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Local News

Pappas Contests Election Results as Farr Prepares to Take Seat

Legal challenge filed over Isla Vista, UCSB votes but new 3rd District supervisor will be sworn in Tuesday.

Steve Pappas, the 3rd Supervisorial District candidate who narrowly lost a November runoff to Doreen Farr, has filed a challenge with the Santa Barbara County Superior Court, officially contesting the election results.

Pappas had requested a recount of Isla Vista and UCSB-area precincts after the Nov. 4 election, which Farr had won by about 800 votes out of more than 35,000 cast. The recount, whose results were released Dec. 15, delivered nearly the same outcome as Election Day but Pappas is pressing his case, alleging irregularities in voter registration drives and invalid votes.

“No matter the outcome of any particular campaign, the integrity of our political process must be ensured in the way that all elections are conducted,” Pappas said in a statement Friday. “From the registration of potential voters to the tabulation of the ballots cast.”

Suspicions in the Pappas camp were fueled largely by election results in Isla Vista and at UCSB, where several precincts reported turnout numbers beyond 100 percent, with the highest reaching 130 percent.

Joe Holland, the county’s top election official, told Noozhawk last month that the high percentages were the result of voters — most of them students — showing up on Election Day at polling stations outside of their precincts. In many cases, he said, they did it to avoid long lines at other polling places. Such voters had to cast provisional ballots, meaning their votes were counted later, after election officials verified that they hadn’t voted twice.

As an example, Holland said the precinct with the 130 percent voter turnout has just 342 registered voters. The majority of those people voted, but the precinct also gathered 126 provisional ballots. “If you deduct the provisional ballots, the precinct had a 93 percent turnout,” he said.

Holland said that, in some cases, campaign officials saw students who were upset by the long lines and encouraged them to cast provisional ballots at other polling places — an entirely legitimate practice, he added.

“That’s what provisional voting is for,” he said.

Across the 17 precincts, total voter turnout was 89 percent, which is about 3 percent higher than the turnout totals for the county.

The Nov. 4 election results have been certified and sent to Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office.

Farr, who will be sworn in when the Board of Supervisors meets Tuesday, succeeds Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who did not seek re-election.

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