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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harris' Lead Up To 53,500 Votes

Kamala Harris has once again expanded her lead in the race for California Attorney General, based upon returns filed with the Secretary of State on Monday, November 23. Harris now leads L.A. D.A. Steve Cooley by 53,581 votes. The S.O.S. reports just under 400,000 ballots left to be processed by counties statewide, though an L.A. Times analysis puts that number at under 300,000.

(The S.O.S. reports of ballots remaining to be processed has seemed to lag data from the count of ballots throughout this process. It would be helpful if that office could coordinate that report with the county-by-county reports, or set out a clear statement of what that count truly represents.)

The counties reporting on Monday, according to the S.O.S., included pro-Cooley counties Butte, Orange (which had earlier reported that they had completed their vote count), Riverside (where Harris actually picked up 279 votes over Cooley for the day), San Diego and Ventura. Pro-Harris counties reporting were Imperial, Los Angeles (where Harris' margin was 8,922 votes), Marin, Monterey, Napa and Santa Clara. Sacramento County, which favored Cooley in initial tallies, but whose later tallies favored Harris, also reported.

While there may be some bumps along the road based upon which counties are reporting, we expect Harris to hold at least a 40,000 vote lead from here on out, with a likely final margin of at least 50,000, and likely in excess of 60,000 votes.

(Photo courtesy KamalaHarris.org)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Field Clears for Ted Lieu in 28th Senate District (CA)

The field has largely cleared for California State Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-53rd AD) in the soon-to-be-announced special election to fill the 28th Senate District seat of the late Jenny Oropeza, who passed away this October 20 at 53 years of age, of complications from an abdominal blood clot. Oropeza was re-elected posthumously on November 2, beating her Republican opponent by a 22 percent margin.

Initial indications were that numerous local past and present office-holders were considering entering the special election race, likely to be held in March or April, 2011. Among the names mentioned, in addition to Lieu, who failed in his bid to be the Democratic nominee for State Attorney General and is being termed out of his Assembly seat, were Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (who had run for the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor this past June), Assemblyman Warren Furutani (whose seat overlaps much of the southern portion of the 28th S.D.), and former Assemblyman George Nakano, who lost the Democratic primary for the 28th S.D. to Oropeza in 2006.

Hahn and Furutani have now announced that they will not be running Jenny Oropeza's seat, and each has endorsed Ted Lieu for the seat. There has been no recent word on Nakano's intentions.

John Stammreich, the Republican candidate in the November election, has stated that he will not run for the seat at this time, but has left open the possibility of running in 2012, after the Redistricting Commission has redrawn district lines.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kamla Harris Will Be The Next Attorney General of California

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.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kamala Harris Solidifies Lead in State A.G. Race - Cooley Attacks L.A. Registrar

Kamala Harris has solidified her lead in the California State Attorney General's race, and appears to have a fairly direct path to victory.

The current tally from the Secretary of State's office shows Harris with a 30,904 vote (.4%) lead over Republican Steve Cooley. This lead appears to be fairly solid based upon several facts:

Orange County, which went 2 to 1 for Cooley, has counted and reported all but 1,598 ballots. San Diego County, which favored Cooley by about 13.5%, is down to 35,000 ballots left to process. Other pro-Cooley counties appear to be more than offset by untallied votes from counties which favored Harris on election day.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County still has approximately 100,000 ballots remaining to process and report. In the last two ballot reports from L.A. (incorporating a greater percentage of provisional ballots, which, as we've discussed in prior posts, tend to favor Harris to a greater extent than the overall vote count), Harris has held at least a 22% advantage over Cooley, collecting over 61% of the vote, compared to Cooley's under 39%.

The Cooley camp has responded to the unfavorable vote totals in L.A. County by sending a swarm of workers, reportedly including retired law enforcement officers, to the County Registrar's office in Norwalk, where, according to the Harris campaign, they are acting aggressively and are crowding county workers who are attempting to validate (or invalidate) provisional ballots based upon a review of the provisional ballot envelopes containing the provisional ballots. (Workers cannot determine how the voter cast his or her vote when reviewing the ballot envelope to make a determination of validity; the ballot is sealed within the provisional envelope.) Harris volunteers, reportedly including members of the SEIU and the West LA Democratic Club, are keeping an eye on the provisional ballot processing, proceeding at approximately 90 stations in a secured room on the 4th floor. Workers from both campaigns are also keeping an eye on each other during this process.

