Controller’s Race: A Nail Biter! UPDATE 4 — YEEEEEE HAWWW! Finals Stats: Yee by 481!

This should be the last of the pre-recount (if there is a recount) election return watching in the race for the second position in the runoff for State Controller.  Either one of the Democrats, John Perez or Betty Yee, will face Republican Ashley Swearengin in November.  This is the closest statewide race between candidates in state history.  As usual, the original story will be below the graphic — that’s what the two candidates actually look like by this point in the waiting game, by the way — and updates will be listed from newest to oldest above it.

UPDATE 4:  The final margin going into the July 4th holiday is:  481!  In the other counties, or something — San Benito and Santa Clara checked in with their CCC report and Tuolumne was the latest to check in on Tuesday — Perez picked up another 7 votes and Yee another 4 (in addition to whoever did whatever else.)

Candidate Votes Percent
Tammy D. Blair
(Party Preference: DEM)
John A. Pérez
(Party Preference: DEM)
Betty T. Yee
(Party Preference: DEM)
David Evans
(Party Preference: REP)
Ashley Swearengin
(Party Preference: REP)
Laura Wells
(Party Preference: GRN)
I have come up with numbers with SIX digits after the decimal point, because I want to know the fraction by which Yee really won.  Maybe 1/90th of a percent?  We’ll see!  … OK, it’s .011007% — looks like 1/91 of a percent!  Better than a hundredth of a percent — as the Perez camp falsely claims!  (To be fair, better by only about three votes.)  (Note to Perez camp.  I’m kidding around here, so chill.)

UPDATE 3:  Here’s the apparent final statewide vote, out of 4,039,353 total votes cast for the office of Controller, pending three CCC updates and any possible recount:



















In other words, Yee won by 12 thousandths of a percentage point — or, if you prefer, about 1/83 of a percent.

UPDATE 2: Tulare County, already in CCC statuts, reported in again.  No chnage in this race.  Humboldt County converted to “CCC” status, leaving only San Benito and Santa Clara as “CCU.”  Neither of those changed the vote.  And that had seemed to be the end of reporting today, with Lake County’s results and the state results remaining as follows:

Tammy D. Blair

(Party Preference: DEM)
659 7.4% 200,225
 John A. Pérez

(Party Preference: DEM)
2,326 26.0% 876,402 21.7%
 Betty T. Yee

(Party Preference: DEM)
1,662 18.6% 877,263 21.7%
 David Evans

(Party Preference: REP)
2,325 26.0% 848,846 21.0%
 Ashley Swearengin

(Party Preference: REP)
1,134 12.7% 1,000,618 24.8%
 Laura Wells

(Party Preference: GRN)
844 9.4% 230,755 5.7%
But then some crazy rumor went around Facebook that there was a new report in from Lake County’s Registrar of Voter’s page, so I’m like “OK, yeah, whatever, I’ll bite.”
JOHN A. PÉREZ 3,631 25.6%
DAVID EVANS 3,583 25.2%
BETTY T. YEE 2,590 18.2%
LAURA WELLS 1,440 10.1%
TAMMY D. BLAIR 965 6.8%

And the Sacramento Bee Reports that the final figure is: Betty Yee by 484!  But are you going to trust them?  Let’s do some math!

  • Yee started out with an 861 vote lead.
  • Perez picked up 1305 votes.  (3631 – 2326).
  • Yee picked up 928 votes   (2590 – 1662).
  • The margin therefore shrank by 377 votes (1305-928)
  • The final margin is therefore … 484 votes.


Yes, it’s all over but the recounting!  (If there is any recounting….)  Someone let the Secretary of State know!

UPDATE 1:  Lake County counted its VBM ballots yesterday (and, for all I know, today) but as of 2:30 has not yet reported in; my guess is that this will be a “late Friday afternoon” thing to minimize calls to their Registrar Diane Fridley, who is not well and probably also not well-inclined to deal with too many more journalistic inquiries until Monday.  (To paraphrase the band “X”: her phone may be off the hook later today even if she’s not.)  So let’s take stock of where we are as we await — we hope — Lake County’s bounty of ballots.

Here’s the current statewide count, before Lake (where it’s 2326 for Perez and 1662 for Yee), reports in:

100.0% (22,353 of 22,353) precincts partially reporting
STATEWIDE as of June 27, 2014, 2:16 p.m.
Candidate Votes %
Tammy D. Blair

(Party Preference: DEM)
200,225 5.0%
John A. Pérez

(Party Preference: DEM)
876,402 21.7%
Betty T. Yee

(Party Preference: DEM)
877,263 21.7%
David Evans

(Party Preference: REP)
848,846 21.0%
Ashley Swearengin

(Party Preference: REP)
1,000,618 24.8%
Laura Wells

(Party Preference: GRN)
230,755 5.7%

When we last checked in, six counties were in CCU status: Amador, Humboldt, Los Angeles, San Benito, San Mateo, and Santa Clara.  Now, Amador (as of 2:16 p.m. today), Los Angeles, and San Benito have checked in as CCC — the only three counties to check in at all so far today, and none of them affecting the margins in this race — and so it’s just Humboldt, San Benito, and Santa Clara left as CCU.  San Benito’s count is finally listed as completed, ruining the joke I was going to tell here if it wasn’t.

The final list of counties that checked in yesterday includes Contra Costa, Fresno, Marin, San Bernardino (which has been on CCC status for two weeks!), and Santa Clara — which raises the question of how and why a county which has already reported its counting and canvass to be completed (as is true of the first four on that list) can keep reporting in anyway.  I will eventually ask Neal Kelley about this.

