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Cooley’s lead widens, but Harris isn’t worried

By Josh Richman
Monday, November 8th, 2010 at 12:40 pm in 2010 election, Attorney General, Kamala Harris, Steve Cooley.

Republican Steve Cooley’s lead over Democrat Kamala Harris in the race for state attorney general has widened to 44,058 votes, or half a percentage point of all those cast, according to the secretary of state’s latest update at 9:14 a.m. this morning.

But Harris’ campaign warns against drawing any conclusions from the daily changes in the vote count.

“Basically what you’re looking at is heavily skewed reporting from good Cooley counties and a lot of our best performing counties have yet to report in any significant numbers,” spokesman Brian Brokaw said a few minutes ago.

Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties posted a lot of late returns over the weekend, he said. But while Orange County might account for 8 to 9 percent of the state’s vote total when all is said and done, it has accounted for about 25 percent of the late votes posted since Tuesday, pushing the numbers in Cooley’s direction.

So, Brokaw said, when big Democratic strongholds such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Alameda counties finish counting their vote-by-mail and provisional ballots, Harris should regain the lead and finish on top.

UPDATE @ 4:01 P.M.: As of the 11:51 a.m. update to the secretary of state’s site, Cooley’s lead has been cut to 19,189 votes; Harris’ people tell me Santa Clara County helped her close the gap, and other Democrat-heavy counties are yet to come.

UPDATE @ 6:52 P.M.: And as of the 5:06 p.m. update, Cooley is up by 40,958.

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  • Tony Quinn

    I have a piece in today’s Capital Morning Report that shows that LA will be well below the state average in absentees because they do not have an aggressive vote by mail campaign. This could hurt Harris. When the counting began Orange and San Diego had more outstanding ballots than Los Angeles County.

  • John W

    That’s quite a lead for Kamala to overcome, but maybe she knows where the numbers are. We’ll see.

  • Steve Bloom

    As of this morning Cooley was in the lead by ~50k, but this page makes it clear why the Harris campaign can still be confident. Ignoring the provisionals, which if anything will favor Harris, she has some big numbers remaining whereas Cooley seems to be nearly tapped out.

    It would be a simple matter to use the linked data to do a projection based on election day ballot results in each county (i.e. excluding mailed-in VBMs), and presumably both campaigns have done exactly that. Why not ask the Harris campaign for those details, Josh?

  • Steve Bloom

    OK, I had some time on my hands and decided to do my own rough calculation (took a little over two hours). It’s closer than I thought: Projecting county-by-county based on current totals, Harris is behind by about 13,000 votes, but allowing for her election day advantage of ~3% (which seemed pretty consistent in the few counties where I could see all of the election night reports, including Orange), it becomes pretty much a dead heat. But Harris should still be fairly confident of ultimate victory due to the likelihood of the considerable number of provisionals breaking her way at least as strongly as the late VBMs.

  • steve weir

    According to the SOS web site, there are just under 1,000,000 ballots remaining to be counted (reported) in the state.

    LA has 200,000 of them. Most are provisional ballots and if authenticated, they will tend to reflect election day results as seen in LA.

    It is true that LA has one of the lowest percent in the state of their vote being cast by mail.

    Even though LA has 900,000 more registered voters than does the combined 9 County Bay Area, the Bay Area issued twice (2,000,000 Vs. 1,000,000 for LA)the number of vote by mail ballots.

    It ain’t over until it is over.

  • Steve Bloom

    And as of the Friday end-of-day update, Harris is now in the lead by ~5,000 votes. The uncounted ballots report isn’t very up-to-date, but I suspect there are very few outstanding VBMs at this point and we’re looking at just the provisionals, with a heavy tilt toward L.A. As Steve says, odds are those provisionals will reflect election day, meaning a tilt toward Harris. That said, I suspect her final margin won’t be over 20,000, in which case we may be looking at a re-count, but I think there’s now a firm basis for predicting she’ll win.

  • steve weir

    Steve Bloom, you used the “R” word.

    We posted an update this morning, but for some reason,the SOS did not pick it up. This might impact several counties (we were told that if we got our update to them by noon, it would post).

    We plan another update on Monday before noon. That will have us posting 96% of our vote. The next 4% will take two weeks.

  • John W

    Steve,

    What’s up with “the next 4%” that it takes two weeks?

  • steve weir

    Provisional Ballots 11,029
    VBM dropped @ polls, no envelope 853
    Military/Overseas; 250
    Challenges (approved); 1,250
    Remakes; 800
    Late Conditional; 750

    Assuming 350,000 ballots cast, this would represent about 4% of the ballots cast.

    Not all Provisional Ballots will qualify, usually 10 to 15% get rejected. Provisional ballots take, on average, 8 to 10 minutes each. So, I’m looking at 1833 hours to process, that’s 30 people working 10 days each. Unless a contest is close, no one pays attention to this part of the certification (something we have to do regardless of how close a race is).

