Senator Melissa Hurtado wins the senate district 16 election, despite watching her 20 vote lead dwindle to 13
TULARE COUNTY – After a recount was requested by both Senator Melissa Hurtado and challenger David Shepard, Hurtado retained her senate seat in district 16 by 13 votes.
On Jan. 17, the last elections office to roll out their recount results was Kern County, and the results confirmed Hurtado’s win with 13 votes more than Shepard. She is now set to represent the newly formed 16 senate district. Hurtado had formerly represented district 14, which encompassed portions of Fresno, Kings, Madera and Merced counties.
When Shepard fell 22 votes shy in his race against Hurtado, he requested a recount just days later. The two were neck-and-neck in the race for senate district 16, which includes portions of Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Kern Counties.
“It’s time for David Shepard to admit the race is over,” Lisa Gasperoni, campaign consultant for Melissa Hurtado said in a statement. “Shepard’s ongoing attempts to undermine the will of the voters and change the outcome of the election to his personal benefit are becoming more and more desperate.”
Shepard released a statement about the recount on Jan. 18, and stated that he made a commitment to the district’s residents, promising them that they would no longer be forgotten in the voting process. Shepard claimed that he and his team had to “face countless complications,” in order to make this recount reality.
“Although the result is not the one we had hoped for, I am so incredibly thankful for the team that surrounded me during the recount and believed in me and my candidacy for state senate,” Shepard said in a statement.
Shepard gained one extra vote from the recount in Kern County, while Hurtado’s votes remained the same. During the recount process, neither Kings nor Kern county accepted any previously rejected vote-by-mail ballots, according to Gasperoni. This comes after a time when Shepard has been critical of Kern County’s process on social media, 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 in a statement.
FRESNO, TULARE & KINGS
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.
After the recount, Shepard was critical of all the elections offices in the district, including Fresno, and stated that this has “brought to light that greater accountability to our local county elections office is vitally necessary to preserve free and fair elections.” Shepard claims that the nine votes he was able to secure from the recount belonged to individuals who were initially excluded, for reasons which he did not specify. However,
“During the recount we uncovered blatant mismanagement and inconsistencies of vote counting procedures in multiple counties, which excluded numerous voters from having their votes counted in this election,” Shepard said. “Violation of the basic constitutional rights upon which our democracy is founded can change election results.”
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.
Over in Kings County, Shepard gained two more votes, while Hurtado’s stayed the same. 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.
After Tulare County’s recount, Shepard’s campaign requested for a hand recount on eight out of 200 precincts, according to Maryalice Cypert, the elections program coordinator. However, the eight precincts were still not eligible to be counted in the recount.