The Cooley campaign also appears to be putting together a PR campaign to discredit the Los Angeles Registrar, and to question the validity of the Los Angeles vote count. Much like the argument of Joe Miller in Alaska, where the tea-party-supported candidate is attempting to beat write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski, Cooley seems to be arguing that voter intent should be ignored, unless that voter has complied with all technical rules in casting his or her ballot. Meanwhile, tension is increasing as Steve Cooley sees his victory, which he appeared to have once taken for granted, now appears to be slipping away.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kamala Harris Takes Lead in California State Attorney General's Race

With a spate of counties reporting additional results from the counting of late absentee, provisional and damaged ballots from the November 2 general election, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee, has pulled into a thin lead over Los Angeles D.A. Steve Cooley, the Republican.

Reporting results from November 11, on which no updated reports were issued by the Secretary of State due to the Veteran's Day holiday, as well as morning reporting on November 12, updates from Kings, Sacramento, Ventura and Yolo counties dropped Cooley's lead over Harris to 14,174.

It was in afternoon reporting from Amador, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kings, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Cruz counties that Harris pulled into a 5,576 vote (.1%) lead over Cooley.

In the Los Angeles County report, 44,813 votes were added to the tallies of the two leading candidates, with Harris receiving 27,531 (61.44%) of those votes, to Cooley's 17,280 (38.56%), as provisional ballots cast on election day worked their way into the results for the first time. While the S.O.S.'s Estimated Unprocessed Ballots report issued at 5 p.m. on November 12 does not seem to have deducted for (at least) the L.A. County votes reported this afternoon, we would estimate that approximately 150,000 L.A. County votes remain to be counted. Should Harris continue to carry those voters in a similar proportion as during this latest reporting period, she should pick up an additional 25 - 30,000 vote advantage over Cooley in L.A. County. (As the percentage of those votes which are provisional ballots increases, Harris well could increase her percentage of advantage over Cooley in L.A. County late ballot counts. Not all provisional ballots will be approved for counting -- expect a 5 to 10% drop-off rate, at least for L.A. County.)

When the S.O.S. updates the Unprocessed Ballots report, we should get a better picture of where the remaining votes will be coming from, and in what volume. Again, we expect Harris' percentages in the later ballot counts to increase even in counties in which she trailed badly as those counties' percentage of provisional ballots increase over absentee (and damaged / remade) ballots increases. (As of 5 p.m. this evening, the not-fully-updated S.O.S.report indicated about 470,000 unprocessed / reported provisional ballots, surpassing the 375,000 absentee ballots at left to be accounted for, along with an additional 53,000 damaged / to-be-remade ballots. (To-be-remade ballots include damaged ballots, ballots which cannot feed into the ballot counting machines in their current condition, overseas faxed ballots and ballots which were cast by vote-by-mail voters directly onto the their sample ballots, rather than onto the computer bubble card used for counting.))

Los Angeles County will issue its' next vote count update on Tuesday, November 16.

***

In the 11th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat McNerney holds a 1,690 vote (.9%) lead over Republican Harmer. In the 20th C.D., incumbent Democrat Costa holds a 1,107 vote (1.4%) lead over Republican challenger Vidak in the latest reporting period.

***

Update - 11:00 p.m.:

Jack Leonard at the Los Angeles Times
has reported on further updates on the A.G.'s race, based upon the gathering of data from individual counties statewide. At 7:51 p.m., the Times reported that Kamala Harris had taken a 303 vote lead, 4,117,728 to 4,117,425, incorporating just over 150,000 votes more than were in the vote totals reported by us above, due to a lag in reporting by the Secretary of State's office.

The Times article also states that the Cooley campaign has expressed concerns that "Los Angeles County workers have not been following proper procedures for counting ballots", alleging that "[s]ome vote counters have responded to complaints about individual ballots by placing them back in a pile of votes to be counted later"....

From the L.A. Times article:

Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan said Cooley’s campaign had expressed broad concerns but had not issued any specific complaints about the vote-counting process. He said he believed his workers had followed the law.

"I don’t believe there’s been anything raised at this point that is a significant concern," Logan said.

The Times quotes Dean Logan as reporting that approximately "80% to 85% of provisional ballots are usually deemed to be valid"; we had earlier suggested a likely 90% to 95% validity rate for those ballots. While we stand by our earlier suggestion, we recognize that the percentage of valid provisional ballots may fall in a wider range than we had earlier reported.

(Provisional ballots will be disallowed if the voter casts a vote outside of his or her county of residence, if the signature does not match that from the voter registration form, if the voter was not registered to vote prior to the deadline for the election (October 18 for the November 2 election), if the voter is a felon who has not completed his / her parole and thereafter re-registered to vote, or if the ballot is otherwise improper.)

Most county registrars throughout the nation will count an otherwise valid vote if the voter's intent can be determined from the ballot; the Los Angeles Registrar's office appears to be no exception to that rule.

We appreciate the work done by Jack Leonard at the L.A. Times in obtaining the county-by-county vote count in this race, and in bringing the status of the A.G.'s race to a broader audience.

