in L.A. County by 14% overall, Cooley trounced Harris in Orange County by 29%. (However, Orange County has now completed its vote count, and Cooley's advantage there will be of no further benefit to him as the last 300,000 ballots are tabulated. San Diego County, in which Cooley leads Harris by about 13%, has only 12,000 ballots left to count.)
Further, a higher percentage of the provisional ballots remaining throughout the state, and certainly in L.A. County, will be found to be "no count" ballots --those which are found to have been cast by voters who were not eligible to cast a vote. (The invalidity will likely be due to the voter having cast a vote out of their registered county, or having been validly registered to vote in the county in which the vote was provisionally cast.) Those "no count" ballots, which are generally screened multiple times before a final determination of invalidity is made (thus accounting for their appearance later in the tabulation process), now make up a greater percentage of the uncounted ballots than they have up until now. We expect that fewer than 50,000 of the remaining 56,000 L.A. County will actually make it into the final vote total. (The same situation should apply to counties statewide.)
Based upon the above figures and reasonable extrapolations therefrom, we now expect Kamala Harris to defeat Steve Cooley by more than 50,000 votes statewide.