Read dispatches from the campaign parties

The Bay Area News Group sent three reporters out into the field tonight to the campaign parties. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough room in the print edition for all their fine work.

But here are the full dispatches from reporter Ryan Huff of the Contra Costa Times, political reporter Josh Richman from the Oakland Tribune and Valley Times reporter Lea Blevins.


Hundreds of Obama supporters thronged the Grand Ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill, cheering each time another state was called for their candidate.

Some posed for snapshots next to cardboard cutouts of the candidate, most mixed and mingled; all looked somewhat relieved this hard-fought California battle was coming to an end.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, the first House member from California to endorse Obama and his national campaign’s western regional co-chairwoman, said seeing CNN call

California for Clinton didn’t dampen her spirits, as Obama still was projected to win a significant chunk of delegates here and had done very well in other states.

“I’m very excited, very pleased,” she said while traveling from the Fairmont back to Oakland for an unofficial Obama volunteers’ party. “I think people recognize that our nation really needs to heal.”

Tuesday’s record turnout reflects that voters “still believe in our country… they want a new direction.”

Federico “Freddy” Chavez, nephew of revered union and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, took the Fairmont Hotel party’s podium with a loud “Si se puede – yes we can!”

“Don’t be disheartened by what CNN is putting out here,” he said, gesturing to the huge projection screen behind him. “The real fight is for delegates, and we are getting delegates!”

“Tonight does not mark the end of anything,” Tony West of Oakland, a leading California fundraiser and volunteer for Obama, told the crowd. “It is not over tonight, we have a long way to go.”

Offstage, West said he’ll continue raising money for Obama and will “play any role that is helpful to him.”

That includes flying to Chicago later this week to be part of the national campaign’s discussion on “the long, hard slog to the nomination” still ahead. “Because California gave us the delebates we needed, that could prove decisive at the end of the day… We don’t know yet, it’s too early,” he said.

But, he added, the fact that all eyes were on California this Super Tuesday, and that so many states will play pivotal roles this year, is “tremendous and exhilarating.” Moments later, another cheer went up as CNN called Missouri for Obama.


By 9:15 p.m., McCain supporters gathered at the Hop Yard Alehouse in Pleasanton were already trickling home after the news that their candidate had a strong edge in California.

The boisterous alehouse setting provided a base for McCain campaign volunteers from throughout the Bay Area.

Televisions blared loudly as supporters sipped wine and congratulated one another, surrounded by McCain campaign signs on the walls.

“We’re just ecstatic,” said Don Nelson, San Francisco regional chairman for McCain. “We’re having an excellent night.” Danville resident Jeff Elfont, Contra Costa County chairman for McCain, said about 40 people from all over the Bay Area came out to watch the results in Pleasanton but many were already heading home once TV stations began predicting a win for McCain in California.

Elfont said he was disappointed to see Huckabee take the lead in Georgia and Tennessee over McCain but was staying positive.

“Often in life, you don’t get everything,” he said.

Across town in the Koll Center business park, about 15 campaign volunteers for Romney gathered to cheer on their candidate as they watched Fox News.

Campaign volunteer Leslie Barkdull of Pleasanton organized the party that included two rooms for news viewing, snacks and red, white and blue balloons.

Despite McCain’s lead in a number of states, Romney’s supporters were focusing on their candidate’s accomplishments thus far. “It’s exciting to see the results come in,” Barkdull said. “Our hard work is paying off.”

Pleasanton resident Judy Symcox likened the primary race to the Super Bowl, saying the end of Super Tuesday meant we were only headed into the third quarter.

“Did the Patriots have it won at half time?,” Symcox said. “I don’t think so.”


Hillary Clinton’s volunteers and supporters gathered at her Northern California campaign headquarters in downtown San Francisco. More than 150 people walked up a creaky staircase to the third floor of a commercial building to huddle shoulder-to-shoulder around two television sets tuned to CNN.

As network anchors projected Clinton as the winner of various states, the crowd waved blue signs and chanted “HILL-A-RY! HILL-A-RY!”

Clinton’s California campaign director, Ace Smith, told an energetic audience that maybe it was time to put a spin on one of Obama’s trademark chants.

“We’ve heard a slogan tonight of ‘Yes we can!’ How about a new slogan? Yes she can!” Smith shouted over a PA system.

Many Bay Area residents like Stephanie McMurtrie volunteered for the first time on a presidential campaign.

“I’ve always voted, but I wanted to do more this time to help decide who our president would be,” said McMurtrie, a San Francisco resident who has worked phone banks for the Clinton campaign. “I’m really excited it looks like she’ll win California because I thought it would be closer tonight.”


Polls to stay open extra TWO hours in Alameda

9:02 p.m. UPDATE: Alameda County has just said polls will stay open until 10 p.m.

The Obama campaign put out a press release that Alameda County Judge John Tiger ruled that precincts in Alameda County which ran out of ballots will stay open until 9 p.m. (SEE UPDATE BELOW ABOUT WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.)
Voters who are in line by 9 p.m. will be allowed to vote until 9:30 p.m.