***

For further background and information on these races, see our prior posts, linked near the top of the column on the far right portion of this page.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Costa Takes Lead in 20th C.D.; McNerney Lead Narrows, Cooley's Lead Over Harris Grows

Democratic incumbent Jim Costa has taken a 1,318 vote (1.8%) lead over Republican challenger Andy Vidak in the 20th Congressional District (CA) as of 5:28 p.m. November 10, the Secretary of State reports. The votes that put Costa into the lead appear to come from the most recent reporting from Fresno County. SOS reports do not update the total votes remaining from Fresno (or Kern) counties which may still impact the final vote totals in this contest.

In the 11th C.D., Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney has seen his lead shrink somewhat, to .9% (1,685 votes) over Republican David Harmer, with updated vote counts from Alameda, Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties during the day on November 10. The American Independent candidate, David Christensen, the only third-party candidate in the race, has seen his percentage of the vote increase to 5.1%.

And in the race to determine the next Attorney General of California, Republican Steve Cooley has expanded his lead over Democrat Kamala Harris to 19,357 votes, giving him a .2% lead with approximately 1,000,000 votes left to count statewide. While an exact count is impossible, a review suggests that there are perhaps 30 - 40,000 more votes remaining to be counted in pro-Harris counties than in pro-Cooley counties. (Of course, the percentage of gap between the candidates vote counts vary greatly from county to county; an exact analysis of the outstanding votes is beyond the scope of this blog.) Finally, as ballot processing continues in the county registrar offices, expect to see the number of late absentee ballots included in the counts to diminish, likely dropping off significantly next week. The provisional ballots which will show up in vote counts in greater numbers later this week and into next week will reflect votes from election day, at which point Harris' late surge should be fully reflected. Those later votes are expected to trend Democratic to a much greater extent than the votes tallied after election night to date.

Votes counts after the Friday reports are tallied should provide a better picture of the trend for provisional ballots, but expect a much clearer picture when vote tallies are provided next week. (Los Angeles County, with over 200,000 ballots left to process / report, will be reporting this Friday, then again next Tuesday and Friday.) Until then, the A.G.'s race remains much too close to call.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Update on Harris / Cooley, McNerney / Harmer (11th C.D. CA), Costa / Vidak (20th CD CA)

An update on the above races:

With about 1.28 million of the 2.3 million previously uncounted ballots remaining to be counted and reported, Republican Steve Cooley's lead in the race for California Attonrey General, which had expanded to over 51,000 votes as of 9:12 a.m. November 9, has dropped to just under 36,200 as of 5 p.m. this evening. The new votes appear to have come from Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties. (The vast number of the ballots counted from the 2.3 which had been uncounted on election night appear to be late absentee ballots (either received by mail on or after the weekend before the election, or brought to polling places on election day). At least some counties are processing those in the order received.)

Los Angeles County has reported just over 100,000 of their 400,000 plus initially-uncounted ballots, all of which appear to have been absentee ballots. Over 322,000 L.A. County ballots remain to be counted and/or reported. Los Angeles is planning to report on an additional ballot report, totaling approximately 100,000 votes, today, and those totals should appear later tonight or tomorrow morning. Those again appear to be all late absentee ballots, which can be processed more quickly than provisionals, which need to be hand-checked for eligibility.

While Kamala Harris should win the plurality of these L.A. County absentee ballots, we don't expect a major improvement in her numbers until Los Angeles (and other Democratic-leaning counties) move into reporting the provisional ballots. Expect a not-insignificant number of these 133,000 provisional votes to work their way into the Friday, November 12 report from Los Angeles, giving us a better idea of how the vote is likely to break over the week ahead. Expect significant narrowing of the Cooley lead as those votes work their way into the ballot count. Provisionals will tend to include significantly more Democratic voters than the overall electorate.

Meanwhile, in the 11th Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerny has built a 628 vote (.5 percent) lead over Republican challenger David Harmer. Absentee and/or provisional ballots from Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Santa Clara counties remain to be processed; McNerny leads substantially in voting in the Alameda (14% lead) and Santa Clara (8% lead) county portions of his district, while trailing narrowly in Contra Costa, and more broadly in San Juaquin counties. We expect McNerny to hold and build his lead as provisional ballots are added to the vote count totals. (An American Independent candidate in that race is pulling 4.9% of the vote, which percentage will be far more than the margin of McNerny's likely victory.)

And in the 20th Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Jim Costa, after trailing by more than two percent on election night, appears to be poised to take the lead from late absentee and provisional ballots. As of the 4:44 p.m. count this evening, Costa trailed Republican Andy Vidak by 27 votes (.2%).

