Turnout in Contra Costa hits 66 percent

Voters surpassed by 11 percentage points Contra Costa Registrar Steve Weir’s turnout projections for the Nov. 2 general election.

In the final vote tally certified today, Contra Costa turnout was 66 percent, for a total of 352,687 votes cast at the top of the ticket for governor. It’s the highest turnout since the 1982 gubernatorial election. (The race at the top of the ballot is usually the contest that receives the most votes. Click here for the SOS county-by-county turnout list.)

Why? The credit, or blame, depending on your perspective, most likely rests with the Democrats. The party made a successful and huge push in the final week through TV and radio ads, and on-the-the-ground use of labor unions. The larger-than-expected turnout on Election Day really helped Democrats in close contests, such as Rep. Jerry McNerney in the 11th Congressional District.

Some Contra Costa cities posted higher turnouts than others. Orinda and Lafayette top the list, while San Pablo clearly needs a push. Here’s a ranked list:

  1. Orinda: 78.8 percent
  2. Lafayette: 76.8 percent
  3. El Cerrito: 75.3 percent
  4. Moraga: 74.9 percent
  5. Danville: 74.1 percent
  6. Walnut Creek: 73.4 percent
  7. Clayton: 73.5 percent
  8. Pleasant Hill: 69.8 percent
  9. Martinez: 69.3 percent
  10. San Ramon: 67.8 percent
  11. Pinole: 66.8 percent
  12. Concord: 65.5 percent
  13. Brentwood: 62.9 percent
  14. Hercules: 59.7 percent
  15. Richmond: 59 percent
  16. Antioch: 56.6 percent
  17. Oakley: 54.2 percent
  18. Pittsburg: 53.7 percent
  19. San Pablo: 49.5 percent

Weir sent over some additional statistics, which you may find interesting.

Historical turnout during gubernatorial elections:

Year Turn Out Turn Out, VBM State Turn Out

  • 2010 66.1%
  • 2006 63.4%
  • 2002 56.6%
  • 1998 63.1%
  • 1994 62.0%
  • 1990 61.3%
  • 1986 62.5%
  • 1982 70.5%

CD11: McNerney officially wins re-election



Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, has officially won re-election to a third term.

Contra Costa County, the fourth and final county in the 11th Congressional District, certified its election results late this morning, which widened McNerney’s final margin of victory over GOP nominee David Harmer to 2,658 votes.

The final vote tally: McNerney, 115,361 votes, or 47.97 percent; Harmer, 112,703, or 46.86 percent; and David Christensen, American Independent, 12,439, or 5.17 percent.

McNerney had been trailing Harmer in Contra Costa County, but overtook him as the final votes were tallied. He eventually beat Harmer by 92 votes in Contra Costa and prevailed in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.

Harmer won in the more conservative San Joaquin County by 4,493 votes, or 3.6 percentage points. This result could prove telling for McNerney’s 2012 re-election prospects, as redistricting next year will almost certainly shift his district’s boundaries eastward.

While the final vote count was tight — 1.1 percent of the 240,503 votes cast — it’s probably not close enough to warrant an expensive recount.

Any registered voter may request a recount but must pay for it. If the election results are overturned as a result of the recount, the county will refund the money.

The Republican Party had been watching this race closely, although both parties sent observers to watch vote counting in all four counties. The California Republican Party has said it will pursue a lawsuit in Contra Costa County in a dispute over the rights of observers to challenge vote-by-mail signatures but the outcome would unlikely impact the 11th District results.

The full county results are posted on its Web site, www.cocovote.us.


U.S. Supreme Court hears Calif. prison case

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared ready today to endorse a lower court’s order calling on California to move thousands of inmates out of its overcrowded prisons so that those who remain get adequate health care, the Associated Press reports (via the Washington Post).

The justices heard an extended argument in a case over long-standing violations of constitutional rights in a state prison system that last year averaged nearly a death a week that might have been prevented or delayed with better medical care.

A decision in Plata v. Schwarzenegger (SCOTUS docket here, historical documents here)will come by next summer, but stakeholders are weighing in today.

From David Fathi, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project:

“Gov. Schwarzenegger has acknowledged that prison overcrowding increases recidivism while creating ‘conditions of extreme peril’ that threaten the health and safety of staff and prisoners alike. Our public safety is jeopardized by overcrowded prisons, in which high-risk prisoners don’t rehabilitate and low-risk prisoners learn new criminal behavior. It is far past time to abandon failed ‘get-tough’ ideologies and invest in policies that are rooted in evidence, fiscal prudence and common sense.”

From Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in Southern California:

“One of the primary reasons that the state’s prisons are dangerously overcrowded is that California continues to lock up thousands of people each year for low-level drug possession. There is no basis in evidence or principle to expose people to this dangerous environment simply for the possession of a small amount of illicit substances. California must follow the lead of other states like Texas and New York and stop sending people to state prison for drug possession, which can be handled as a health issue safely, effectively and affordably in the community.

