Hurtado leads as senate district 16 recount continues

So far, state Senator Melissa Hurtado still leads David Shepard by 14 votes in the senate district 16 recount, Kern County’s recount is still underway

TULARE COUNTY – Tulare, Fresno and Kings Counties have all recounted ballots showing Senator Melissa Hurtado still has the lead. However, only time will tell, as Kern County won’t finish their recount until next week.

David Shepard fell just 20 votes shy of defeating current Sen. Hurtado in the race to represent the newly formed senate district (SD) 16, which includes portions of Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Kern Counties. And while Hurtado declared victory following Kern County’s final tally on Dec. 8, Shepard quickly called for a recount just days later, with Hurtado also calling for one at the dawn of the new year.

“While both our campaigns have requested the review of additional election materials, it is clear the recount process will not change the certified winner, Melissa Hurtado,” Lisa Gasperoni, Hurtado’s campaign consultant said in a statement. 

Though Kern County has yet to finish their recount, the results of Tulare, Kings and Fresno have already decreased Hurtado’s lead from 20 to 14. Kern County will complete their recount on Jan. 10 at the earliest. 

FRESNO COUNTY

In Fresno County, there was a slight difference from the original count versus the recount. Shepard received two more votes than originally counted, and Hurtado received one more. Fresno County’s clerk and registrar of voters James Kus said that there were 10 uncured ballots that were not counted, which Shepard’s campaign challenged. 

“Several members of my team were personally told by employees of the Fresno Registrar of Voters that the deadline to cure ballots had been extended,” Shepard said. “Our team continued to cure ballots until the provided deadline and they were accepted by the Fresno Registrar of Voters, therefore we fully expect the Fresno [Registrar of Voters] to count those ballot cures.”

Kus said they went back through these ballots, and of those 10, only one was actually accepted to be counted. The rest either had missing signatures, or the signatures did not match. He also said that they did find an election worker error, but that was corrected in the recount. 

TULARE & KINGS COUNTIES

In Tulare County, there was a similar increase in votes for both parties. Shepard received five more votes from Tulare County after the recount, while Hurtado received three more votes this time around. Over in Kings County, Shepard gained two more votes, while Hurtado’s stayed the same.

KERN COUNTY

Kern County has yet to begin recounting votes, but is aiming to be finished on Jan. 10 or 11. Shepard said he would possibly file suit against the Kern County Elections Office if he finds evidence of any inaccuracies, anomalies or corruption. Shepard claimed on social media that the recount had to be done due to “procedural issues” within Kern County’s voting.

Shepard has been critical of Kern County’s process, such as their lack of planning and inaccurate estimates on updates to the public. Shepard claims Kern County’s only sorting machine broke down on Nov. 14 and did not come back online until more than a day later. He also claimed that Kern County Elections “misreported to the Secretary of State that they were in possession of 10,000 fewer ballots than what they ended up counting.” This number grew as time went on. 

“This raises questions about the procedures Kern County Elections chooses to implement. Ensuring the ability of the Kern County Elections Office to accurately count and report results should be a bipartisan issue,” Shepard said.

However, during an election recap presented to the Kern County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 13, Kern County Auditor-Controller Mary Bedard said that the updates on ballot processing after election night are estimates and are not meant to be accurate numbers. The estimates are based on the average number of ballots that fit into a holding tray on shelves. If some of the trays include a lot of crumpled or folded ballots, less would fit into a tray, meaning the count in each tray could be off by 100 or so, pushing the overall estimates over by thousands.

“Mr. Shepard can continue to drag out the process with no plausible pathway to claiming the lead or sue local election officials in counties he previously praised because they failed to produce the outcome he wanted. Mr. Shepard’s other option is to respect the voters in reflecting that close elections, while never easy, eventually must come to an end.”

Hurtado has been sworn into office, and if she continues to lead, nothing will change, and Hurtado will again represent the Valley in the California State Senate when it reconvenes on Jan. 4, but this time she will represent the newly formed state SD 16. Hurtado had formerly represented SD 14, which encompassed portions of Fresno, Kings, Madera and Merced counties.

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