Vidak's area of strength was Kings County, where he thrashed Costa, nearly 70% to 30%. Kings County completed their reporting of all ballots on November 8, so all remaining votes will be coming from Costa strongholds of Fresno County (where he leads by more than 60 to 40 percent) and Kerns County (where Costa leads 61 to 39 percent). We do not know what portions of the unreported votes from those counties are within Costa's district.

Barring unexpected developments, expect Costa to be re-elected to represent the 20th District, though a recount could well be forthcoming.

***
6:55 p.m. update:

Without updating the number of unprocessed votes, the Secretary of State's office has released new figures impacting the A.G.'s and 20th C.D. races. With approximately an additional 234,000 votes added between Harris and Cooley, Cooley has increased his lead to nearly 41,000 votes.

In the 20th C.D., Vidak has re-opened a 1% lead, leading by 648 votes. It is thus too early to suggest a likely winner in that contest.

***
10:50 p.m. update:

Additional votes have been added from Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Mateo counties.

Cooley is currently leading Harris by 43,212 votes (.5%).

When the unprocessed ballot report is updated (likely Wednesday morning), we'll have a good idea of the number of ballots left to count in Cooley strongholds (particularly Orange and San Diego counties, but also places such as Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura), versus Harris strongholds (most of the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles). (It appears that approximately 157,000 of the more than 400,000 initially-unprocessed Los Angeles counties ballots are included in this count, leaving some 250,000 ballots from Los Angeles to be added to the totals. Harris is currently leading in L.A. County 53% to 40%.)

Again, we'll also have a better idea of how things are breaking after the Friday report from Los Angeles, which should incorporate the first batch of provisional ballots from that county, which are expected to break strongly for Harris.

In the 20th C.D., the numbers reported at 6:55 p.m. were apparently as the result in a glitch in the SOS computers and/or input. The SOS is again reporting that Costa is trailing by 27 votes, or .2%.

***
November 10, 2010: 6:55 p.m. update:

Harris has erased much of Cooley's lead, and now trails him by 11,400 votes, or .1% of the vote counted to date.

In the 11th C.D., Democratic incumbent McNerney has increased his lead over Republican Harmer to 2,498 votes (1.3%).

And in the 20th C.D., after trailing since early returns on election night, Democratic incumbent Costa has taken a 1,318 vote lead over Republican challenger Vidak, and now holds a lead by 1.8% of the vote.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Harris / Cooley A.G. Race Comes Down to Count of Provisional / Absentee Ballots

Kamala Harris and Steve Cooley, the major party candidates seeking election as the next Attorney General of the State of California, await the count of more than 2.3 million unprocessed ballots, including over 1.7 million absentee / vote-by-mail ballots, more than 500,000 provisional ballots, as well as damaged and other ballots to determine the outcome of the November 2, 2010 election.

Democrat Harris, the District Attorney of San Francisco, surprised many political insiders by holding a lead of 14,838 votes after 100% of precincts had reported the day after the election. Polls which had shown a significant lead for Cooley in September had tightened as the election drew near. The L.A. Times / U.S.C. poll, taken in mid-October, showed Republican Cooley with a five-point lead statewide, and a nine-point lead in traditionally-Democratic L.A. County, where Cooley is in his third term as District Attorney. A Field Poll taken later in October showed a dead heat -- with Cooley ahead among "likely voters" by one percent. By election day, Democrat Harris had made up her deficit in Los Angeles County, and currently holds a nearly 14 percentage-point lead over the local D.A.

Los Angeles County had reported over 400,000 unprocessed votes after the initial count from precincts had been completed; just over 100,000 of those ballots have been processed; between Harris and Cooley, Harris received 44,623 of those votes (51.48%), while Cooley received 42,053 (48.52%). Harris is likely disappointed in this breakdown; with close to 240,000 votes initially uncounted ballots in conservative Orange and San Diego Counties, where Cooley did extremely well on election night, Harris needs a boast from the L.A. County's uncounted votes to have a good chance of prevailing in the final vote count. (While there are significant numbers of uncounted ballots in Harris strongholds in the San Francisco Bay area where she ran extremely well, their numbers could be dwarfed by the larger Southern California counties.)

Over 500,000 of the 2.3 million previously uncounted votes have now been counted, and Steve Cooley has a 24,276 vote lead over Kamala Harris (46% to 45.7%). From watching county reporting status updates, it appears that a disproportionate percentage of the ballots counted have come from conservative counties -- Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, where Cooley is expected to do very well.

The Kamala Harris campaign has put out a call for volunteers
(and particularly lawyers and law students) to observe the counting of the outstanding ballots. The Cooley campaign also states that they are monitoring the vote count, and have legal counsel on standby to respond to developments.

This race looks likely to take weeks or longer to reach resolution. We'll try to keep you updated here.