We all well know how important it is that votes be counted fairly and accurately. We also know that we cannot trust the machines and that recount is necessary in close races?
Unfortunately there's a case in the Bay Area where the lawyers from the Secretary of State and the County Registrar worked together to prevent a recount of a close race.
Measure B is a sales tax for the operating subsidy of a rail line yet to be built. Based on California laws, Measure B required 2/3 majority to pass. While mass transit in general is popular in California, those who oppose it are environmentalists and mass transit advocates who have concerns that Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), an agency which would collect the tax and build the rail line, would have to reduce bus service to pay for the project. VTA did not offer any plans of it could afford the project. The rail line VTA plans to build was also considered to be the least cost effective.
Measure B only passed by 0.11% two weeks after the polls closed when the provisional ballots were counted. Because of the closeness of the race, it seems obvious that a recount would be on the way.
From VTA Watch (with permission):
Today, Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (TRANSDEF) sued the Secretary of State trying to get an automatic 10% manual recount of the Measure B votes. The hearing has been moved from Santa Clara County to San Francisco.
A few weeks before the November election, the Secretary of State adopted new emergency regulations that mandate a 10% manual recount on tight races with a margin less than half a percent. However, the Secretary of State worded the regulations this way: “For ballot measure contests, including recall contests, the margin of victory is the difference between the percentages of votes for and against the ballot measure.”
Because school bonds require 55% and most other taxes require 2/3 to pass, the wording was probably an honest mistake on the part of the Secretary of State. However, a lawsuit is necessary in order to get a recount because the county's Registrar of Voters refused to do so based on its strict interpretation of the regulations.
Basically, when TRANSDEF went to court in Santa Clara County yesterday, an attorney from the Secretary of State pulled a technical maneuver by demanding that the hearing to be moved to San Francisco because the secretary has no office in Santa Clara County. The plaintiff refiled the case in San Francisco today. During the hearing today, an attorney from the County Registrar said that it had already certified the election earlier in the morning. Therefore, the plaintiff was not able to get a temporary restraining order to stop the certification, which would give the plaintiff time to argue a case for a 10% manual recount based on the Secretary of State's emergency order and the U.S. Constitution.There are two issues involved: closeness of the race and equal protection. The Secretary of State issued new regulations with the intent that votes be counted fairly in close races. The U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection, even when the the law didn't explicitly say so.
Basically the issue of whether there should be equal protection was not addressed. This is another dirty tactic to prevent a recount of a tight election. This is contrary to the earlier intent from the Secretary of State that votes be counted fairly and accurately. We never know what election irregularities there could be. Meanwhile, other candidates and campaigns elsewhere have the right to receive a recount.
Instead of addressing these two issues and start a recount. The Secretary of State took technical maneuvers to prevent a recount.
As someone who worked hard on the No campaign and vote progressive generally. This move by the SoS was more disappointing than the election result itself. I expect the SoS to protect the election process, not to screw people over.