By Michael D. Robbins
Due to a new California election law, vote-by-mail ballots will be counted if they are postmarked on or before election day, and they are delivered to City Hall on or before the Friday after the election. Although City Hall is closed every Friday, the City has a special permit or arrangement for the Post Office to hold all mail that would have been delivered on Friday had City Hall been open, and deliver that mail on Monday segregated from the regular Monday mail delivery.
The total number of uncounted ballots, including provisional ballots cast at the polls on election day, and vote-by-mail ballots received by the new deadline, has swelled to 543 ballots. All of these ballots must be verified that they are not duplicate ballots for the same voter (e.g., if the voter voted both their vote-by-mail ballot and a provisional ballot at the poll), that the signature on each ballot envelope matches the signature on the voter’s registration card, and for provisional ballots, that the voter is registered to vote.
It is possible but highly unlikely the election outcome will change. The only possible change is for City Council candidates Don Brann and Marie Fellhauer. The outcome for the other City Council candidates, and for Measure B – the 50 percent increase in the Hotel Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) from 8 to 12 percent – cannot change.
Based on the preliminary vote count on election day, Brann won in third place, with 1,439 votes, while Fellhauer lost in fourth place with 1,238 votes. Thus, Brann was ahead of Fellhauer by 201 votes, which is less than the 543 uncounted ballots. However, the uncounted ballots will likely have a vote distribution the same as or similar to that of the counted ballots cast on election day, making it extremely unlikely the election outcome will change.
The remaining 543 ballots will be canvassed and counted on Thursday, April 21, 2016. Canvassing will begin at 9:00 AM at City Hall in the West Conference Room in City Hall near the City Council Chamber, followed by a machine count by the City’s election consultant, Martin & Chapman, at 10:00 AM, also in the West Conference Room. A manual recount by hand of Precinct 18 will begin at 1:00 PM in the West Conference Room, to audit the machine count for one of the three precincts. All of these activities are open to public observation.
Note: This article was updated on Thursday, April 21, 2016 to reflect the following. The public notice posted at City Hall indicated the canvassing and counting of the remaining uncounted ballots was to take place at City Hall in the City Clerk’s office. However, the location was changed to the West Conference Room in City Hall near the City Council Chamber, and signs were posted to indicate the location change.