I’ve seen no real rumors of what’s going on in the minds of people considering recounts — but then I’ve been asleep for over half of the past 24 hours, after returning from my hearing in CATER’s Anaheim Stadium case — that pretty much doubles my total of sleep hours since Sunday, by the way — so I wouldn’t necessarily know.  Stay Calm and Whatever!

Controller's Race -- Nail Biter

If symptoms of a nail-biting close election persist more than 30 days, see your manicurist.

ORIGINAL POST, JUNE 26, 2014, 5:00 P.M.

First things first: Betty Yee currently leads John Perez by 861 votes.

John A. Pérez

(Party Preference: DEM)
876,372 21.7%
Betty T. Yee

(Party Preference: DEM)
877,233 21.7%

Ultimately, about 4,040,000 votes will have been cast in the race, so that represents a margin of .0215%.  It is expected to drop by about half.  If it ends up fewer than 404 votes or so,  that will be about one-thousandth of a percent.

(Anyone now wish that they would have voted?)

Lake County still hasn’t reported in since Election Night, so it’s in a “FENU” status.  Six other counties — Amador, Humboldt, Los Angeles, San Benito, San Mateo, and Santa Clara — remain in CCU status, meaning that they’re still updating, which at this point probably means just working out the mandatory 1% canvass of the vote.  In Los Angeles, this could move a few votes either way, but probably no more than 20.  In the others, we’re probably talking about one or two votes here or there.

Except for four ballots long left uncounted in San Benito County, which seems to be someone’s idea of a practical joke, the remaining 6,053 uncounted ballots are all in Lake County, which is just east of Mendocino County and northeast of Sonoma County.  It is rural, agricultural, heavily Democratic, and will have cast around 15,500 votes in this primary — a few less than Santa Ana and a few more than Newport Beach.  It has never played the deciding role in a statewide election before now and its Registrar does not seem happy that this is the year that that will have changed.  From the Sacramento Bee:

Diane Fridley, the Lake County registrar, said Tuesday that the office plans to process 5,263 vote-by-mail ballots Thursday morning and will sometime later deal with 743 provisional and 47 damaged ballots. The office will finish its work no later than next Tuesday’s deadline, said Fridley, who is on light duty following surgery and has only a skeleton staff to help with the ballot work.

Surgery and a skeleton staff.  Ms. Fridley certainly deserves sympathy, even from those of us who are tearing out what remains of our hair over this.  I would like to think that in this sort of situation the Secretary of State could dispatch a squadron of expert marksmen — you know, the people who examine the marks on ballots — to step in for the beleaguered … Lakers (?) … but it wouldn’t even take a squadron to finish 6000 ballots in a day.  Maybe a platoon.  OC Registrar of voters Neal Kelley could probably do it over lunch.

Still, for those of us biting our nails, the news that Lake County will finish 87% of its Lake Counting is a welcome relief.  Those last 790 or so votes won’t — HAD BETTER NOT — make the difference.

So, it is at this time that a person’s mind turns to recounts.  John Hrabe, at Cal Newsroom, says to expect a recount if the margin is less than 645 votes.  Jon Fleischman, commenting there, says definitively: no recount, period.  I’m predicting a final margin of about 415 votes.  I say that it’s going to be less about math than political pressure.  If there’s an area where voting irregularities appear to have occurred, I expect that to be recounted; I haven’t yet heard of any, other than late absentees not being counted because they were … late.  If, say, the margin went down to under 20, I doubt that even Betty Yee could tell John Perez that it was wrong to do a recount.  If it’s around 500, that’s a stronger case to make.

Perez has about $18,000,000 in the bank to Yee’s $100,000 or so — but this isn’t where he needs to use it.  His eye is on his future, and spending both himself and Yee into the ground, sucking money out of donors that could go elsewhere, is not the way to maintain his aura.  He’s as big a party boss as any, but if the other party bosses get together and tell him that it’s over, maybe it is.  Candidates can choose to do a partial recount rather a full statewide one — although the recent numbers have suggested that odd results come from the leftover votes in various counties.  If Perez were to count areas where he expected extra votes until he was ahead, then Yee would want to step forward and squeeze the juice out of her own areas — and the lead would likely see-saw until most of the state had been counted.  So the problem with even starting down the recount road is that it becomes an arms race — possibly leading, among to members of the same part in a primary, to Mutually Assured Destruction.

If it were Yee trailing, it surely wouldn’t happen at all.  But it’s Perez, and he has 180 times as much money — until Yee perhaps raises more from enraged supporters — and I find him hard to predict.  Maybe he’ll focus on a little impropriety somewhere to do a small innocuous count and see how it goes from there.  So that’s my guess: a small count, just to assess improprieties — and if it goes well for him, then God help us all (at least the Democrats.)

The uber-consultant for the Yee campaign, Parke Skelton, has this to say on the topic on Hrabe’s site:

While 6k votes are a small sliver of the total vote in the state they are an extremely high percentage of the 16000 votes cast in Lake County. THey should not diverge too greatly from the county average. And if John won the election day vote by more than 7.4 percent it is obvious that Yee did better than minus 7.4 in the PAVs. These votes are mostly pavs.

In L.A. Yee won a tiny group of provisionals that had been sorted into precinct order. You might have noticed how well Swearingin did in this count to have realized that these were not randomly dispersed.

Finally, a recount could pick up 645 votes statewide, but spread between 6 candidates. It would be strange indeed for Perez to pick up every vote in a recount with multiple candidates.

So he’s not a big fan of a recount.  Then again — his candidate isn’t trailing.  And she also doesn’t have as much money.  But I hope he’s right.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)