State declines to review Santa Clara County election

With thousands of ballots left to tally, registrar expresses 'full confidence' in county's vote count

Santa Clara County's election will not be reviewed by the Secretary of State after all, despite public speculation about a county IT manager who quit the day before voters went to the polls and a request from the county for an independent evaluation.

The concerns prompted the county to request last week an independent review from the state of its Election Day procedures. But on Tuesday, county Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey told the Weekly that state officials have informed her office that they will not go ahead with the review. Bushey said she discussed the potential review with the Secretary of State officials on Monday and expects a letter from the state stating that "they have full confidence in our vote counts and procedures."

Bushey said she is also fully confident in Election Day results, which are still being tabulated. She said the office continues to count the roughly 11,000 remaining provisional ballots, a process that could spill over into the weekend. The delay in getting out the final count is nothing new, Bushey said, and this year's vote followed the same procedures as those in prior years. The county "did not have any problems whatsoever with our ballot tabulations," she said.

The resignation of IT manager Joseph Le fueled speculations about the county's election process, but Bushey said it had no impact on the tabulations.

"I've been assuring everyone that one person not being here does not mean the process has stopped," Bushey said. "Anyone can not be here and we will carry on."

She noted that another member of the IT division who has worked for many years alongside Le picked up the responsibilities and the office was "able to proceed as normal."

Bushey said the county is processing several thousand provisional ballots (those that require extra attention, including a verification of the voter's status) each day. She could not estimate how many of the roughly 11,000 left are from Palo Alto because the ballots are not sorted by districts, she said. The uncertainty means that suspense will likely continue for at least a few more days in the City Council and Board of Education races. For the fifth seat on the council, Cory Wolbach was leading Lydia Kou by 172 votes as of Tuesday afternoon, and for the second school board seat, Terry Godfrey was 190 votes ahead of Catherine Crystal Foster.

On Nov. 18, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian sent a referral request to his colleagues regarding ways to investigate and correct the problems. Simitian asked the board to have county administrators report to the Finance and Government Operations Committee with a review of the Registrar of Voters' processes, procedures and technologies leading to the delayed tallying and any security issues.

He noted that at 4:01 a.m. the morning following the election, Santa Clara County was the last in the Bay Area to provide a total count of precinct ballots. A website glitch prevented viewing updated results at 9:30 p.m. on election night.

Simitian has asked the board to direct the administrators to work with the Silicon Valley Talent Partnership to find private-sector volunteers to help the county understand the problems. The Talent Partnership creates pro bono partnerships with the private sector and government agencies in need of advanced technologies and methods, according to its website.

View unofficial election results on the Registrar's website.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 11, 2014 at 3:12 pm

My usual polling place has only one e-voting machine, and about five (or so) paper ballot voting machines. It’s a real shame that e-voting has not been able to take the load off the paper voting process. Certainly being able to vote at home, and simply mail in, or drop off, ballots at designated locations, is more convenient than standing in lines to fill in your ballot. So, absentee ballots will be with us for a long time to come, no doubt.

However, I would rather vote on-line. This would take a huge load off the Registrar’s office, in that the tallies would be available when the polls closed, minus any provisional ballots that might show up during the window (or time) open for voting.

Election integrity is always an concern, so devising protocols for determining the integrity of the vote still needs some work, but it’s hard to believe that we don’t have the tools at hand to develop the necessary methodology to insure that only qualified voters actually cast votes, and any attempts to “stuff the e-ballot box” would be detected, and those votes rejected.

Given that we are living in the middle of the Silicon Valley, it’s a real shame we are still counting paper ballots for weeks after any election.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2014 at 8:11 am

Has anyone determined why Le quit?

Like this comment
Posted by provisional ballots
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2014 at 8:44 pm

My guess is that, if anything, provisional ballots would widen the lead Wolbach has over Kou. This is because young renters who recently moved to Palo Alto (Wolbach's base) would be most likely to have provisional ballots. Hence, the election winners are unlikely to change as a result of these additional ballots.

Like this comment
Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2014 at 7:01 am

Santa Clara County can not use 'excuse' for publishing 'wrong' information.

Always; a public agency need to put out only what they know; compute it the 'right' way.

For example; for Palo Alto City Council election results; they have date presented

by candidate
how many votes she/he got

The data they have published on the web is correct on only the votes cast. They have 'wrongly' computed the % percentage.

Facts for Palo Alto

number of registered voters approximately 37000
number of voters in Nov 2014 that voted 15000 (?) County knows; I don't

for example Karen Holman got 11,000 + votes
Simple math tells you 73% (approximate) people that cast the ballots voted for her.

Look at what the county is publishing; wrong %.
I talked with the County team; they understand; but have not done any thing about it.

What does it take? More taxes?

Give us a break. Publish data that is 'clean' not with errors. Is this too much to ask?

Am I wrong?


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2014 at 7:44 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Just a guess, but perhaps their percentage is the percent of total votes cast. Since each voter had up to five votes, if all voters submitted five votes and all voters selected Candidate A, Candidate A would have 20% of the vote while being unanimously elected.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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