A Screwy Batch

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Tire with screw embedded

What a day to find a Phillips screw embedded deeply into one's tire! Look accidental? So did the nail from two months ago....

The numbers posted by the Registrar of Voters in the AD-69 and AD-72 vote canvasses today are screwy — something for which I do not blame Neal Kelley and his crew.  The numbers are what they are. They just don’t follow from what has come before.

There’s a possible reason for that, but I won’t know if I’m right about it until I get there tomorrow — if I get there tomorrow.  After I was kept away from the action due to the joy pictured at right, we’ll see what the tire repair gods have to say about that.

Still — something seems off.  If this is the trend for the future, the race will not turn out well for the challengers.  But something does not smell right about this batch of votes.

For now, let’s look just at the report AD-72.

In Monday’s report, Dovinh+Pham’s combined vote outpolled Travis Allen’s by 156 to 47 — a ratio of 3.32 to 1.  This was a supposedly a sample that included a few provisionals and lots of votes from other categories where Allen had previously done well, plus some other ones that we don’t know how they went.

In Tuesday’s report, Dovinh+Pham outpolled Allen by 253 to 179 — a ratio of just 1.41 to 1 — in what would be expected to be a more positive sample of votes for the Vietnamese duo. How is that possible?

It could be that there was a very pro-Vietnamese, anti-Allen, batch that I didn’t know about in the Monday results. (“Damaged ballots,” for example? Could be — but why would they have such a skewed result?  People turning in VBM ballots at the polls?  Could be!  But is it?)

It could also be that the ballots were not at all randomly distributed across the days — as you might get with a poorly shuffled deck of cards — so that predicting Day 2 from Day 1 doesn’t work.

Or … it could be that people with the Allen campaign were there were challenging every last provisional ballot with a Vietnamese name on it, and that there should have been an additional 400 or more ballots (almost all of them for Dovinh and Pham) included in today’s totals that will instead have to wait for one-by-one adjudication of their vote. (This is a stunt that Republicans pulled in the Minnesota Senate recall where Al Franken was elected in 2008. It didn’t ultimately change the results.)

I don’t know if this happened; I wasn’t there today.  More when I get back from the tire repair shop.  Still — it smells a little funny to me….


OK, I am back — and I can announce that I’m probably going to have a scoop later this evening that will explain the AD-72 result.  But I’ll leave that for later; for now, let’s look at the numbers.  (I’ll get to AD-69 later on.)

Here are the number of votes that each candidate got added in Monday’s total, which was mostly or entirely ballots that had been processed by 3:30 p.m. Monday, followed by the number added in today’s total, covering ballots processed between 3:30 p.m. Monday and 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, labeled “M” and “T”.  I then include the percentage increase for each candidate.  If the voting distributions between the two days were exactly the same, you’d expect an increase of 125% (meaning that that there are 225% as many votes), reflecting the increase in the number of ballots processed from 302 on Monday to 679 on Tuesday:

Edgar:     51 M, 146 T — 186% increase
Allen:      47 M, 179 T — 281% increase
Dovinh:  71 M, 121 T — 70% increase
Pham       85 M, 132 T — 55% increase
Ayala:     48 M, 101 T — 110% increase

Comparing Dovinh and Pham to the others, you can see that there is a massive relative reduction in the increase in Vietnamese vote.  Here we have the first time in the entire election that the presence of Albert Ayala has turned out to be useful: the increase in Pham’s vote is half of the size of Ayala’s!  So while there may be some tendency to go after Democratic ballots, the real fighting is over disqualifying ballots from voters who seem likely to favor whatever characteristic Dovinh and Pham have in common: mustaches!

No, wait — Pham has shaved his ‘stache, so it must be something else.

Someone, I am pretty confident, has been challenging Vietnamese-named ballots with a vengeance.  I don’t know who it is, but based on my time there on Monday I can say that the only person whom I didn’t recognize as on one or the other side of the AD-69 race was a blonde woman wearing a yellow badge.  (Team Julio’s badges are orange, Team Daly’s badges — belatedly trying to boost Joe Moreno — are white, and as the only member of Team Barragan — out there fighting for fair and honest elections! — my badge was green.)

So who has the yellow badges?  I’ll hope to find out tomorrow.

If that’s so, then the problem may already have been solved and it just hasn’t yet been reported.  Neal Kelley makes the final call (unless a court does), and he knows that under the Elections Code he is supposed to err on the side of inclusion.  His work with challenged ballots would have taken place late in the afternoon.  For all I know, he’s already rolled his eyes at the challenges and approved hundreds of votes by now — most going to Dovinh and Pham.  I don’t have his number; I’ll find out tomorrow.

(That’s where I was before I got the information that will lead to my follow-up story.)

In AD-69, Julio Perez — also the recipient of a large independent expenditure by the OC Labor Federation targeted towards the Vietnamese community — would also have been hurt by a yellow-badged anti-Vietnamese voter jihad.  (Vietnamese residents of Garden Grove are part of both districts.)

I think that there has to be more to the AD-69 race, though.  Let’s do the same analysis as before.  Here, the number of votes counted went from 304 on Monday to 691 on Tuesday —  2.27 as many, or an increase of 127%.  This is almost identical to the increase in AD-72 — and it makes me wish that I had kept the figures from Monday to see if the other, less competitive, districts also had similar increases.  (If every district was at about a 125% increase, that suggests few ballot disqualifications.  If other districts were at, say, 250% increases, then we have a problem.)

Daly:            81 M, 190 T — 134% increase
Moreno:     32 M, 110 T — 244% increase
Perez:          111 M, 234 T — 111% increase
Martinez:   69 M, 138 T —  100% increase
Barragan:   11 M, 19 T — 73% increase

Cue the Sesame Street singers: one of these things is not like the others!

You can ignore Barragan’s percentage; at numbers that low, there isn’t enough random error to cancel out other random error.  So: Daly, Perez, and Martinez are all in a relatively narrow band, 100% to 134%  (with Daly at the high end) compared to an overall increase of 127%.   Moreno, though — holy moly!  His numbers just skyrocketed compared to the others.  How could that have happened?

I can think of one way — and it is, conveniently enough, a way that leads to Daly finishing ahead of Perez and Martinez: someone can be challenging a large and disproportionate number of Democratic ballots.

It ain’t Perez doing that.  It ain’t Barragan’s guy — I wasn’t there.  That leaves either the yellow card crew or Daly white team.

I believe that we’ll find out tomorrow how the rate of ballot challenges increased from Monday to Tuesday.  That will tell us something interesting about the tactics being used in the canvass.  Republican yellow-carders are apparently trying to disqualify Vietnamese ballots and Tom Daly — I can barely believe that I get to write this — is apparently probably trying to disqualify Democratic voters.

Having been watching recalls for a while since 2006 or so, I like the way that this evidence of spurious challenges would be likely to play before a judge — not to mention how it would play if things go to a recount.

About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.