“The state currently spends $500 million a year to incarcerate 10,000 people for nothing more than personal drug possession. That does not include the unknown number of parolees who have been returned to prison for a few months based on the results of a drug test. This is a terrible waste of scarce resources. Treatment in the community is effective and affordable. Unfortunately, California this year eliminated funding for community-based treatment for drug possession arrestees.

“People who use drugs do not belong in the state’s cruel and costly prisons simply for that personal use. We urge California to take the logical step of ending incarceration as a response to drug possession, while expanding opportunities for drug treatment in the community.”


Oakland firm owes $15.8 mil in state taxes

An Oakland shipping-container company now ranks second on the California Board of Equalization’s list of biggest sales and use tax delinquents.

The board updated its list today, adding 22 entities that owe a total of almost $72 million.

Almost $15.8 million of that amount is owed by C & JD USA Inc. of Oakland; a lien in that amount was issued Aug. 17.

State law since 2007 has required the Board of Equalization to post online a list of the biggest tax scofflaws; those on the list are notified 30 days before it’s published and given a chance to settle their debts. Since the program’s start, 31 qualifying taxpayers whose account balances totaled $31.4 million in sales and use taxes have come forward to take care of their debts; $4.1 million of that money has been collected so far.

The only other Bay Area taxpayer added to the list today was Nabil Khalil Msalam of Redwood City, who owes just over $2 million. Records show Msalam owns Cortella Gas Inc., Easy Stop Gas Inc. and American Canyon Gas Inc. The Secretary of State’s database shows all three companies have been suspended; suspensions can be ordered by the Franchise Tax Board for failure to pay taxes.

See a complete list of the newly added sales and use tax delinquencies, after the jump…
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‘Oakland, where all bets are off for sanity’

Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, speaking this morning on Fox & Friends, blasted Oakland for its plan to issue ID/debit cards:

Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group, immediately called her bluff on that whole “most of us can’t get a thousand dollars on our debit cards” thing, noting Newsweek recently estimated her annual income at about $7 million. It also noted the program’s goal is to help city residents, including but not limited to illegal immigrants and homeless people, who might have trouble getting state-issued ID or scraping together enough money to open a traditional bank account.


Barbara Lee led co-del to observe Haiti’s election

Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Barbara Lee, who led a caucus delegation to Haiti yesterday to observe that calamity-stricken nation’s tumultuous election, said today that “the jury is still out” on whether that vote was free and fair.

UN-soldier-watches-Haitian-election-workers-Getty-Images“The polling places we went to, the turnout didn’t appear to be very high,” Lee, D-Oakland, said, noting that although some people had suggested to her that turnout was low in the morning because many people were in church, turnout seemed low in the afternoon as well.

“I talked to Sean Penn, we had a quick meeting – he’s doing phenomenal work there, but of 5,500 people in his camp, only 750 were eligble to vote,” she said – a common problem throughout the camps in which Haitians displaced by January’s massive earthquake are still huddled.

Without permanent addresses, many had to re-register to vote, Lee said; about 380,000 people applied for new voter registration cares, but only about 250,000 had been distributed before yesterday’s vote. Haiti doesn’t have a system of provisional ballots as we have here; if you’re not on the voter rolls at the polling place, you don’t vote.

“It appears as if there were a lot of people disenfranchised,” she said.
What with the earthquake, last month’s lashing by Hurricane Tomas and a cholera outbreak still in progress, “it’s overwhelming in terms of all the challenges,” Lee said.

But she said the delegation also was told that out of 1,500 polling places, only a few dozen had some problems, very few of which actually turned violent. It’s too early to tell whether reports of disenfranchisement, fraud and tumult were isolated anecdotes or a widespread pattern, she said.

In general, Haiti has made some good progress in recovering from its awful year, Lee said; for example, rubble-removal efforts have progressed noticeably since her last visit a few months ago. But Haiti simultaneously must recover from centuries of economic exploitation and political oppression, she said, and that’s going to take a lot longer. “The next president will have to take the country to the next step, and it’s going to be very challenging, but I believe it can be done.”

Accompanying Lee on the trip were House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C.; Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.; Del. Donna Christian-Christiansen, D-Virgin Islands; caucus chairman-elect Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex.; Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Tex.; Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla.;, Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif.; Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.; and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.

The delegation arrived in Port-au-Prince yesterday morning and was briefed on the election by Kenneth Merten, the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, before meeting with senior Haitian government officials and visiting a voting center. In the afternoon, the lawmakers took part in a working lunch with several non-governmental organizations involved in overseeing the elections; visited another voting center; got a situation report from the Organization of American States-Caribbean Community Electoral Observation Mission; and then received a final election briefing from a special representative to the United Nations Secretary General before flying back to Andrews Air Force Base.