Harris-Cooley Race Still Tight As Counties Scramble To Count Ballots

11/23/2010 11:26 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • California Watch

UPDATE: While the race for California's Attorney General has not officially been called, the LA Weekly has declared Kamala Harris the winner:

We've been saying for a while that the math didn't look good for Steve Cooley. But now we can go ahead and make it official.

Steve Cooley has lost. Kamala Harris will be the next attorney general of California.

Out of an abundance of laziness caution, we've held off until now. But we're getting tired of waiting for the AP to call this thing, and Eric Garcetti has already beaten us to the punch anyway.

A mathematical explanation/justification after the jump.


This story comes courtesy of California Watch.

By Ryan Gabrielson

Even as the number of uncounted ballots dwindles, the outcome of the California attorney general's race has not become more certain.

On Monday, at least two more counties finished tallying mail-in and provisional ballots and posted final results on their election websites. With these updated totals from Tulare [PDF] and Madera counties, Democrat Kamala Harris' lead over Republican Steve Cooley shrank by 8,045.

Those ballots represent less than a thousandth of a percentage point of all votes cast in the race.

But small numbers (and counties) matter a great deal at this late stage, a week from the final election-reporting deadline for counties. The California secretary of state must certify final election results on Dec. 3.

Harris, San Francisco's district attorney, holds a roughly 35,000 vote edge over Cooley, Los Angeles' district attorney, based on California Watch's unofficial tabulation of results from several state and county election websites. More than a dozen counties, including Madera and Tulare, haven't reported any updated results to the state for weeks.

The secretary of state's most recent tally shows Harris' lead expanding, to 51,000 votes, or a half of a percentage point.

Sonoma County appears second only to Los Angeles County in its number of uncounted ballots, which stands at 33,000. The county's vote-processing system requires a full recount after Election Day in order to input write-in ballots, said Gloria Colter, Sonoma's assistant registrar of voters.

"We're trying desperately to get everything rerun by Wednesday," she said.

It is these kinds of scenarios keep the outcome in question.

"One thing to keep in mind is these are all just estimates of what is outstanding," said Brian Brokaw, a Harris spokesman. "For all we know, ballots could appear from different counties that haven't been reported yet."

For much of the past week, both sides focused on Los Angeles County. Cooley's campaign called for more volunteers to watch the counting. Harris' team in turn suggested their opponent might be attempting to disenfranchise voters.

The theatrics reached all the way to The Wall Street Journal, where John Fund last week highlighted concerns over Dean Logan, Los Angeles County's voter registrar.

Fund detailed ballot-counting problems during Logan's tenure in King County, Wash. To quote:

Mr. Logan's track record should raise concerns that proper procedures for vote counting are once again not being fully followed in California's AG race. If prompt action to ensure the integrity of the election process isn't taken now, we may see calls for Los Angeles County to appoint its own task force to investigate Mr. Logan's 'practiced incompetence.'

Much of the action in the few remaining days of counting, however, will be taking place in counties like Sonoma and San Joaquin.