Mendo’s Quirky Early Vote Totals
by Mark Scaramella, June 9, 2010
There were some interesting things about Tuesday's very preliminary election results which should not go unnoticed.
Only about 12,800 of Tuesday's votes have been counted. There are more than 10,000 votes uncounted, mostly absentee ballots turned in on Election Day. So these early results could easily change by the time the rest of the votes are counted in a few weeks.
If the November election gets just a conservative 55% turnout of registered voters, that translates to 3,000 to 4,000 more votes countywide in November than were cast on Tuesday. That means that in the close elections, people who didn't vote in the primary may well decide the outcome of the two closest local races: District Attorney and Third District Supervisor. (And, if any of the candidates engage in a serious get-out-the-vote effort, there could be even more new votes in November.)
In the DA's race, we note that newcomer Matt Finnegan got a surprisingly respectable 30% or about 3500 of the 11,700 votes for DA on Tuesday. (About 1100 voters didn't even bother to vote for District Attorney.) So the questions regarding the District Attorney race in November will be:
How many of Finnegan's 3500 votes will go to Lintott and how many to Eyster? (Contrary to some observers, we suspect the majority will go to Lintott because Finnegan ran as a tough on crime DA and Eyster is probably perceived by Finnegan voters as a DA who won't file as many cases — that is, unless Eyster recasts his opposition to Lintott and convinces Finnegan voters that his promised "gatekeeper" role will produce more public safety, not just fewer charges filed.) But the bigger question may be how many of the several thousand additional November voters will Eyster get? Recent history tends to indicate that the challenger will get more of them. But lots of things could change between now and November.
Then we have the semi-squeaker race for Third District Supervisor. Based on the limited number of votes counted so far, incumbent John Pinches is only three (3) votes short of winning over Willits City Councilwoman Holly Madrigal and Brooktrails Community District Board member Tony Orth outright — a disappointing and unimpressive percentage for an incumbent Supervisor. (Mr. Pinches got 1517 of the 3038 votes cast in the Third District. Half of 3038 is 1519 — Pinches was only three votes short.) But there are more than 1800 Third District ballots still uncounted, primarily the absentee votes that were turned in on election day, June 8. This Third District race has the potential of becoming unusually tight and contentious before it even reaches the general election -- if it ever does. If Pinches' outright-win margin after all the votes are in is still only a few votes, will there be a recount? Alternatively, if Pinches is only a few votes short of an outright win (as he is now), will there be a recount? As far as we know, recounts are only required if the difference between candidates is below a certain amount. Are recounts required if the results are very close to the 50%+1 threshold in a primary for one of the candidates? Who knows? Presumably, supporters of Pinches and Madrigal are looking into this. And who pays? If a recount is mandated by the Elections Code, the County will have to find the money to do it. Otherwise the candidates might have to pony up if they want a recount.
Some local readers may remember the very close Fourth District race between Liz Henry and Heather Drum in the early 90s. As we recall, Ms. Henry ended up winning by a margin in the single digits. Among the small but significant questions back then when they did the County's last recount were some voters whose district residency was not clear — a few Fourth District voters had residences in both the Fifth (in Mendocino) and the Fourth (Fort Bragg). Which district could they legally vote in? A few were registered in the wrong district, having moved since they last registered. A few were registered in Mendocino County, but actually lived elsewhere in the state. Other small questions involved a lack of clarity about who the voter meant to vote for, if anyone, on a few ballots; and, I think, a few simple counting errors.
For now, all we can say is that we expect most of Mr. Orth's votes to be gathered up by Ms. Madrigal in the general election (if there is one) since Orth and Madrigal are both, more or less, "liberals," whereas Pinches is a libertarian Republican. So if this Third District race goes to a run-off in November, Ms. Madrigal could make it interesting. If Pinches doesn't win outright in the primary after all the votes are counted in a few weeks, that means that he may be more vulnerable than he thought.
In the Fifth District, the numbers went pretty much as we predicted, although Mastin appears to have received some votes we thought would go to Hamburg — but there are still almost 2,000 Fifth District votes uncounted. We predicted Hamburg 40%; Roberts 32%; Mastin 16%; de Vall 14%. So far it's Hamburg 34%, Roberts 30%, Mastin 21% and de Vall 14%. That's still pretty much what we expected. Ms. Roberts will probably still go into the run-off by the time the remaining votes are counted, but it's hard to imagine her getting more than the standard conservative allocation of around 40% in the Fifth District come November.
A few other minor preliminary notes: Although almost 12,800 Mendo votes have been counted so far, those running unopposed didn't get anywhere near that number of people checking them off even though they were the only choice. Sheriff Allman got 10,293, or about 80% of the votes so far. County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Susan Ranochak got 9,351 or about 73%. Auditor Meredith Ford got 9,217 or about 72%. And County School Superintendent Paul Tichinin got a niggardly 9212 or about 72%.