Saint Mary’s College to host post-election panel

Come see me and my colleagues Carla Marinucci from the San Francisco Chronicle and Mark Sandalow from KCBS radio on Monday at 7 p.m. at Saint Mary’s College.

We’ll be talking about the 2008 presidential campaign and all things to do with elections. It’s a free event open to the public at the college, so come on by.

Click here for the details at Saint Mary’s College events calendar or read more. Continue Reading


It’s after 1 a.m. and the news is sinking in

It’s been a wild ride.

I started the day at the gym, in part, to ward off the calories I knew would hit the newsroom. It’s tradition here to eat pizza, Chinese food and M&Ms on election night.

I then began a new tradition of meeting for lunch with some veteran Contra Costa politicos for some off-the-record predictions about national and local races. The most prescient among us win bragging (or gloating) rights until the next election.

And then I watched the first African-American in this nation’s history become president-elect. It was something many believed could not happen in my lifetime or even the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren.

Unlike the past several presidential elections, the outcome unfolded quickly, too.

By 8:01 p.m., the television networks declared Obama the winner. GOP nominee John McCain delivered a very classy concession speech. It was just what I would have expected from McCain.

I was unable to listen to all of Obama’s short speech because I was busy writing about the early results in congressional district 11 (McNerney vs. Andal) but I am sure I can find it online in at least 3,000 places.

Now, all eyes will be on the Democrats.

They will hold power in the White House, Congress and the U.S. Senate, a trifecta that will carry both tremendous responsibility and an extraordinary level of scrutiny. The country faces deep economic uncertainty, growing concerns about climate change and expensive wars on terror that seem to have no end.

Obama promises change but as the debate during the election showed, voters are far from united on what that means. Meanwhile, near super-human status has been bestowed on this one man — even Obama jokes about it — and he will almost certainly fall short of the expectations of one group or another. Obama has inspired tens of thousands of people to become involved in the process but unlike an emotional election night victory, political successes are usually measured in small incremental steps over many years. Will these new enthusiasts have the patience and the stamina to stick with it over the long haul?

Tomorrow … make that later today … I will talk with the East Bay members of Congress and find out how they view their jobs in the next two years given the changing political landscape.


California election returns web site seeing 10 times the traffic

Like most of you, I’ve been unable to bring up the California Secretary of State’s election results web page most of the evening

But it is back up as of a few minutes ago.

I’m told the site is experiencing 10 times the normal levels of traffic. A spokeswoman says they are disabling the map function, which should speed it up.

This is what happens when you have an election and everyone shows up.


Contra Costa fires pollworker for ‘creating false impression’

Cintra Costa County Registrar of Voters Steve Weir has relieved an unnamed polling place inspector of her duties in Discovery Bay today for “creating a false impression about how voting will take place.”

Weir said she provided false information to the California Republican Party and Assemblyman Guy Houston’s office about the number of ballots she was provided in the precinct where she was assigned in Discovery Bay.

Weir said the worker told the GOP that she was given too few ballots to handle the voters in her precinct. That is incorrect, he said.

The precinct has 931 registered voters, of which 455 are permanent vote-by-mail voters who have already received ballots, Weir said.

The county delivered 500 official ballot to this precinct, Weir said, which accommodates 100 percent of the precinct’s registered voters who do not vote by mail plus a few extras to cover people who have spoiled their mail-in ballot and wish to obtain a new one.

Under this scenario, it seems unlikely that a precinct could run out of ballots. But in high turnout elections, unregistered voters often turn up at the polling place. Pollworkers will not deny anyone the right to vote; those individuals cast what are called “provisional” ballots, which means they are counted only if the voter turns out to be registered but is not on the official rolls for one reason or another.

Under the county’s emergency plan, if a precinct runs out of ballots, voters fill out a sample ballot. (This Discovery Bay precinct has 50 sample ballots on hand for this purpose.)

The sample ballot results are transferred by hand to an official ballot at the election office and scanned into the tally. It sounds scary but the Secretary of State’s office has approve it as part of the county’s emergency plan, Weir said.

The county also has extra official ballots on hand that could be delivered to any precinct that runs out and it could print more official ballots if necessary, Weir said.


Bill Clinton called my house

So did actor Charlie Sheen. And U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. And Sen. Tom Torlakson.

My phone rang all weekend, in fact, with those annoying pre-recorded phone messages called robocalls.

Yes, robocalls are illegal in California. But campaigns get around the law by originating the calls outside of California and the jurisdiction of the state Public Utilities Commission.

If you are curious about who is getting these calls and where, the National Do Not Contact Registry has created an interesting Google map site. You can also enter a call made to your house into the map through Twitter by clicking here.