  • John W

    Steve Weir,

    Wow! Thanks for the info.

  • Steve Bloom

    One statistic I hadn’t been aware of and had assumed to be much lower was the provisional ballot validationn rate. (I think back in pre-VBM days it was pretty low.) All else equal, that should serve to eliminate any prospects for “R”.

    Steve, the state’s reporting page made it obvious that the reporting system isn’t working very consistently. Even so, the trend seemed clear enough to draw a conclusion, and now it seems clear that L.A.’s provisionals will heavily weight the remaining count.

  • steveweir

    Steve Bloom, Provisional Validation rates have been going up ever since the state allowed a vote to count if it is cast within the voter’s county. (If the voter votes in a precinct with a different ballot type than their home precinct, we remake their ballot onto their own, excluding any races that they are not allowed to vote upon.)

    I keep good stats on Provisional validation rates. I’m estimating that 80 to 85% will be good. We also track partial counts. Let me update this info. tomorrow when I have my reports.

    I saw LA’s stats. for Provisionals on the SOS’ web page, seems high. The have 25% of the registered voters, and 33% of the Provisionals. It will be interesting to see what percent of the total vote cast is provisional. Remember, LA has one of the lowest rate of vote-by-mail in the state, so more voters go to the polls. Just a real quick calculation (based upon estimated turn out, Contra Costa has about 3% of our vote as Provisional, LA looks like 6.4%

    I’ll follow up with them after they certify.

  • Patty O’Day

    Steve,

    Please explain what these items that you quoted in #9 mean.

    Challenges (approved); 1,250
    Remakes; 800
    Late Conditional; 750

    Also, since there were so many people turning in absentee ballots at the polls, I would like to know what steps were taken to insure that the person turning in the ballot actually lived in the same household as the person who was voting by absentee ballot. (As required)

    I already mentioned that I know at least one person that turned in 4 absentee ballots at the polls and absolutely nobody even glanced at the forms to insure that they were completed properly or that the person turning them in lived in the same household. This person turned hers in in Concord, and she did live in the same household, but nobody even asked.

    How are the pollworkers trained and was this enforced?

  • steve weir

    Patty O’Day: We have a first level review of signatures on vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots. We challenged about 2% at that level for not meeting our signature criteria. (This is higher than usual. We noticed that the lense that takes the digital image of the signature on the VBM ballot was dusty and caused the increase in the challenges simply because the image was not clear.) For all who witnessed this process, it was obvious that the vast majority of signatures match.

    At the second level of review, the actual envelope is used by a team of three to check the signature. This process takes place in the presence of observers. We allowed the observers close enough, and time enough to see our process. So, these “Challenges” that have been deemed good at the second level will go into the count.

    Remakes are just that, ballots that cannot be machine read have to be remade onto a new ballot. The ballot is usually torn, has a coffee stain, has a big lipstick kiss on it (yes, I saw that ballot and it has to be remade).

    Late Conditional are ballots issued and returned during the last 7 days of the election. VBM ballots cannot be issued during the last 7 days, so anyone wanting a ballot must come to the Elections Office and that ballot cannot be returned in the mail, it must be dropped off. (Because of the lateness of the process, anyone can be authorized to return these ballots.)

    Can you tell me which precinct you observed this return? We have notebooks kept by the inspector and they can note any unusual activity.

  • Patty O’Day

    Steve – I will try to find out. I know it was in Concord.

  • steve weir

    Patty and friends: I have an image of our instructions to our poll workers concerning third party delivery of VBM ballots.

    I can be reached at e-mail me asking for the image and I’ll send it to you.

  • Steve Bloom

    The county reporting page remains sadly out of date, but Harris is now ~14,000 in the lead.

    I just have to ask: Where exactly was that kiss located, Steve?

  • John W

    Re: #13 Person not in household returning VBM ballot

    Is that true, that only a person living in the same household as the voter can drop off the ballot? So, for example, a family member who does not live in the same household could not drop off his ballot plus and the other person’s? I can see that it might raise an eyebrow or two if some person dropped off 50 ballots, even if they contained legitimate matching signatures. However, in theory, how is that different than somebody dropping a bunch of ballots (presumably legit) in the mail rather than delivering them in person? Just curious.

  • Patty O’Day

    #18

    That is what it says on the VBM envelope.

  • Steve Bloom

    Hmm, “household” seems ambiguous. “Living at the same address” wouldn’t have been.

  • Steve Bloom

    As of 4:38 PM Harris is at +31K per the SoS.

  • steve weir

    Regular vote-by-mail ballots can be returned by a spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister or a person who is 16 years of age or older, and residing in the same household.

    “Late Conditional” ballots that are issued within 7 days of the election (we estimate we have about 750)can be picked up and returned by anyone authorized by the voter.