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Monday, December 17 , 2018, 5:31 am | Light Rain 54º


Election Recount Produces Same Result for Candidate Pappas

Officials confirm that Steve Pappas lost to Doreen Farr by about 800 votes in the 3rd District Supervisor race.

A recount triggered by Steve Pappas, an independent candidate in the two-way race for the 3rd District Supervisor seat, delivered nearly the same results Monday as Election Day. By both counts, Pappas lost to Democrat Doreen Farr by about 800 votes.

The County Elections Office began the process late last week and finished Monday, responding to the request for a recount in the Isla Vista and UCSB areas, where some precincts showed voter turnout surpassing 100 percent.

Efforts to reach Pappas were unsuccessful Monday, and election officials were uncertain whether he planned to concede.

“The only thing he’s told us is he plans on ending this tomorrow at noon,” said Joe Holland, the county’s top election official. The recount, he added, will cost the Pappas camp about $10,000.

Given the 3rd District’s pivotal position as the swing seat on a politically polarized five-member board — Republicans in the north, Democrats in the south — the campaign between Pappas and Farr was civil.

But the niceties were cast aside over the weekend — more than a month after Election Day — when Pappas sent an e-mail to his supporters requesting donations to help fund the recount effort.

“Over the last few weeks, we have uncovered some disturbing practices with this election and have retained a legal firm to help us get to the bottom of it all,” he wrote. Pappas added that a “contest to the election” can be filed by Jan. 1, but he didn’t say whether he planned to exercise that option.

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

The initial formal request for a recount came from Santa Ynez Valley Journal owner Nancy Crawford-Hall, Pappas’ biggest financial supporter in the campaign who also wrote several editorials about perceived irregularities in the election. But the recount effort ultimately was approved by Pappas, who, with the help of his attorney, before this week had obtained stacks of campaign documents, such as voter registration cards and absentee ballot envelopes, Holland said.

Holland said they had not told the office why they requested so many documents, “and they have not brought forward any irregularities.”

He added that the process has been costly because of the staff time involved with digging out all of the records. The elections office hired temporary workers to sort through boxes of materials.

The recount was limited to the 17 precincts at UCSB and Isla Vista. All told, the 3rd District includes 92 precincts.

On Monday, Holland said 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 is made up of 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. The practice, he added, is “totally OK.”

“That’s what provisional voting is for,” he said, although he added: “It causes us a little more work.”

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

The results of the recount were nearly identical to the results of the general election.

In the 17 precincts, Farr lost two votes, bringing her total to 5,097 from 5,099, and Pappas lost one, bringing his total to 2,841 from 2,842.

Districtwide, the recount narrowed Farr’s margin of victory by one vote, to 805 from 806. She garnered 18,165 votes, or 51 percent, while Pappas collected 17,359 votes, which amounts to a little less than 49 percent, according to the county’s results.

Holland said there’s nothing particularly unusual about a recount.

“We’re happy to do this,” he said. “As election officials, I think this provides even greater transparency to the voters of Santa Barbara County, and they can see the accuracy of the elections process. And I think it helps build confidence in voting for Santa Barbara County.”

He said the office’s last recount took place in May, with the Rincon Sewer District, for which only 150 votes were cast. The last recount in the 3rd District was in 1992, when Willy Chamberlin unseated Bill Wallace by two votes.

Early Monday, before the results of the recount were announced, Chris Henson, who managed Farr’s campaign, said Farr was “focused on hitting the ground running.”

“Supervisor Farr is confident that the voters chose her on Election Day,” he said. “And she’s confident that the elections division of Santa Barbara County ran a fair campaign.”

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