Expect to make your choices on a photocopy of the ballot, which won’t be counted tonight. They must be verified through the voter verification process.

State law says no county may release results while the polls remain open anywhere in the state. Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters Steve Weir said he is awaiting instructions from Secretary of State Debra Bowen before he releases his first results.

But observant voters will note that the Secretary of State’s web site does have a few results posted, about 1.4 percent of precincts. I have an inquiry into the state on this question.

Click here to visit the Secretary of State’s results page.

8:40 p.m.

Here’s an update from my MediaNews colleague Josh Richman, reporter for the Oakland Tribune, who is out in the field tonight:

Volunteers were trooping out of the Obama campaign headquarters in downtown Oakland as 8 p.m. approached, some headed to parties and some to polling places to ensure voters still waiting in line at closing time would still get to cast ballots.

But as the hour struck, word came down that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Tigar had issued an order that any polling place which had run out of Democratic ballots earlier in the day — overrun by an unexpected wave of decline-to-state voters who chose to cast ballots in the Democrats’ open primary — would have to remain open until 9 p.m., with any left waiting in line at that hour allowed to vote until 9:30 p.m.

“We have ordered all polling places in Alameda County to remain open if anybody is in line waiting to vote until 10 p.m. at the latest — only if anybody is in line to vote — due to ballot shortages that plagued some polling places in the county this afternoon,” county registrar spokesman Guy Ashley said at 8:25 p.m.

Asked how many precincts had run short of ballots earlier, he replied he wasn’t sure: “I heard about a dozen, but that’s just what I heard in passing.”

8:45 p.m.Update from Richman:

Alameda County spokesman Guy Ashley just called back and said 14 polling places in Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward and Fremont had run short of Democratic ballots.

He also said there was no court order. Although Tigar was involved, it was actually Judge Winifred Smith who checked with the state Administrative Office of the Courts in interpreting the Elections Code, and then advised County Counsel Richard Winnie to advise the registrar’s office to extend the poll hours.


Obama campaign chief thrilled so far

I’m just finished a conference call with Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, whose candidate has done very well in states where the polls have already closed.

CNN has projected Obama the winner in seven states: Georgia, Alabama, his home state of Illinois as well as Connecticut, Delaware, North Dakota and Kansas. CNN projects Clinton the winner in Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee

“We’re ahead in the delegate count, currently, about 606 to 534 in term of pledged delegates,” Plouffe said. “We’re thrilled with the results so far and we think we are going to have a good night when it’s all said and done. ”

Yesterday, Plouffe downplayed expectations for Feb. 5 and said the plan was to stay within striking distance of Clinton in the delegate chase.

Tonight, Plouffe expressd surprise at how well Obama is doing. Of course, California’s polls won’t close for 5 minutes and it’s a big prize.


Alameda County runs out of ballots

Alameda County predicts it will shortly run out of Democratic ballots in many of its precincts, a sign of unprecedented turnout and exceptional interest in the outcome of today’s primary election.

“We’re seeing the problem countywide but especially in Berkeley,” said Alameda County spokesman Guy Ashley. “We printed enough ballots for every registered Democrat and more but it wasn’t enough.”

While the information is largely anecdotal so far, Ashley said the problem appears to stem from a large number of decline to state voters who are voting in the Democratic primary.

The county is also seeing larger than normal numbers of unregistered voters showing up at the polls, Ashley said, and members of other parties demanding to vote for one of the Democratic candidates. The county allows them to vote provisionally but they are disqualified during the verification process.

In California, the Democratic Party allows decline to state voters and members of the American Independent Party to vote in its primary. The Republican, Green, Libertarian and the Peace and Freedom parties do not.

In Alameda County, as the peak voting time arrives in the next few hours, many voters will instead mark their choices on photocopies of the ballot, which will not be counted tonight. Provisional ballots require verification of the voter’s eligibility and it can take days or weeks to count them.

A dozen or more Contra Costa County voting precincts were running low on Democratic ballots today, too, prompting county officials to dig out extra copies of mail-in ballots. The county also has the ability to print extra ballots.

An apparently high number of decline-to-state voters electing to vote in the Democratic primary tapped into the supply, said Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir.

“In order for this to happen, it takes an extraordinary voter turn-out,” he said.

The shortfall was especially alarming given the relatively early hour.

Typically, one-third of voters visit the polls before 4 p.m., while the bulk vote after work and into the evening.

Contra Costa County supplies each of its 800-plus precincts with more than enough ballots to accommodate every registered member of each of the political parties plus the nonpartisan or decline to state voters.

“I don’t quite understand it yet,” Weir said. “I’m still trying to figure it out. There may be a targeted get-out-the-vote effort in this area or just high turnout.”

As a side note, I also wondered why pollworkers would allow people to vote if they aren’t registered or are not eligible to vote in a particular party. But county officials say it’s not appropriate to adjudicate voting disputes in the polling places or turn away voters. A voter may be eligible to vote but for a technical reason doesn’t appear correctly on the rolls. A subsequent investigation through the verification process will resolve the issue.